Thursday, October 23, 2008

The SEC vs. Big 12 Debate

It has become a seasonal rite of passage in the fall, you know all the college football fans from fine states like Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama proclaiming the SEC is God's gift to the gridiron. And what do you know, we're starting to get into the nitty gritty of the college football season, and the SEC is clamoring about its dominance again. But this year it's got a twist.

See, as much as SEC fans want to talk all high and mighty about LSU or Florida or Alabama, there's no getting around that thus far there's another conference showing itself to be the alpha male of the college football world. The Big XII. Now I'm not ready to proclaim either conference the dominant one just yet, because if we've learned anything over the past couple seasons, it's that the end of the season is bound to bring us more shake up in the BCS standings.

The debate between the two conferences boils down to this, though. It's the hard hitting defenses of the SEC versus the high flying offenses of the Big XII. Nobody is really sure if the SEC defenses are dominant because of lackluster offenses or if the Big XII offenses are so effective because of medicore defense. With big names like Colt McCoy of Texas, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, and Chase Daniel of Missouri, I'm starting to lean more towards the Big XII side of the debate (that and I'm tired of hearing the SEC pound its chest in defiance every year).

And what do you know ... there's some statistics to back up my feelings here. According to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated the defenses of the Big XII aren't actually worse than the big bad voodoo daddy defenses of the SEC. The myth debunking about the SEC begins now:

f you go by "yards allowed per play" rather than "total yards," Oklahoma (4.59) is basically dead even with Georgia (4.58). Oklahoma State (4.88) is barely different than LSU (4.84). If you look at the Sooners, which play at breakneck speed, they've run more plays (563) than any other team in the country through seven games but also faced more opposing plays (481) than all but two teams in the top 50.

Interesting statistical analysis, although I'm not totally sold on either conference making it to the BCS Title game. You've got Texas at No. 1 and floating on cloud nine after two straight wins over Oklahoma and Missouri, but the Longhorns still have Texas Tech in two weeks, Kansas a couple after that, and the always treacherous Thanksgiving Day weekend matchup with Texas A&M. That doesn't even include the Big XII Championship game. Maybe I'm being naive, but as impressive as Texas has looked, I don't see them getting through all that undefeated.

Then you've got somehwat surprising, but so far dominating (at least in big games) Alabama. Roll Tide has a pivotal matchup at LSU in a few weeks and a rivalry matchup with Auburn to close out the year. If they get through the Tigers (a big if) they should be good to go. Oh wait, even if they win out, Bama still has a likely matchup with Florida waiting in the SEC Title Game. Again maybe I'm underestimating Nick Saban, but I don't see his team coming out of all that unscathed.

Then there's No. 3 Penn State, which gets a huuugggee test traveling to Columbus to face No. 9 Ohio State this weekend. Unlike Texas and Bama, the Nittany Lions have some smooth sailing after this one, what with the weak Big Ten. But I don't see JoePa's guys getting out this weekend without a loss.

Go down the line in the AP top 10 and it's pretty much the same story for everyone. Right now it has got four Big XII teams (Texas at 1, Oklahoma at 4, OK St at 6, Tx Tech at 8), three SEC teams (Bama at 2, Georgia at 7, and Florida at 10), two Big Ten squads (Penn St at 3, Ohio St. at 9), and a Pac 10 sleeper (USC at 5). If you look at it all closely, the Trojans are really the only team without a major test in front of them besides the winner of the Ohio State/Penn State game this weekend.

Fucking Pete Carroll

See, while the rest of the country talks high and mighty about this SEC/Big XII dominance, my best guess right now is that neither conference is represented in the BCS Title Game. If PSU makes it out of Columbus alive this weekend, we could be staring smack dab at a USC/Penn State national title game.

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