Is The SEC Overrated?
Does a bear defecate in the woods? Creation Date Saturday, 19 January 2013. Hits 7256
Before you get all excited here, this is not another serving of my world class Haterade. Is the SEC the best conference in College Football? Perhaps. Yes, I said perhaps. Now if you're a fan of the SEC or you know one, you probably cringed when you read that preparing for the slew of insults that gets hurled at anyone who would dare argue otherwise. However, the point of this post is not to argue otherwise. It is to challenge the ridiculous notion propagated by SEC supporters that their conference is head and shoulders above the rest of college football. As their fans like to put it, the SEC is playing the NFL when everyone else is playing college football. But are they really that good?
The simple answer is no. The more complex answer is "Not even close." The SEC has won the last 7 National Championships, and this number can be used to lend some credibility to the notion that they are the blowing everyone else away, but the number is purely a figment of college football's imagination. NCAA Division I college football is the only major college sport that does not incorporate any playoff system into the mix, and thus allows the powers that be at the BCS governance to nominate whomever they wish to play for a national championship. This is why on November 18th (a week when 7 SEC teams padded their numbers by matching up against lowly FCS opponents) SI (amongst ESPN and others) was able to report that following KSU and Oregon losses, the winner of the SEC Championship would play Notre Dame in the Championship Game. This raises two questions for those who do not worship at the alter of the South Eastern Conference.
- How could they possibly know that? This left Oregon and Kansas State with one loss, just like Bama and Georgia. Didn't they have as good of a shot at getting into the National Championship Game? The answer is no. In fact, had Bama lost another regular season game, then beat Georgia in the SEC championship leaving both teams with 2 losses, then Florida would have played for a National Championship over any non SEC contender.
- What the heck is the FCS?If you're not a fan of the SEC, then chances are your team doesn't load up their schedule with schools like William and Mary and Robert Morris, so you may not know that the FCS is the new name for what used to be called Division 1-AA. It is the college football division that is too small for Division 1-A and too big for Division 2. Their claim to fame is spending an entire season sending under-talented kids onto the field to beef up the stats for SEC teams to guarantee their place in the BCS Championship Game.
Now I could point out the irony that the SEC loading up on FCS colleges during the season is a rather new trend, occurring right around the time that the SEC began winning National Championships, which ironically began occurring shortly after the BCS dropped the old standby formula of calculation strength of schedule in 2004. Here was the old formula, where SOS= Strength of Schedule and OR= Opponents Record and OOR = Opponents Opponents Record.
This means prior to 2005 you had to play somebody to get into a National Championship Game. A large part of the determining factor of who qualified was not just winning, but beating teams that had beaten other teams. You beat a team that was 3-7, who cares? If you beat a team that was 9-0 that was a big deal, provided some of their nine wins came against other teams with good records. In 2005, the BCS switched to a new formula that calculates the strength of your conference and factors in home and away win and loss records and made the BCS championship game a seperate bowl game unto itself. At that time, the SEC loaded up their schedules with teams like Sam Houston State and Bethune-Cookman and began to run up some pretty impressive numbers (as you might suspect.) Sure enough, 1 year later they had turned this strategy into a winning formula with a national championship and they have won everyone since.
In the 7 years of the BCS that existed under the old formula of calculating strength of schedule, the SEC managed only 2 national championships. In the 7 years that have existed since where it matters not whom you play, but rather where (conference) you play, the SEC thrives. This begs the question "If the SEC is truly the best, then why are they only the best when they play the worst?" The USA Today lays it out as follows.
How did the Big 12 sneak past the SEC to take home Sagarin's crown during the regular season? Because unlike the SEC, the Big 12 had no soft middle -- nine of the league's 10 teams won at least six games in 2012.
The Big 12 also topped the SEC in Sagarin's "simple average," which adds up the combined ranking of each team in a conference and divides by the league's number of teams.
Another factor that has to be considered when tackling the question "Is the SEC overrated?" is the notion that has been bantered about by SEC faithful about how much harder it is to play in the SEC than it is elsewhere. For years, SEC fans have told us that there is no way that teams from other conferences "could survive unscathed if they had to go up against the likes of Alabama, LSU and Florida week in and week out." Enter Texas A&M.
Last year the Aggies played in the Big 12 and finished the year with a 6-6 record, including their Bowl Game win. At the end of the season, their Quarterback was selected in the first round of the draft, their head coach moved on to the NFL, and the team moved conferences to the SEC. Certainly, this loss of talent and move to a tougher conference would show in the Aggies record, right? It did. They finished the year 10-2, and even beat the team later crowned National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Myth busted. But let's get back to those champs, shall we?
No doubt when Alabama beat Notre Dame, you were absolutely positive that they would be the national champions. And why not? Alabama had entered the game with one loss and the Irish were undefeated. Therefore, art the end of the game they each had one loss and Alabama had won head to head so they are the better team, right? Until you get down to number 10, that is.
Ranking in the 10th spot this year are the Florida Gators, falling from the number 3 spot in the BCS rankings. Look a few spots down and you will see Louisville ranked at number 13. Well that is a bit odd, isn't it? I seem to recall these two teams playing each other in the Sugar Bowl. Florida entered the game with a record of 11-1, and Louisville entered the game with a record of 10-2. This would mean that they both finished with an 11-2 record, so Louisville having won the head to head match should be ranked higher, right? Not exactly. But why?
Florida's two losses came to Georgia who would finished ranked #4 and Louisville who would finish ranked #13. Louisville's 2 losses came to unranked Syracuse and Connecticut. So because Florida lost to Louisville, who is better than Syracuse and Connecticut, then Florida is better than Louisville. And in case that logic didn't totally confuse you, let's apply that to the National Championship Game. Since Alabama lost to Texas A&M who finished number 5, and Notre Dame lost to Alabama who finished number 1, shouldn't the very fact that Notre Dame lost to Alabama prove that they are better than Alabama in the same way that Florida's loss to Louisville proved them to be better than the Cardinals?
If that logic makes any sense to you, you are 9/10ths of the way to understanding how the SEC has won 7 consecutive National Championships. Now stir in the last little bit of logic. The above rule is to be applied to the SEC, but never used against the SEC. You can use it to rank an SEC team above a Big East team, but never to rank any other Conference above an SEC school. Why? Because the SEC is the best Conference in College Football. Remember, they won 7 straight?
It might only work when you use that logic, but it still beats the logic of SEC coaches. Steve Spurrier was on the Dan Patrick show on ESPN this year when he propagated the notion that Alabama could beat some NFL teams. Let's not get carried away, Steve. Perhaps they can win in a setup that guarantees an SEC team in the Championship and doesn't require a playoff to get there, but the last thing I need is a former NFL head coach with a lifetime record of 12 wins and 20 losses telling me that another coach in his conference could beat NFL teams with his college team. Especially when that coach coached in the NFL with an actual NFL team, and lost 17 games compared to his 15 wins. Perhaps he should focus on running up the score against Florida Atlantic again next year so the SEC can continue its dominance in college football.