Tuesday Question: Is SEC Still Top Conference?

    Despite a rough weekend, is the SEC still the top conference in college football?

    September 15, 2015

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    Is The SEC Still King?

    Pete Fiutak

    Follow me … @RussMitchellCFB
    Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

    The SEC is still the best conference in college football, and that’s simply not going to change overnight. Not even over a year…

    That noted, the rest of college football has been catching up since, say, 2011 … the peak of the SEC’s Golden Era. When LSU had arguably the greatest regular season in College Football history, and the conference had not one but both teams participating in our sport’s national championship game.

    It’s clear that the clock rule change of 2008 has decreased the advantage of big, (relatively) fast defensive lines, which are in abundance in the South, and which have been a key differentiator over the past decade.

    However, the SEC won seven straight championships from 2006-2012, and were within 13 seconds in 2013 of making it eight straight. Moreover, the SEC did it with four different teams taking home the hardware… not the easier situation of a lone dominant team like the Pac-12 (USC), the Big Ten (Ohio State) or the ACC (FSU).

    Over the past decade, the SEC has won more postseason games than any other conference BY FAR … the gap is shockingly wide. The conference has been the NFL’s favorite feeding ground over that period.

    Finally, now with the SEC Network, the conference is on better financial footing than it ever has been. Since SEC schools have displayed a willful disregard to temper their enthusiasm, we can expect that budget flush will result in even larger salaries for coaches and grander facilities. Which begets better talent … which begets bigger television contracts…

    Rinse and repeat.

    We call this a trend, boys and girls – and a deep trend at that. Trends don’t disappear overnight.

    However, that’s not to say the rest of college football isn’t catching up – and seven straight championships is a ridiculous bar to match/maintain. As I’ve noted for three years now, the SEC’s stranglehold on the sport is lessening. Recently, the ACC had more players drafted into the NFL than the SEC, and of course there is the oft-referenced postseason struggle from last year.

    Everything is cyclical … and this golden era for the SEC will ultimately run its course.

    But not today. Not even tomorrow. Particularly not if the conference continues to post great opening weekends. Not if the conference continues to win most of its big regular season match-us, as it did for virtually all of 2014. Not if the conference continues to dominate recruiting. Not if the conference continues to match or exceed revenue generation.

    Not today.

    1. SEC
    2. Pac-12
    3. Big 12
    4. Big 10
    5. ACC

    Rich Cirminiello

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello
    Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

    1. SEC
    2. Pac-12
    3. Big Ten
    4. Big 12
    5. ACC

    It was a rough weekend for the SEC, obviously. The Arkansas loss, Auburn’s escape of Jacksonville State and just a general feel that the conference is a little more vulnerable from top to bottom. But who’s clearly better … from top to bottom, in terms of personnel on the field and on the sidelines?

    The Pac-12’s defending champ, Oregon, has already lost, and Stanford isn’t what it used to be. The Big Ten has two really good programs to go along with a lot of softness in the midsection. The Big 12 has a ton to prove, since TCU may be overrated and Baylor hasn’t played anyone. And the ACC is going to have a tough time producing a playoff team, unless Florida State, Clemson or Georgia Tech go on a tear.

    Every league has issues these days, as parity becomes increasingly commonplace, so there’s nothing terribly unique about the SEC. The conference endured some black eyes in Week 2. And, sure, it no longer operates in a different stratosphere from the rest of college football. Pound-for-pound, though no one is better, and no one harbors more programs with Top 25 talent and potential.

    Phil Harrison

    Phil Harrison
    Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
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    Campus Insiders.

    Ranking the Conferences. Is the SEC Still King?

    Before answering the question, we have to remember that this is about this year and not the past. Many of the SEC “ambassadors” will use stats like NFL draft picks, multiple national championships in a row, recruiting rankings and how many glasses of sweet tea they can throw down their throats before having to urinate.

    However, the totem pole can be flipped upside down in a hurry in an arena where the rosters change so often. This is college remember? Kids graduate, transfer, miss mom and dad, get injured, and flat out leave for a variety of reasons. Each fall, rosters look entirely different on a team, and therefore look entirely different across a conference.

    So, to argue that that the seasons of SEC dominance past begets current and future glory is simply premature. In fact, the gap has been closing for a couple of years now, and it was never as big as many would have you believe. Yes, the league dominated the national spotlight by winning seven-straight BCS titles from 2006 through 2013, but it’s not like the league was obliterating the rest of the field through its pinnacle era.

    Now to this year. The SEC may have had a good opening weekend, but the perception that ten teams were worthy of being ranked in the polls came crashing down with a thud. The fighting Bielemas opened their mouth again and had a Toledo Rocket inserted into it, Auburn almost became part of the same punchline as Michigan by needing OT to beat back an FCS school, and Tennessee’s coming of age got put into deep space hibernation at home by an Oklahoma team that many felt were barely worthy of a ranking.

    So yeah, this year isn’t looking all that great all of a sudden. But it’s just one week. People were ready to write off Ohio State last year after week two, and thought that the SEC West was the best division in college football history. That all came crashing down too with the benefit of hindsight.

    Now time to pop the balloon. After all of that, it’s hard to argue against The SEC still being the best conference. It still has tons of talent littered across its rosters from previous recruiting classes, has some of the best coaches in the game, and is deep throughout the entire league, and not just top-heavy like the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12.

    But the gap continues to close …

    The conference pecking order this year, after two weeks of controlled chaos, is:

    1. SEC
    2. Big 12
    3. Pac-12
    4. Big Ten
    5. ACC

    MORE: College Football Bowl Projections After Week 2


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