NCAA Football Column: NCAAF with Michael Emmett
SEC or Big 12?
It makes me laugh every time I hear the debate about the best conference in the nation in college football circles. What does ‘best’ actually mean? In my mind, it means deepest conference, and if this is the criteria there is no question the Big 12 wins handily. Yes, just to reiterate – I’m saying the Big 12 is the best, most superior, deepest, strongest, greatest, preeminent cluster of teams in America. And there is no debate. It is as obvious as the sky is blue or the grass is green.
There are 10 Big VII teams, and 9 are bowl-eligible. This is a significant statistic. 90 percent of the teams in this division will be travelling to a post season game in the warmer US climate later this season. Last year the SEC had 9 bowl teams but they were choosing from a pool of 12 teams. And two of those teams won only two conference games – that means they collected four wins, to get to the magic number, over cream puff opposition in non conference games. This year, they again will have 9 teams but that pool has increased to 14 teams. That’s 64 percent of their teams reaching the Promised Land. The Big 12 is playing 9 conference games and only 3 non conference games, so in effect, they have a much tougher task on their hands because they don’t have the 4 automatic gimmies that the SEC often is faced with. The SEC teams only play 8 conference games and this makes the final objective that much easier.
Everybody likes to look at the top of the rankings. There is no denying the SEC is loaded at top. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina – these powerhouse teams account for six of the top 12 in the latest BCS rankings. And one those, Georgia or Alabama, will play Notre Dame on January 7th in Miami for a shot at the National Championship. This year they are so top heavy it would make Dolly Parton proud. The 8 remaining SEC teams have a combined 0-30 record against those top 6 teams. Not a single win by the bottom eight teams in the SEC against the top six. You name a team in the Big 12 (Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State) and they would destroy any of the SEC bottom feeders.
The bad news for the Big 12? It won't get the credit for its league strength for the same reason it didn't in 2011: There won't be a Big 12 team in the national title game.
In this day of SEC dominance, a pile of championship trophies can't compete with that crystal football when it comes to perception. The SEC has landed the last six – Texas was the last NON-SEC team to win the big enchilada in 2005 when Vince Young went crazy and the Horns beat USC in a memorable encounter - and for the third consecutive season, the Big 12 won't get an opportunity to dethrone the Southern dynasty. If it did, a whole lot more eyes would be opened to the top-to-bottom excellence in the Big 12 and the difficulty of navigating a schedule with that many good teams every single week. Except for Kansas, every team in the Big 12 is loaded with talent. A .500 or better conference record is a major accomplishment in this rock solid division.
Even that top six of the SEC has wins against mostly just itself and middling ACC teams, save Alabama's win over Michigan and Florida's win over Florida State this past weekend. Not really a whole heck-of-a-lot to write home about. Let’s face it – the SEC is built on its tradition, but their ability this season is mediocre at best. A league is made up of 10-14 teams, not just one. Or in the SEC's case, even six. Vandy, Mizzou, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Auburn don’t scare their own shadow. This is a conference that is totally over-rated and not deserving of its many accolades. Six decent teams is impressive but not enough to formulate the best league in America.
The only game that can be used as a reference point between the two conferences took place on September 15 between Ole Miss and Texas in Oxford, Mississippi. Both teams, 8 weeks later are in the middle of the pack in their respective conferences, yet, Texas on the road, beat the Rebels handily on their home field 66-31. Now I realize this is one game, but in my opinion, it says a lot about where these conferences are at in their current development.
And let’s look at the A&M factor as well. This team, still a Big 12 team in many regards, has taken the SEC by storm. To go 6-2 in league play against the big bad boys from the SEC speaks volumes about the current Big 12. Where would A&M rank in the current Big 12?
If these teams matched up top-to-bottom it would be a slaughter. The SEC can’t match up on the bottom end and for this reason the Big 12 is the premium conference in America. But sadly, when the SEC wins the National championship for the 7th straight year, this knowledge will be overlooked. And everybody will be singing the praises of the completely overrated SEC.
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