Is SEC best football conference or just top-heavy?

Posted Monday, Aug. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The achievements of the Southeastern Conference are well-known to college football fans, but in case you need a refresher course, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

• SEC schools have won the past seven national championships.

• Sixty-three players from the SEC were selected in April’s NFL draft, more than double that of any other league.

• In the past four years, SEC schools have had 17 recruiting classes ranked in the top 10 by Rivals. Big 12 schools had four.

There’s more where that came from, and all of it comes with an earned arrogance from SEC fans. TCU fans have gotten a taste of SEC pride as the Horned Frogs’ 8 p.m. Saturday opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium draws closer.

The prevailing theme on LSU message boards seems to be that the Horned Frogs are a good little team, but the Tigers play in a big-boy conference.

In fact, that attitude of SEC dominance, echoed and disseminated by national media, seems to have rankled coaches of other conferences who contend that the SEC is top-heavy with a few consistently dominant teams (Alabama, LSU) over the past seven years.

Responding to a question about the perceived gap between the SEC and everybody else, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told the Tulsa World that the bottom half of the 14-team league didn’t have a whole lot to be bragging about.

“What’d [the Big 12] have, eight of 10 teams in bowl games this year?” he asked. (It was actually nine teams that earned bowl berths.) “So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?”

In 2012, the bottom six SEC teams finished 26-47 for a .356 winning percentage and one bowl berth. In contrast, the bottom four teams in the 10-team Big 12, which included TCU, was 21-30 for a .412 winning percentage. Three of those bottom-four teams earned bowl berths.

A day or two after Stoops’ comments in May, Alabama coach Nick Saban responded.

“I really don’t think people who don’t play in our league really understand the quality of our league from top to bottom,” said Saban, whose team has won three of the past four national championships. “So I think there’s probably a lot of animosity out there because of the success that we have in our league. I think that kind of goes with the territory. I understand that. We certainly respect the great program they have there at Oklahoma and the other good programs they have in the Big 12.”

And then, to drive home his point, Saban added, “Well, we don’t play everybody in the Big 12 or whatever it is, so I really don’t know much about their league.”

TCU coach Gary Patterson isn’t interested in the debate.

“It has nothing to do with talk, it has to do with actions on the field and how it turns out,” said Patterson, whose Frogs play an SEC team for the first time since 2003, a 30-14 win against Vanderbilt. “All the rest of that stuff … it’s an opportunity. Obviously, you can’t have what it looked like in the Cotton Bowl.”

Texas A&M’s 41-13 whipping of the Sooners in January didn’t change the perception that the SEC rules the roost. LSU beat A&M 24-19 in College Station last season while the Frogs lost at home to OU 24-17, leading Patterson to wonder how his team stacks up against LSU.

“They’re a very good football program,” he said. “For us, it’s about playing well, it’s about staying healthy, it’s about getting ourselves in a position to play well in the [Big 12]. And if you get a chance to win, then go win. The only ways you’re ever going to prove it is we just have to keep playing [SEC teams] when we get a chance, whether it’s at the beginning of the year or the end of the year [in a bowl].”

Two other Big 12 teams have SEC teams on their schedules — Texas plays Ole Miss on Sept. 14 (for the second consecutive season) and Oklahoma State plays Mississippi State on Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

TCU last played LSU in 1968, a 10-7 Tigers win in Baton Rouge.

It’s not just Big 12 coaches calling out the SEC. During Big Ten media days Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said a bunch of SEC schools would love to have the résumé of some non-SEC programs.

“I guarantee there are a lot of teams in the SEC that aren’t Alabama that wish they were Nebraska, that wish they were Michigan, wish they were Ohio State,” Pelini said in July. “So don’t talk to me about the SEC. Let’s compare specific programs. The whole SEC isn’t Alabama, isn’t LSU and isn’t Georgia. Every year is different.”

Tale of the tape

Enrollment29,549 (24,641 undergraduates)9,725 (8,456 undergraduates)
ColorsPurple and GoldPurple and White
Population of city230,058 (Baton Rouge)777,992 (Fort Worth)
National football titles (year of last)3 (2007)2 (1938)
Conference titles1117
Players in the NFL5416
Record at AT&T Stadium2-02-0
Home stadium capacity92,542 (Tiger Stadium)45,000 (Amon G. Carter Stadium)
Coach’s record (years at school, record)Les Miles: 113-42 (8, 85-21)Gary Patterson: 116-36 (12, 116-36)
Coach’s tickEating grass during a gameHitching pants and retying shoes
Coach’s Twitter presenceFollowers/Tweets115,006/674 (@LSUCoachMiles)8,935/1,408 (@TCUCoachP)

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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