Debate has begun about the actual strength of the SEC as a whole. Is the SEC really the best conference, top to bottom, in college football? The initial answer should be a resounding “yes”; however, analysts and fans around the country are digging for numbers to give a final answer to this question. Numbers, though, may not be the way to settle this debate.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops questioned the bottom six or eight teams in the SEC at an event in Tulsa this week. ESPN’s Mike Wilbon of the network’s PTI program even sided with these statements in a recent show. Stoops and Wilbon appear to believe that Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas and Missouri are of rather poor quality. Because of these teams, the top teams in the SEC are given a favor by receiving bonus points for a win over an SEC opponent. Certain statistics prove this to be a false belief.
With seven-consecutive National Championships and counting, the SEC has shown its ability to get to and win the BCS Championship game against any opponent from any conference. However, just four teams have combined to win those titles. So, the debate has centered around the bottom of the conference instead of the top.
Regardless of how meaningless it appears, questioning the teams at the bottom of the SEC is quite fair since it is those teams that provide wins to the crème of the crop. A closer inspection of these “cellar dwellers” will reveal their true quality.
Since 2006 when the SEC began its title run, only Kentucky has failed to finish in the top 25 at least once. In fact, of the original SEC members, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are the only teams of the other 11 without multiple top-25 finishes. In light of Stoops’ comments, how would these numbers stack up against those of the Big 12?
The Big 12, since 2006, has been home to just six teams that finished in the top 25 more than once. Two of the other six teams never finished in the top 25.
While it may seem that the Big 12 is tougher at the bottom during the season, it obviously is not the case. In each of the last two seasons, a bottom Big 12 team defeated a top contender. Iowa State beat Oklahoma State in 2011 thwarting the Cowboys’ chance at a BCS Championship appearance, and Baylor did the same to Kansas State this past season. While Kansas State was ranked number one at the time, they did close 2011 with a Cotton Bowl loss to Arkansas (who won just two conference games in 2012).
It appears that the bottom of the Big 12 is not better than that of the SEC, but rather that the top of the Big 12 is not very strong at all.
While these numbers offer an answer to the debate, there is but one solution: Kentucky vs. Iowa State on a neutral field. Stoops’ comments even called these two teams out specifically. If the bottom of the SEC is obviously Kentucky then a game must be scheduled to end this debate.
This, in essence, seems like a ludicrous way to decide which conference is better, but it is the only solution. When numbers and words are not enough, actions must be taken. College football fans are not satisfied with dominance of the best teams but rather with the strength of the weakest link. After all, battles used to be decided by pitting each army’s weakest warrior against one another to settle the conflict.
With a Kentucky-Iowa State game, college football will finally have an answer as to which conference is the best.