I have a buddy, Marcus, who is originally from Atlanta and is consequently a huge Georgia fan. We got into a little argument in which he loudly argued that the SEC is much, much better than the Big Ten. Every time I would offer a counter argument, like last year the Big Ten won two out of the three Bowl games the teams played in or the fact that the Big Ten has now won the past 4 Capital One Bowls, Marcus would have a loud if poorly laid out excuse, like Auburn really didn’t want to play in the Capital One Bowl after going undefeated the previous year. And when I would mention how Georgia didn’t deserve a shot at the national title because they lost to Tennessee, who in turn lost to LSU, his response was “But it’s Tennessee” like that’s supposed to mean something. And then there was this exhortation from an Alabama fan on Loser With Socks. Frankly, I’m sick of everyone telling us how dominant the SEC is every year. It’s just not true. I’ll prove it here in a second, but just know, SEC fans, if you are reading this, I understand that you think logical arguments are an affront to your sensibilities, but I’m not trying to do that. I’m just trying to reassure my fellow non-SEC fans that our conferences can share a football field with yours. I’m not going to win you over, I’m sure, so feel free to stop reading here and enjoy that new fangled indoor toilet of yours, or whatever it is you do for fun down there.
First, lets make one thing very clear. We’re looking at the quality of the overall conference, not the individual teams. Clearly, last year at the top, Florida was better than Ohio State. That doesn’t reflect upon the rest of the conference. Let’s look more recently, at the BCS. Of the 4 major conferences (The ACC and Big East are too fluid to accurately use them in this little study) the SEC has the highest winning percentage. That’s great for them, but again doesn’t reflect their strength of conference top to bottom which is key. What is more indicative is that of those 4 conferences, the SEC has had the fewest number of individual teams play in BCS games, with 6, meaning half of their conference hasn’t played in one of these all important games. The Pac 10, Big 10 and Big 12 have all seen 7 teams. Notable, of course, is the fact that only the Big 12 is as large as the SEC, meaning all three other conferences have had more than half of their teams make a BCS bowl game. While, yes, the best teams in the SEC are arguably the best in the country, the lack of any other teams elevating their game suggests a lack of competitiveness found in other conferences.
Enough about all that, however. The SEC fans like to talk about the tradition in their conference. Basically, they enjoy living in the past. The Alabama fan linked to above mentioned the Tide’s 12 National Titles (of which 2 were not actually awarded to Alabama) which means they go all the way back to 1925 to count their Championships. I did so too, even though it’s hard to leave out those dynamic turn of the century Michigan teams and compared the 4 major conferences. The end result? The SEC has had 17 national champions crowned. Not bad. They beat the Pac 10, who has only seen 14 champions. They did not, however, nose out the Big 12 (18) or the Big 10 (21). In fact, of the teams that did not make a BCS game from the Big 10, 2 had previously won national championships (Minnesota and Michigan State).
My point is this, without even going into Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, or talking about the conference’s incredibly awful non-conference schedule, the SEC is vastly overrated. The Big Ten (as well as the Pac 10 and Big 12) are at the VERY LEAST on par with the SEC, if not better, top to bottom. Again, the SEC continues to put forth the very best teams, but the rest of the conference is crap. The Big Ten has more schools, top to bottom, that are higher quality programs, more greatly steeped in tradition.
And for the record, in the past 20 years, Colorado has been far more relevant than Alabama.