Better Than the SEC? … Not So Fast, My Friend

Lyn Scarbrough

September 09, 2015 at 9:06 am.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA;  Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Noel Ellis (4) celebrates recovering a Arizona State Sun Devils fumble in the second half at NRG Stadium. Aggies won 38 to 17. Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Noel Ellis (4) celebrates recovering a Arizona State Sun Devils fumble in the second half at NRG Stadium. Aggies won 38 to 17. Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Since Ohio State broke the Southeastern Conference stranglehold on college football championship competition last season, it has been popular for national analysts, and SEC haters, to say that the Big Ten, and maybe even the Pac-12, has caught up with the nation’s leading league.

But, with my Dixon Ticonderoga pencil in hand, and with kudos to Lee Corso … “Not so fast, my friend!”

If the first weekend of college football is an indication, not only have the other conferences not caught up with the SEC, they are heading in the wrong direction, while the SEC increases its dominance.

It’s easy to understand why so many people are hoping for a long-term crack in the SEC’s armor. Here’s a brief historical reminder:

2003 – LSU, national champion

2004 – Auburn, undefeated, controversially left out of title game, finishes second

2005 – Texas wins championship over USC

2006 – Florida, national champion

2007 – LSU, national champion

2008 – Florida, national champion

2009 – Alabama, national champion

2010 – Auburn, national champion

2011 – Alabama, national champion, defeats LSU, which finishes second

2012 – Alabama, national champion

2013 – Auburn, loses championship game to Florida State, finishes second

2014 – Ohio State wins championship over Oregon

So, in the last 12 years, only twice has a Southeastern Conference team neither won the national championship nor finished second. No wonder fans of the other conferences are sick and tired of the SEC.

They thought there was a glimmer of hope when Southeastern Conference teams fared so poorly overall in the postseason last year. But, unless this past weekend was an illusion, they might want to get used to the SEC being on top again.

Only one SEC team, Vanderbilt, didn’t win its season opener. The Commodores lost, 14-12, to Western Kentucky after throwing three interceptions deep in Hilltoppers territory and missing a two-point conversion attempt as the game ended.

Southeastern Conference teams played games against four Power 5 conference teams and won them all. Alabama dominated Wisconsin. Texas A&M pulled away from nationally ranked Arizona State. Auburn, despite uncharacteristic offensive mistakes, beat a good Louisville team. And, South Carolina came from behind to knock off North Carolina.

Against “lesser” opponents, SEC teams won as they should, most by large margins. Ole Miss won by 73 points; Florida won by 48; Georgia prevailed by 37; Arkansas won by 35; Missouri’s margin was 31; and, Tennessee won by 29.

Fortunately for McNeese State, its game with LSU was cancelled by lightning.

How about the other conferences? Start with the popular choice, the Big Ten.

Purdue lost to Marshall of Conference USA; Nebraska lost to Brigham Young, its first home-opening loss in 39 years; Penn State was defeated by Temple, giving up 27 unanswered points in its first loss in that series in 74 years; and, Michigan lost to Utah in Jim Harbaugh’s first game as head coach. At least Minnesota (TCU) and Wisconsin (Alabama) lost to ranked teams. Northwestern did upset nationally ranked Stanford to provide bragging rights in one significant game.

The Pac-12 did about as bad as the Big Ten.

Washington State lost to Portland State of the Big Sky Conference. The Mountain West won both head-to-head matches with the Pac-12 (Colorado lost to Hawaii; Boise State defeated Washington). And, don’t forget the Stanford and Arizona State losses. Even in winning, nationally ranked Arizona was dominated at home in every statistic by UTSA of Conference USA. At least Utah did win that lone match-up with the Big Ten.

How about the Atlantic Coast Conference?

ACC teams faced four Power 5 opponents – Louisville/Auburn, North Carolina/South Carolina, Virginia/UCLA, and Virginia Tech/Ohio State. They lost them all. The opponents that ACC teams actually could beat included Texas State, Troy, Bethune-Cookman, Rhode Island, Maine, Wofford, Elon, Alcorn State, Tulane and Youngstown State (barely). A word of advice – don’t criticize the SEC for playing weak non-conference opponents.

Of course, one week doesn’t show what the season will be. Early in the 2014 campaign, we thought Texas A&M was a national champion contender after the Aggies massacred nationally ranked South Carolina. And, we wrote off Ohio State after they lost at home by 14 points to an average Virginia Tech team. We saw how that worked out.

Teams get more shots at the SEC this coming weekend. Oklahoma comes to Knoxville to see if all of the hype about new Tennessee relevance is real. Middle Tennessee comes to Tuscaloosa after scoring 70 in its season opener. Fresno State plays at Ole Miss to see if the Mountain West success against Power 5 opponents can continue. And, Jacksonville State plays for the first time in Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. (Don’t overlook that one. The Gamecocks are a legit FCS national championship contender. Just ask Michigan about Appalachian State in case you’ve forgotten.)

But, if you’re one of those SEC haters, I wouldn’t plan on getting my hopes up any time soon.

In case you want to start making those superiority claims again, I’ve got my pencil sharpened, sitting beside my laptop, ready to go.