Friday, September 25, 2009

SEC Is So Tough ... Just Like a Duck

Most certainly, I'm not the only one who suspected that Ole Miss was a fraud. Yeah, the Rebels did beat Florida and finished with a six-game win streak last year, but what have they done in 2009 to warrant the lofty ranking of No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the Coaches Poll?

Well, nothing, really.

Ole Miss was manhandled by Stever Spurrier's very mortal South Carolina team last night, scoring just one touchdown on a long pass play in a 16-10 loss. The score would've been more lopsided, in the Gamecocks' favor, had it not been Carolina's insistence on shooting itself in the foot repeatedly.

The Ole Miss defeat, without a doubt, brought back the oldest canard (or is it a Peking Duck?) in college sports back on the table: The SEC Is the Toughest Conference in Football. I've gone around this several times and really don't want to waste another second on this dubious subject. And delightfully, the Wall Street Journal (of all papers) came to the rescue.

Do you know what's really the toughest conference in college football in the last 10 years? Yep, it's the Pac-1+9. Check it out:


West Is the Best

Including bowl games, here are the win-loss records this decade for the six major college football conferences when playing against one another, through Saturday:

Big 128185.488
Big East*7784.478
Big Ten8493.475

*Includes the win-loss records of whichever teams were in the conference in any given year

_________________________________________Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal

The Pac-10's edge is so complete, that even if you discard USC's absurd 19-3 record, it is still above .500 against other BCS conferences. The Pac-10 owns a winning record against every other conference during this period, which roughly coincided with the existence of the BCS.

But perception has become so much reality partly because the Pac-10 has consistently failed to toot its own horn. Let's put it this way: The Pac-10 is a mom-and-pop shop run out of a little bank building in Walnut Creek (in Bay Area parlance, there's no there there there). The Big Ten, bottom dwellers on the list, is run like the Roman Empire out of Chicago, replete with its own TV network, media office, the works.

Not to mention the SEC, which has transformed itself during the BCS era from a backwater regional league to a national brand, much the same way NASCAR has marketed itself. With ESPN and CBS leading the way, the SEC has successfully staked the competitive high ground, roasting the "SEC IS THE TOUGHEST CONFERENCE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE" duck to death while beating up on the Charleston Southerns and Citadels of the world.

Without a doubt, even with this unsightly loss, Ole Miss will remain in the top 20 because they lost in a hostile environment in the always so-tough SEC. And even if they turn out to be a .500 SEC team this season, the Rebs will get a much better bowl than they deserve purely because they achieved an 8-4 record in such a tough conference. Never mind that they basically got a free pass with a nonconference schedule that includes Memphis, SE Louisiana (I-AA), UAB and Northern Arizona (I-AA).

If it quacks ... never mind.

★★★★★ GAME OF THE WEEK: California at Oregon, 3:30 p.m. ET. This has all the trappings of a trap game for the Golden Bears, who figure this is finally the year that they take down Pete Carroll's Trojans, who will be visiting Berkeley next week. But Cal had better not take these Ducks (quack!) for granted. After its season-opening debacle at Boise State, Oregon has slowly but surely recovered. Besides, Autzen Stadium has never been all that hospitable to the visiting Bears, who lost in seven of their last eight trips.

★★★★ FOUR-STAR GAME: Miami at Virginia Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET. For the second week in a row, a top 20 team is coming to Blacksburg, only this time, it will be a conference game. The resurgent Hurricanes have vaulted into the top 10, thanks to ... Florida State's rout at BYU. Two ACC victories have created a buzz about the 'U' returning to national prominence, especially with a visit from Oklahoma coming next week. But Randy Shannon's boys had better remember first thing first.

★★★ THREE-STAR GAME: Iowa at Penn State, 8 p.m. ET. There's another top-5 team that despite its lofty rankings, hasn't done much of anything. Joe Pa's Lions have raced to a 3-0 record by feasting on Akron, Syracuse and Temple whereas Iowa is also 3-0, riding on a seven-game winning streak that began with a 24-23 upset that knocked Penn State out of the BCS championship chase. Happy Valley will smell of revenge.

★★ TWO-STAR GAME: TCU at Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET. The Mountain West's best hope of getting into a BCS bowl now rests with the Horned Frogs after BYU and Utah were unceremoniously dumped last week. TCU has already played an ACC road game this year, wining the opener at Virginia. But Death Valley isn't quite like the serene, picturesque Jeffersonian campus.

★ ONE-STAR GAME: Texas Tech at Houston, 9:15 p.m. ET. With BYU and Utah out of the way, Houston suddenly has a chance to get into the BCS mix. The Red Raiders, as they've shown in last week's narrow loss to Texas, still have plenty of firepower. This might be the Cougars' sternest test yet in their quest to claim Conference USA's first BCS bowl berth.


Ravi said...


well..if you are counting the bowl games result, the argument that win percent tells the better conference might not be correct....

in bowl games it also depends on how many teams from a conference get a bowl...

another point to consider is if teams from conference are in NC/BCS bow game, the bowl match-ups are affected...for example take cotton bowl which generally plays sec no 3 vs big-12 no 2. If more sec teams go to BCS/NC games than big-12 that year, cotton bowl might play sec no 4 with big-12 2.

if we take last three years results (during which period sec is considered best),

sec is 6-3 (2 bcs)
pac-10 3-3 (1 bcs)

sec is 7-2 (2 bcs)
pac-10 4-2 (1 bcs)

sec is 6-2 (2 bcs)
pac-10 5-0 (1 bcs - not sure)


sec-12 21-7
pac-10 12-5

Of course, sec has more teams than pac-10 and that will affect the number of bowls they probably get. So, if we just look at the % appearences and wins:

sec 28/36 77%, wins 75%
pac10 17/30 56%, wins 70%

We can also compare just the bowl win %....

sec 21/36 = 58%
pac10 12/30 = 40%

[I dont have the patience/resources to find data for more years....]

