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#STINGDAILY: Quality Competition

Dec. 18, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn Sting Daily

Depending on whom you talk to, it means more that Georgia Tech will play an SEC team in the Music City Bowl than if the Yellow Jackets were to face off against a squad from any other conference.

In a few weeks, Auburn will try to become the eighth straight SEC team to win the BCS National Championship, and the conference routinely has three, four or sometimes five teams ranked in the top 10.

That conference is, without question, a sizable measuring stick.

So when the Jackets (7-5) and Rebels (7-5) meet Dec. 30 in Nashville, there will be a little more on the line . . . at least for some.

“It always means something because they always say the SEC is the big dog conference around the country and they say that the ACC is too small and too slow to play with the SEC,” said linebacker Brandon Watts. “So it is an incentive.”

Or is it?

Senior defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu is not so sure.

“I don’t think it matters,” he said. “A lot of people want to make it a big deal, but if you look at the nature of college football this year – the nature of SEC vs. ACC is dead even. I do my film study, and there’s not a difference. To say that one conference is stronger than another is not relevant.”

Attaochu may be seeing something that others have not.

SEC teams went 5-3 against ACC teams this season, and the SEC holds a record of 21-11 against ACC teams since 2010.

Tech is 2-1 all-time against Ole Miss, but Ole Miss is 12-7-1 all-time against ACC teams.

Nevermind that Tech has more SEC titles (five) than ACC championships (two, not including a third that was vacated), nor that the Jackets’ two wins over the Rebels came when both were in the SEC.

With the recent success the SEC has had producing national champions, plus the way ESPN pushes the conference down the throats of consumers, there’s almost no escaping chatter about the strength of the SEC.

Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy would rather avoid the conversation.

“You can buy into it, or not buy into it, and at the end of the day you’re going to be stuck into the middle,” said Nealy, who had Ole Miss as one of his final five schools before choosing to attend Tech. “You can’t help it because they think they’re better than you, and you think you’re better than them.”

Watts has family in Tennessee, which is SEC territory, but they won’t be pulling for the Rebels in Nashville. They’ll be pulling for the Jackets. And Watts did not seriously consider an SEC school when he was being recruited out of Washington County High.

His decision came down to Tech, Clemson and N.C. State.

Bottom line, the Jackets are more worried about what the Rebels do on the field than their conference.

“As a competitor, you look forward to any challenge,” Attaochu said. “It’s just another game to play, and we just want to take the challenge head on. It’s a great opportunity because they’re a quality team.”

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