The Duke-Texas A&M meeting in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is just a day away now, and both teams are missing critical players: Duke will play without running back Jela Duncan, due to academics, while Texas A&M sat Darion Claiborne after misdemeanor drug charges.
Last we heard, A&M was an 11-point favorite and there is still in some quarters disbelief that Duke is even in this game.
The SEC has become a football juggernaut, but there was a time when the two leagues were not that far apart.
What we're most pleased by is that Duke is in a major bowl and still has high academic standards and that the ACC at least still preaches a commitment to academic integrity even if some schools (ahem, Chapel Hill) don't really mean it. We realize that just about everyone cuts corners for athletes, but some schools really cut bigger corners.
People on the SEC side are frankly grateful for casual academic requirements. Check out Tommy Bowden's comments:
"A lot of ACC teams want to be in the SEC on Saturday and in the Ivy Leagues Monday through Friday. By that I mean public education in the Southeast is not highly rated. You need to have curriculums where players can get in and get eligible and get their degree.
"I'm not sure the ACC presidents understand those intangibles you need. You need all that, but the president has to calm the faculty down. Most of the time, the faculty really don't like it. North Carolina tried it a couple years ago. Didn't work real good."
Translation: in order to compete in football, you have to tell the eggheads on the faculty who really runs the school. The president, who we can spook through influential alums, has the job of explaining to the professors that their main priority is to keep football players eligible long enough to compete for conference and national honors. The faculty don't like but they can go suck eggs."
You have to give him some credit for being brazenly honest. It's like Willie Sutton, who when asked why he robbed banks said "because that's where the money is."
SEC football is really, really good and it's highly entertaining, but people like Bowden have no shame at all about essentially dismissing academics in the name of "intangibles." The definition of the word, by the way, is this: unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence.
Not a bad shorthand for SEC academics when you think about it, or UNC's too, for that matter.