“All hope abandon ye who enter here.” – Dante Alighieri, in reference to the SEC.
Remember those few years when the SEC East wasn’t good and all anyone had to worry about was the West? Those days are long over. As if anyone needed any more reason to believe the SEC is consistently the best conference, the SEC East is now one of the best divisions in college football. It’s almost not even fair anymore.
For more than a decade, it could be argued that the SEC West has been the absolute best division in college football. In fact, I would be much more interested in an argument against that statement. From LSU’s National Championship in 2007, Auburn in 2010 and Alabama in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017, the SEC West has claimed 7 championships in the past 11 years. One of those remaining 4 championships was from another SEC team, Florida in 2008 but I will get to the SEC East in a minute. Here is a list of the number of SEC West teams ranked in the top 25 at the end of the year for the past 5 years:
- 2017: 4
- 2016: 3
- 2015: 3
- 2014: 5
- 2013: 4
Although Alabama is the most consistent team in the SEC West, all 5 of those years saw Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Ole Miss in the top 25. Even Arkansas finished their 2011 season ranked 5th. If you need any more evidence of this division’s dominance over the past decade, the 2011 National Championship game was played between two SEC West teams, Alabama and LSU.
Things haven’t slowed down for the SEC West this year either. Currently, No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 LSU are undefeated and No. 8 Auburn only has 1 loss, which was to LSU by 1 point. The Aggies are 3-2 with losses to No. 4 Clemson and Alabama. The division bottom-feeders are the 3-2 Ole Miss Rebels with losses only to Alabama and LSU as well as the 1-4 Arkansas Razorbacks, who are just plain bad. Even 3-2 Mississippi State was ranked as high as No. 14 until they took back-to-back losses to SEC opponents, Kentucky and Florida, and could potentially be the best team to not make a bowl game this year due to the difficulty of their SEC schedule. Which brings me to the SEC East.
Anyone older than probably 26 remembers the days when the SEC East actually reigned supreme for a short time with Florida and Tennessee. The days before anyone knew the name Nick Saban and splitting a national title was accepted because it was purely based on post-season rankings. Since then however, the SEC East has consistently been less competitive then their neighbors to the west. What can you expect when powerhouses like Tennessee and Florida go from winning National Championships to 4 or 5-win seasons?
Although Tennessee has yet to figure out the mediocrity that has plagued Knoxville, other SEC East competitors have risen to the western standards. The East really needs Tennessee or Florida to be competitive and after booting McElwain last year during a 4-7 season, the No. 22 Gators appear to be on an upswing with Dan Mullen, previous coach of Mississippi State, with only 1 loss to Kentucky. The real surprise this year however are the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Since hiring Mark Stoops in 2013, their program has gone from terrible, to mediocre, to actually impressive. Thankfully, the University of Kentucky regularly forgets they have a football team and didn’t fire Stoops when nearly any other SEC program would have because he appears to have actually built a very strong program as they are now ranked No. 13.
The moment the SEC East proved they were becoming on par with the West however was during last year’s national championship game between Alabama and Georgia. Although the Tide pulled out a 26-23 overtime-win over the Bulldogs, the college football world had to accept that the the SEC East was now the second best division in college football, only behind the SEC West.
SEC vs Big Ten
After I wrote my article informing everyone that the Big Ten is overrated, controversy was sparked within the Belly Up Sports crew. ZachMac recently published a horrible piece of work titled, Attention SEC Fans: Your Conference is a Fraud. I decided to have him on the most recent episode of the Chairgatin’ Podcast where we held a trial to argue the Big Ten vs SEC. I highly recommend giving the episode a list but in case you prefer reading rather than listening to a true work of art, here are some of the main points I hit to combat arguments made in his article:
“The Big Ten is next with 5 starting NFL QBs, and the ACC, Big 12, and SEC all have 4. HAHAHA! The SEC has no more than the Big 12, I find that funny. Zeke, Saquon, Le’Veon, and Melvin Gordon all came from the Big Ten. You lose again. The SEC doesn’t develop players, they aren’t superior. Simple as that.”
Rebuttal: The SEC has the 3 top schools for most current NFL players and half of the top 10 list, while the Big Ten only has Ohio State. Talk about a one-school conference. In fact, the ACC is the only nearest competition with 3 schools listed.
“The SEC has 12 titles, the Big Ten has 6, and the ACC sits in third with 4… Let’s remove Alabama from existence and check the numbers again. Now, the SEC has 7 titles, the Big Ten has 6, and the ACC has 4.”
Rebuttal: First off, the SEC has 13 titles over the past 25 years, not 12, while the Big Ten only has 3. You can’t count the 2 titles from Nebraska in 94 and 95 because the Cornhuskers didn’t join the Big Ten until 2011. Also, if you remove Alabama, the SEC would still have 7. If you removed Ohio State, the team with with the most titles in the Big Ten, that conference would only have 1. In fact, the SEC would be the only conference in the past 25 years to have more than 1 national championship if each conference had to remove the team that holds the most titles.
Conclusion: the Big Ten is old, cold and overrated and down south in the SEC, it just means more.
The SEC is Honestly Too Good
Now that the SEC West as well as East both have 3 ranked teams with national contenders, it’s just not even fair. There are plenty of other conferences with competitive teams but none with both divisions as dangerous as the SEC. Whine about it all you want but the fact of the matter is, the SEC is still the best conference in college football and is only getting better.