I like a good debate as much asthe next sports junkie. And brother, I’ll debate. I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to voicing an opinion. It’s one of my most endearing qualities.
Anyway, I’ve been hearing a lot of banter about how the SEC is an overrated conference and just because teams from the SEC have won the past six national championships doesn’t mean it’s any better than the Big 12.
Like I said, I’m interested in everyone’s viewpoint, up to a point. It’s that when it stops making sense that I have a problem.
But rather than just trusting what I see, I decided to look for quantifying statistical support that agrees with my assessment that the SEC is, and has been for a while now, the top college football conference in the country.
First, I visited the BCS rankings for the past five years. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the BCS as it applies to picking a national championship game every season, but it’s the system we have so I decided to use it.
This season, of course, six of the top 10 teams in the BCS are from the SEC. It’s not usually this one-sided, but the SEC does have a decided edge over the other BCS conferences – Big 12, Pac 12, ACC, Big Ten, Big East – in the past five years.
Since 2008, 25 SEC teams have finished in the top 25 of the BCS rankings (there is one more ranking to be issued this season). The average spot in the Top 25 of SEC teams has been 9.4.
In that same five-year span, 22 Big 12 teams have finished inside the Top 25 of the BCS rankings, with an average rank of 12.5.
The Pac 10 and Pac 12 has had 15 teams in the BCS’ Top 25, with an average ranking of 10.7. The Big East has had only nine, with an average ranking of 12.6.
Eighteen Big 10 teams have finished in the top 25 of the BCS since 2008, with an average finish of 13.9. And for the ACC, 12 teams have been in the Top 25 with an average finish of 15.1.
Clearly, using those numbers, the SEC is No. 1.
Next, I looked at first-round draft picks in the NFL since 2008. It seems like at least a decent barometer of a conference’s strength, I believe.
It wasn’t a surprise to me that the SEC again showed up well, with 40 players taken in the first round during the past five years. Quick math determines that’s eight per year and the conference has had no fewer than six first-round picks in any of those years.
The Big 12 is second with 30 first-round draftees, followed by the ACC (22), Big 10 (21), Pac 10/12 (19) and Big East (11).
Clearly, the Big 12 is the second best football conference in the country, if you buy the two criteria I have used. If not, come up with your own darn criteria.
Undeniably, though, the SEC is the best football conference in the country.
Now, you could point out that the SEC has 14 teams, more than any of the other conferences – at least for the time being. But it’s really only the best schools in these power conferences that matter when it comes to BCS standing and first-round draft picks. Occasionally, a player from one of the bottom-feeding teams might get chosen in the first round of the NFL draft, I suppose, but it doesn’t happen often.
Some point out that the bottom of the SEC is weak, and they’re right. Teams like Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee haven’t done much this season. And if the Big 12 has anything on which to hang its hat this season, it’s a balanced conference in which almost any team is capable of beating anyone else.
But top to bottom, over and under, the SEC is the best football conference in the country. The Big 12 is No. 2, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. There is room in America for two especially strong college football leagues. In the SEC and Big 12, we have them.