To watch ESPN is to come to one undeniable truth: THE SEC IS THE GREATEST FOOTBALL CONFERENCE in the history of history. Watching the pundits laud praise over the conference is boarder line stalker behavior.
“I don’t understand how we can have a national title game without a team from the SEC.”
“The SEC is clearly the best conference in college football.”
“The SEC had the most players drafted in the first round of the NFL last year.” (How that makes it the best conference is a little confusing, but the stat is accurate).
“The SEC is the closest conference we have to the NFL.”
This bit isn’t going to be about how the SEC isn’t the best conference (that would be boring and somewhat predictable). It is going to be about if I am going to drink the kool aid, I need a few questions answered beforehand, you know, just to cover all bases. The questions can be answered by anyone but the answer cannot be “this is the SEC.” Alright, ready? Here we go:
Which non-conference victory was the SEC’s best?
Alabama over Va Tech (35-10)? Tech would go on to finish 8-4 in the ACC with losses at home to Duke and on the road to Boston College.
Auburn over Washington State (31-24)? Washington State finished 6-6.
LSU over TCU (37-27)? TCU would struggle all year finishing 4-8.
South Carolina over UCF (28-25)? Or Clemson (31-17)? UCF is 10-1 and on top of the newly created AAC while Clemson finished 10-2 in the ACC.
Which one these wins is the best?
Va Tech, Wazzu, and TCU, really didn’t make much noise and only two of them qualified for bowl game (which is surprising considering there are 2,186 bowl spots per season). Clemson is a nice win by South Carolina but Clemson is a tough team to examine. Clemson was clearly talented but lost 2 of the 3 meaningful games on their schedule and they play in the ACC (a conference openly mocked for only playing basketball). UCF looks nice at this point but can we really call the AAC an actual conference? Which win is the best win?
If we look at the best conference win, we must then look at worse loss, right?
How does this work? The SEC is the SEC but that doesn’t mean they are immune to upsets and beat downs from other conferences. So which one is the worst, and how does this happen? Again, to point at national pundits, this is a conference on the edge of competing with the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. Losses then need an explanation. So explain these results in some manner (again, answer can’t be “SEC”).
Mississippi State lost to Oklahoma State at home (21-3). Oklahoma State is currently #6 and trying to win the BIG 12. Is this a bad loss? Should MSU have lost?
Arkansas lost to Rutgers (yeah, that Rutgers, a team with scarlet in their name 28-24). Rutgers finished 6-6 and snuck into one of 1,857 bowl games.
Kentucky lost to Western Kentucky. No stats required.
Florida lost Georgia Southern AT HOME. Georgia Southern did not complete a pass. Coincidentally that was the first time a pass was not completed in a college football game since before the creation of the forward pass. Florida also gave up 429 yards rushing to Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern is 4-4 in the Southern Conference.
Two wins are going in the lose column because they must.
Tennessee over South Alabama (31-24). South Alabama is 5-6 and in a conference not worth naming.
Vanderbilt (8-4) over Wake Forest by 2 points. Wake Forest will also miss the bowl season this year after going 4-8. An 8-4 team in the SEC wins over a 4-8 team in the ACC. Is this a credible victory? And which loss is significant? Or is there an explanation for losing to some of these teams?
Moving on, two teams recently joined the SEC from a minor league conference two years ago, how are they doing?
Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC conference from the BIG 12 two years ago and for the most part it was thought it would take some before they were going to be able to compete. Does that logic still hold true?
TAMU came in and in their first year went 10-2 in the SEC. The eleven wins were the most in the single football season since 1998. 1998 being the last time TAMU won the Big 12. What does that say about playing in the SEC?
Missouri, after a rough first year, just played in their first SEC conference title in their second year. Missouri, a team that never won the Big 12 championship just equaled its highest feat in the mighty SEC. How is this possible?
Since last season shapes this year we must look back, right?
College football is a truly unique sport because how one team performs in the previous year has an enormous impact the next year. Where one team starts is relative to where that team will finish. A perfect example is Oregon and Duke. Oregon started the season in the top five, climbed to two, and then stumbled down the stretch to finish 10-2 and ranked #13. Duke, #20, on the other hand was not ranked in the preseason but also finished 10-2 and won their division in the ACC. Where those two teams started had huge implications to where they finished. Those preseason rankings are enormously important. From year to year now the SEC is assumed the best conference and so the preseason poll is littered with SEC teams. Starting with so many SEC teams in the top 15 that have not played a single game lends huge favor to the notion the SEC is the biggest meanest conference without ever playing a single game. Does this have a factor in what we think of the SEC before each season?
Florida is a perfect example. Florida (#3 at the time) went 11-2 last year in the NFL amateur league but was crushed by the AAC champ Louisville (#22 at the time) in the Sugar Bowl (How does that whipping even occur?) and still bounced back to be ranked #9 at the beginning of this season. Florida went 4-8 but where will they be ranked going into next year? Is that correct? What impact does that have with conference strength?
How to factor in strength of schedule?
After the improbable victory over Alabama last week Auburn jumped to #3 and right behind the Ohio State Buckeyes. The reactions to #3 ranking was expected: The complete dissection of the Ohio State Buckeyes and their unworthiness to play for a national title with their schedule and existence in the Big 10.
“The SEC contenders had a much tougher schedule” said everyone!!!!
And they are right. Auburn, Missouri, and Alabama all have a tougher schedule than both OSU and #1 FSU (no coincidence they are were they are in the rankings). What is lost in all the chatter is the two teams playing for the PAC-12 title have tougher schedules than all the SEC teams howling at the moment.
According to Ralph Russo of the Associated Press both Stanford and ASU have tougher schedules than everyone predicted to possibly play for the BCS national title. In this SEC versus the world conversation it seems the PAC-12 must be given at least recognition for playing a tough schedule and begs the question. Should the PAC-12 have a horse in the race for the national title?
So before I drink the kool aid…
The aforementioned questions need to be answered.
Best win? Worst loss? Worst loss win (confusing I know but you’ll figure it out)? How do you explain Missouri and TAMU? And how to examine strength of schedule?
We need answers. We need the truth. We can handle the truth!
The SEC may be the best conference (solid, stone cold statistical proof is impossible unless everyone plays everyone) and they have won 7 straight BCS national titles (although again, that doesn’t mean the SEC is best conference, it means the national title winner has come from that conference). What is more likely is the conferences are much closer than acknowledged by conference power rankings and national pundits (talking heads) and will really only be sorted out once an 8 game playoff occurs (but we’ll save that one for another time). For now, the BCS Championship game is complete, a monster SEC team in Auburn versus some chump from a conference not the SEC (love that kool aid).