Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

Brent Venables.JPG (copy)

Brent Venables' Clemson defense held No. 1 Georgia without a touchdown in the first game of the season and shut out South Carolina in the last game. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Take College Football Playoff rankings with a grain of pluff mud. Gary Barta, the committee chair, thinks actually watching games isn’t important.

An updated ranking of ACC and SEC programs offers a much better snapshot of real college football power after a zany regular season and amid one of the craziest coaching shuffles ever, one that still might include moves for South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer and Clemson coordinators Brent Venables and Tony Elliott.

It’s an even better list when including soon-to-be SEC participants Oklahoma and Texas and semi-ACC member Notre Dame.

The ACC-SEC pecking order going into conference championship weekend:

1. Georgia (12-0, 8-0 in the SEC) – The Bulldogs have elite, relentless players on defense and three defensive coordinators: Dan Lanning, plus head coach Kirby Smart and analyst-turned-sideline strategist Will Muschamp.

2. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 in the SEC) – Didn’t really expect to have Nick Saban peeking at an American Athletic Conference championship game score while hoping to peak against Georgia.

3. Notre Dame (11-1, 5-0 in ACC games) – The ACC conference-affiliation pitch to Notre Dame should include allowing the Irish to play just six ACC games a year, keep its NBC deal and use playoff rankings to determine the teams in the ACC Championship Game.

4. Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 in the SEC) – SEC Coach of the Year? Lane Kiffin.

5. Clemson (9-3, 6-2 in the ACC) – Or, why Venables makes sense at Oklahoma: his Clemson defense held No. 1 Georgia without a touchdown in the first game, shut out South Carolina in the last game and Oklahoma – where Venables once worked - is on its way to the SEC.

6. Pittsburgh (10-2, 7-1 in the ACC) – Who knew a Western Michigan-Pitt game might impact the final College Football Playoff selection?

7. Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 in the SEC) – South Carolina’s first 2022 SEC game is in Fayetteville.

8. Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 in the Big 12) – Even if Beamer, a former Oklahoma assistant head coach and Virginia Tech player and assistant coach, isn’t an actual head coach candidate at Oklahoma and wasn’t at Virginia Tech, consider the rarity of a South Carolina football or men’s basketball head coach mentioned for two such high-profile openings at the same time.

The Brian Kelly fit  

9. Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4 in the SEC) – This is a good place to note that the SEC is 7-3 against the ACC this season, including N.C. State’s 24-10 loss in Stark Vegas.

10. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 in the SEC) – It’s hard to sweep the SEC teams from Alabama but lose to both from Mississippi.

11. Wake Forest (10-2, 7-1 in the ACC) – A glorious tale of “super senior” fruition as managed by a great coaching staff that meshed with an off-year for Clemson. Not a great win on the resume. Yet.

12. N.C. State (9-3, 6-2 in the ACC) – In an outstanding year for ACC quarterbacks, Devin Leary is the most underrated.

13. Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 in the SEC) – This is what you realistically want at Kentucky (or South Carolina) – a model of bowl-eligible stability with a few nice upsets every now and then.

14. LSU (6-6, 3-5 in the SEC) – Welcome, Brian Kelly. By the way, the previous three head coaches won national titles (Saban, Les Miles with Saban’s players, Ed Orgeron).

15. Auburn (6-6, 3-5 in the SEC) – Former Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn play-caller Mike Bobo is available.

16. Miami (7-5, 5-3 in the ACC) – Five wins in the last six games but Manny Diaz remains on the hot seat among boosters pushing for Mario Cristobal, Lane Kiffin or a cardboard cutout of Jimmy Johnson.

Gamecocks over UF, FSU

17. Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 in the SEC) – Josh Heupel’s field-spreading offense isn’t just good (fourth in the SEC in total offense), it’s fun to watch.

18. Missouri (6-6, 3-5 in the SEC) – That 31-28 win in the other Columbia starring running back Tyler Badie gives Mizzou the edge over the Gamecocks.

19. South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 in the SEC) – A reasonable over-under for wins in 2021 was 4.5 and the Gamecocks have a bowl game to play.

20. Florida (6-6, 2-6 in the SEC) – Gator problems are now in the hands of personable Billy Napier, a former Furman quarterback whose first full-time job was as quarterbacks coach at S.C. State before a five-year stint at Clemson.

21. Florida State (5-7, 4-4 in the ACC) – Indicative of the SEC shadow, the Seminoles vaulted from an 0-4 start only to close with a 24-21 loss to a Florida program mocked in the SEC.

22. North Carolina (6-6, 3-5 in the ACC) – Finished back of both Commonwealth schools in the standings but better wins, better losses and Sam Howell remains capable of being Sam Howell.

23. Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 in the ACC) – In the Hokies, Cavaliers, Cardinals identical records tiebreaker series, Virginia Tech beat Virginia …

24. Virginia (6-6, 4-4 in the ACC) – … and Virginia beat Louisville …

25. Louisville (6-6, 4-4 in the ACC) – … and one of these lucky squads will probably get to play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Texas compared to CCU

26. Texas (5-7, 3-6 in the Big 12) – Lost a home game to Kansas, a team Coastal Carolina beat 49-22. Just think what Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell could do given all the firepower that comes with Austin.

27. Syracuse (5-7, 2-6 in the ACC) - Beat Virginia Tech and Boston College with nice play from quarterback Garrett Shrader, son of former Citadel quarterback and baseball player Tracey Shrader.

28. Boston College (6-6, 2-6 in the ACC) – Jeff Hafley went 6-5 including a close loss at Clemson in 2020 and people were excited. Here’s why you wait a while to evaluate coaches.

29. Georgia Tech (3-9, 2-6 in the ACC) – Third-best college football program in metro Atlanta (Georgia State, Kennesaw State).

30. Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8 in the SEC) – It’s almost baseball season.

31. Duke (3-9, 0-8 in the ACC) – One path to an elite head coaching gig for Tony Elliott: pull a few upsets and take Duke to some bowl games.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff