It seems like every day, one guy or the other out there in the MSM (that's "Mainstream media for all you Penn State fans out there ) wants to debunk the theory that the SEC has the best football conference in the land. 99.9% of the time, they are self-debunking. This one today is no exception, but I thought I would make an example of it just for kicks.
Comes now a certain Michael Cunningham, ostensibly a sportswriter from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He, like so many before him, thinks that he can fashion some kind of argument supporting the idea that the SEC is really no better than anyone else. So here is his attempt at building a case:
Let's limit it to the SEC's six most successful programs: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. That keeps the likes of Mississippi State and Vanderbilt from dragging down the SEC's good name.Yeah, why not? Never mind that the bottom feeders in the SEC have beaten some of the top teams. Let's pretend they collectively don't exist. It won't matter.
And let's not just look at this season but the past six, from 2002 to now. The sample is robust enough to account for down years, probation and Mike Shula.Fair enough. Who cares? I'm going to skip a couple of irrelevant points, you can read the article at the link above and determine if I was wrong to omit them, and why. Moving on to his coup de grâce:
Even the SEC can't avoid tough bowl games, and it has done pretty well there with a 16-10 record since the 2002 postseason. That includes a 12-8 record in bowl games against ranked opponents and national championships from Florida and LSU.So here is the case he is making -- that a good but not overwhelming SEC record over ranked teams in bowls means that the SEC is really not much if any better than any other conference. He also makes the point that Kentucky beat LSU, MSU beat Kentucky, and West Virgina whipped up on MSU. So that just goes to reinforce his assertion that LSU really isn't all that.
Those titles tended to mask the sometimes-middling success of the SEC as a whole. That 12-8 record against ranked postseason opponents is good but not the domination expected from a league so casually deemed clearly better than the rest.
Well. Rather than go into a long point-by-point rebuttal, I'm just going to make one, and it falls at the feet of the very first paragraph I quoted above. Five of the six SEC teams he cites have at least one national championship since 1980, and all of them have recently won SEC championships. Of the other conferences, only the Big 12 and ACC come close with 4, and not one of the other conferences can point to as many teams that have won their respective conference championships recently as the SEC can.
My point is that none of the other conferences have six teams in them that belong in the same zip code with the six SEC teams he uses for comparison. To adjust for conference size, is there even one who has a 50% representation of teams that tough? The answer is -- not even close. Even the Big Twelve, arguably the SEC's nearest competitor, doesn't. The ACC? Please. One of their counting members in my analysis (Miami) wasn't even a member when they won their last championship.
In other words, his argument is hoist on the very petard he hopes to hang the SEC on. I don't even have to make the case that the bottom half of the SEC is tougher than the bottom half of any other conference in the nation. As an appeals court would say, I don't even need to reach that argument, because his case fails on the first one.