From this I dont see how you can say that pac-10 is better than sec.....

Even if you consider other (and probably better than pac-10 in last few years) conference like big-12 and compare it with sec, sec will have better record....

I would not compare regular season records, coz they are generally mis-matches...for example LSU vs Washington this year....LSU is a top SEC team, and Washingon is not a top pac-10 team (atleast when the game is scheduled)...

Go Gators!

Anonymous said...

Ravi...can you really judge conferences based on wins and losses. I would say you can only compare conferences based on head to head matches where teams compete against each other in home and away games. For example if SEC teams consistently played OOC games in PAC 10 or Big Ten country in matching away and home games, only then could you theoretically come close to comparisons. until ten the idea is rather mute. Certainly BCS bowl games can't be included in conference comparisons, how fair would that be for teams from the northeast and midwest?

Anonymous said...

I think the bowl comparison is slightly more valid than the regular season because as Ravi says the regular season matchups are generally mismatches. The top SEC and Big 12 teams are pretty notorious for avoiding tough OOC games since the risk to their end-of-season goals are put too much at risk. If we had some real stats about the regular season games regarding matchups I might be willing to reconsider, but I have a feeling we are judging conferences based more on games like Wake Forest v. Baylor or Duke v. Kansas than USC v. Ohio State.

Granted bowl games are also not a great comparison because you don't get direct level match ups as Ravi notes. They are also hampered by the conference tie ins, which allows USC to beat up on a weak Big 10 team every year in a glorified home game. But the bowl games are at least a proving ground for the conferences' best teams and so performing in that realm should carry more weight than just looking at raw out-of-conference numbers. The SEC has definitely outperformed other conferences in that regard.

the professor said...

Seems your claims are invalidated by recently released data, not sure how you can say that when the SEC has traveled the least number of miles for non-conference games among all 11 conf and independents. Seven of the eight least traveled teams are from the SEC. Florida hasn't played an OOC outside Florida since 1991. SEC teams are 0-4 vs west coast teams this decade. Bowl games cannot be used because some conf schedules end months before a bowl game. The point is you cannot compare different conferences fairly they do not even share the same values, standards, academics, doing so is theoretically meaningless.

Ravi said...

"the professor" -- I partially agree with you in that, its very difficult to compare different conferences.....

I partially disagree, in the sense that, you dont have any other choice but to compare conferences (when you have two teams from diff. conferences and both are once defeated and lets say their non-conf schedule is similar...which one do you pick in your rankings?)....and also, you say diff. conferences have diff. acads etc., but thats true even for diff. colleges in the same conference....and you have to do it to find a national champion....

what i meant to say is....theoretically....if you say you cant compare cant compare different teams also...unless they play exact same schedule...same opponents in the same order and at same time... ;-)

D said...

Ok Ravi. Anybody knows the SEC pads its win/loss with weak OOC home games. Bowls like you said are tough considering the uneven pairing especially now with the BCS. So I revert to the regular season, let's just look at this year. LSU struggles with Washington, Georgia AGAIN struggles with Arizona State for the second straight year. These are the GREAT teams of the SEC struggling with middle of the pack teams from the PAC-10. The same teams that if USC loses to or struggles with we drop 15 spots in rankings and say how overrated they are, yet it's ok for these SEC schools to do the same. Even look at last year, USC was NEVER in the championship debate because of their loss to "awful" Oregon State on the road on a Thurs night. Oregon state went 9-4 I believe, like Ole Miss who defeated Florida, AT florida on a Saturday. Hmm look at non conference schedules and even conference schedules tell me Florida and their SEC schedule was tougher. Even their championship game was against a team we saw (like many SEC teams) couldn't stop the pass and was thus MURDERED by Utah. So where was Florida's tough SEC game last year??? Where is it this year in their 8 home games? But they're great? Come on, as Tim Tebow is overrated, so too is the conference he dominates. Quit drinking the Kool Aid and look at the truth it may hurt, but it's the truth.

Jonathan said...

I have a hard time understanding where all this hatred for the SEC comes from. People seem to forget that just five years ago, the undefeated SEC champion was left out of the title game (a game which, unfortunately, probably included a team that didn't belong there).

It's just the way things have shifted now, and until other conferences are able to consistently take out SEC teams in big games, it's probably going to stay that way. It's going to take more than Alabama falling to Utah. Other than that, the only BCS loss I can think of for the SEC since the 2001 season is WVU's 3-point victory over UGA in the '05 Sugar Bowl. And for the past few years, I can think of only a couple of bowls that anyone really cares about that the SEC lost (Michigan taking out Florida, and unranked Arkansas losing to a Missouri team that probably should have been in a BCS game).

The Pac-10 has also performed consistently well in BCS games over the past several years, but really looking at the results would probably just reinforce the Pac-1+9 viewpoint. I do think that USC is a consistently very good, and sometimes great, team. I hope that someday a USC/SEC championship game works out.