The SEC’s dominance over college football may have ended in 2013 when its national title streak was snapped, but the nation’s most powerful conference has still been the preferred destination for the nation’s elite recruits.
However, Florida State ended the title streak and it appears that the ACC is trying to follow suit in recruiting in the 2016 cycle.
FSU and Miami are currently holding down the top two spots in the 247Sports Team Rankings for the 2016 cycle.
But does the ACC hold the upper hand over the SEC thus far in the 2016 cycle?
It depends through which prism you choose to view the data on the 2016 class.
The SEC has commitments from 10 prospects who rank among the nation’s Top 50 prospects overall, while the ACC [including Notre Dame] has eight such pledges.
Despite the ACC’s perch at the top, the SEC still has five schools—Ole Miss, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State—rated in the Top 10.
Plus, assuming schools such as Alabama [No. 18]—the school that has finished with the top overall class five years in a row—Auburn [No. 22] and Texas A&M [No. 21] stay outside of the Top 15 is highly unlikely.
The last time one of those schools failed to finish in the Top 15 was in 2012.
|ACC Teams In Top 20 of 247Sports Team Rankings for 2016|
Still, the ACC has three additional teams, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke, that have classes rated among the nation’s top 20 collectives. But, the league’s hot start can be attributed to a few factors.
For starters, Florida State’s national title in 2013 gave the league a much-needed shot in the arm in terms of credibility.
The ‘Noles have been recruiting at a high level ever since Jimbo Fisher took over in Tallahassee in 2009. However, FSU has some company in the form of Miami and Clemson in terms of recruiting among the nation’s elite.
Al Golden and the ‘Canes have returned to relevance by narrowing their focus to the talent-rich area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in South Florida.
Dabo Swinney has the Tigers poised to land their second consecutive Top 10 class.
Additionally, seven of the Top 10 coaches in the current 247Sports Recruiter Rankings hail from the ACC—with coaches from FSU, Miami and Clemson currently holding the top three spots in that list.
The gains represent the fruits of the league’s labor after a strong showing on the field against the SEC last year, going 4-0 on rivalry weekend and with Georgia Tech throttling Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
However, the true test for the league will be to continually chip away at the SEC’s dominance on the field and on signing day.
The SEC is still king, for now.
But for its neighbors in the southeast, the upward trend for the once-maligned ACC is the latest signal that the league is serious about competing on the gridiron in the years to come.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.