SEC fans love to shout it. Fans of other leagues’ hate to hear it. But every April, NFL franchises confirm it.
The Southeastern Conference plays a better brand of all than anyone else.
Last week, the FBS presidents announced the format, dates, and locations for their new College Football Playoff rotation. The where, what and when are taken care of. Now only the how remains. As in how will a selection committee for the playoff be chosen. And how will those committee members decide which teams will take part in the four-team field each season?
25% of this year’s NFL draft picks were produced by the 14 programs of the SEC
Everyone speaking on behalf of the new playoff claims that strength of schedule should be a large part of the selection process. Whether that means a computer formula will be used — like college basketball’s RPI — is still open for debate, though most seem to think the new panel will not lean so heavily on a single criteria.
As discussed elsewhere on this site, will selection committee members favor schools whose teams play in leagues requiring more head-to-head conference games? Will a resume featuring 10 games against any major conference foes look better than an SEC resume listing nine big league foes, including eight from America’s toughest conference?
Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU produced a combined 34 draft picks this year… more than any other conference in its entirety
Many writers in other parts of the country seem to believe that the SEC will continue to get love from the new selection panel based on the perception — hard to call it a perception — that the SEC is tougher. But up until now, there has been a computer element involved in the BCS process. The numbers provided by the computers helped drive the humans involved in team-picking to give SEC teams title shots. Whether it was Alabama in 2011 — a team that didn’t win its own division — or two-loss LSU in 2007, the BCS process has been great for the SEC.
But there is nothing to suggest that will carry over into the new system. In fact, one of the factors that helped turn college presidents around on the idea of a playoff so quickly was the SEC’s recent run of championships. Keep the timeline in mind. The BCS Championship Game paired Alabama and LSU together in January of 2012 and just months later — after decades of fighting the notion of a playoff — the powers-that-be had a playoff in the works.
It doesn’t take a Vanderbilt degree to figure out that an all-SEC title game spurred the leaders of other conferences into action.
The SEC East and the SEC West individually produced more picks in this year’s draft than any other conference
Moving forward, if there’s a conference that should get some benefit of the doubt in terms of strength of schedule it is clearly the Southeastern Conference. In fact, with the SEC’s dominance over other conferences in the past 20 years of drafting history, a realist would say that in most years there should only be two open slots in the College Football Playoff with the other two reserved specifically for the SEC’s best.
Seven BCS titles in a row and nine of the 15 titles during the BCS era should drive that point home quite clearly. Toss in an undefeated Auburn squad that should have gotten a shot in 2004 and it’s possible the SEC would have captured two-thirds of all the titles in a decade-and-a-half span.
But rival fans and — perhaps — jealous selection committee members with ties to other conferences and regions can argue away the championships. “They put the SEC in the title game every year so that league’s got a 50/50 chance of winning the title… that doesn’t prove anything.”
But what does prove something and what can’t be argued away is the fact that the SEC is home to the greatest football players in the world outside of the National Football League. As one NFL analyst working last week’s draft said: “There’s the AFC, the NFC, and the SEC.”
The 14 schools of the SEC produced 32 of the first 97 picks in this year’s draft
When the new playoff selection committee convenes for the first time after the 2014 college football season, those people should block out all biases. They should forget about trying to “spread the wealth” of championships to other leagues. They should not worry about trying to find one team from the East, one from the West, one from the North, and one from the South.
They should instead focus on who plays the best football. And the last quarter-century worth of NFL draft data should tell them that the best football is played in the SEC.
In fact, that bit of information should stand out to them as if it were written in bold italics.