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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

By Any Measure, SEC's the Best

One of my pet projects over the past few weeks involved doing some research on non-conference records among the Big Six conferences. Obviously, the general consensus is that the SEC is the best conference in America, and the argument could probably end by simply stating that the past four national champions all came from the SEC.

But that analysis only underscores that the best team has been in the SEC the past few years. What I wanted to know is -- is the SEC really the top conference all around?

There are a ton of different ways to measure that, and I'm not sure any one could be considered a definitive measurement. But when it comes to overall success against its peers, it's not just one category of measurement that says the SEC is best. It's all of them.

(Note: All data is from 2005-2009, unless otherwise noted. I chose 2005 as a starting point since that was the last time there were any significant changes in conference affiliation among BCS teams.)

Best win-loss record in non-conference games...

Win %
SEC 214 56 .793
Big 12
195 72 .730
Big East
158 61 .721
Big Ten
172 73 .702
ACC 174 95 .647
Pac-10 118 65 .645

Of course, not all non-conference games are alike. Beating a top-tier opponent is better than beating a Sun Belt also-ran. So what about the records in bowl games, where every team playing has won at least six games?

SEC 28 14 .667
Big East
17 9 .654
Pac-10 18 11 .621
Big 12
18 .538
ACC 18 23 .439
Big Ten
13 23 .361

Interesting that the Pac-10 has just one more bowl appearance since 2005 than the SEC has bowl wins. In fact, the SEC has averaged 3.5 bowl appearances per team since 2005, and all 12 member teams have appeared in at least one bowl game. The only other conference to send each of its teams to at least one bowl during that span is the Big Ten.

Having said all that, bowls aren't necessarily the best way to judge a conference. After all, most bowl games occur a full month after teams ended their regular season, and while some teams are playing hard to earn a 'W,' others are just trying to get a leg up on the next season.

So... let's add in all games against BCS opponents, regular season and bowls. Again, the SEC takes the cake.

Win %
SEC 59 45 .567
Pac-10 45 37 .549
Big East
49 49 .500
Big 12
44 46 .489
ACC 61 70 .466
Big 10
46 56 .451

So pretty much any way you shake it, the SEC comes out on top. But games are won and lost because of coaching and players. So... how does the SEC stack up in those aspects?

Well, let's see who's getting the best recruits. Our pal Jim F. did some research a few weeks ago, tracking all top-100 recruits from 2002-2009. Here's how it broke down by conference:

Top 100
Top 100
SEC 228 19.0
ACC 148 12.3
Big 12
139 11.6
Pac-10 123 12.3
Big Ten
116 10.5
Big East
13 1.6

It's also interesting to note that, of the 123 top-100 recruits signed by Pac-10 schools during that stretch, 72 were signed by USC. In other words, the Trojans accounted for 59 percent of the top-100 recruits that went to Pac-10 schools since 2002.

Of course, all of that is the potential. What about results?

Looking at current NFL rosters, here's which conference has provided the most talent:

ConfNFL Players
SEC 297 24.75
ACC 272 22.67
Big Ten
250 22.72
Big 12
220 18.33
Pac-10 211 21.10
Big East
120 15.00

And how do we get from potential to results? In large part, because of coaching. And while it's easy enough to say that the SEC has the best coaches in the country, I figured it'd be worth seeing how much schools have spent to nab those coaches.

Here are the salaries paid to coaches in 2009 (NOTE: Does not include salaries for coaches at many private institutions):

Avg HC
Avg Staff
SEC 2.637 M
2.255 M
Big 12
2.091 M
2.009 M
ACC 1.844 M
1.879 M
Pac-10 1.791 M
1.562 M
Big Ten
1.604 M
1.451 M
Big East
1.365 M
1.538 M

So the bottom line? The SEC has more resources, better players and better results than any other conference. But you already knew that, right?

Ah, but there is one complaint that could be fairly easily leveled against the country's best football conference. The SEC, despite it's big, bad and tough reputation, doesn't get tested nearly as much as other conferences. To wit...

(NOTE: %NCG vs. BCS = percentage of all non-conference games played against teams from BCS conferences; Scheduled BCS Opp = number of non-conf games played vs. BCS conference teams exclusing bowl matchups; NC Road Games = number of non-conference games played in an opponents' stadium.)

vs BCS
BCS Opp.
NC Road
ACC 49% 98 (43%)
69 (30%)
Pac-10 45% 62 (40%)
53 (34%)
Big East
45% 80 (42%)
76 (39%)
Big Ten 42% 67 (32%)
52 (25%)
SEC 39% 68 (30%)
45 (20%)
Big 12
34% 55 (24%)
63 (28%)

So of the SEC's non-conference success, just 39 percent have come against BCS opponents (second worst) and those schools schedule BCS opponents for just 30 percent of their non-conference dates (also second worst). And as any Florida hater can tell you -- SEC teams don't leave home often. Just one out of every five SEC non-conference games is played in an opposing stadium.

And speaking of all of that, tomorrow we'll take a closer look at which schools enjoy the test of a good non-conference game, and which ones set the cruise control through September.


King Jericho said...

Isn't it impressive how many NFL players the ACC has produced compared to how many top 100 recruits they've had? I know the numbers are probably skewed from the "glory Bowden days" at FSU (assuming you're counting any FSU player even from 10 years ago as an ACC player) and back when Miami was a powerhouse. I'd be interested to see what those recruiting classes were like to get a better comparison of coaching.

Anonymous said...

Yes, he should not have gone back to 2002 in recruiting, or if he did, he should have excluded calling ACC recruits who NEVER NOT ONCE stepped on the field for the ACC, and excluded those who were recruited to play in the ACC.

It is absolutely false to report that, as everyone knows the ACC added a huge group of teams to make it appear that a basketball conference was now a football conference.

Instead anything but that, has happened.

The ACC has NOT had a single Top-Ranked Team. They just have not.

When all those teams were in the Big East, they played cupcakes. Now, they play a few football games, and they none of them win them.

Also, I prefer to see how the teams played against Top 10 and Top 25 teams in the Final AP Poll.

UGA, for example is 3-8 vs. Top 10 Final AP Poll teams in the Coach Richt Era, all SEC opponents as it turns out since Coach Richt has not been blessed with 1 single Top 10 Opponent in any bowl game and this is his 10th season here now.

17-19 Coach Richt Era at UGA against Top 25 Final AP Poll teams.

Even more telling are the 8 Losses Coach Richt has suffered in his 9 previous years here against teams NOT RANKED in the Final AP Poll Top 25 the year he played them.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,

Richt hasn't beaten that many teams that are in the Top 10 FINAL Poll because when you BEAT them, they probably aren't going to finish in the Top-10. Think about it, if you play a Top-10 team in a bowl game, but you BEAT that team (Richt has won 7 of his 9 bowl games), they probably aren't going to stay in the Top-10.

GATA said...

Plenty of teams finish in the Top 10 that lose to Top 10 teams. As we all know when a Top 10 beats a Top 10, the loser does not fall far. If it is true that if you beat a Top 10 team, they will not finish in the Top 10, then where did Richt's 3 wins against teams that finished in the Top 10 come from?

Rick said...

As was pointed out at my favorite University of Louisville blog, the thing that really stands out here is how much the Big East manages to do with how little. Lowest salaries, fewest NFL players, a minuscule proportion of top 100 recruits... yet the Big East manages the third highest winning percentage in non-conference games, second highest in bowls, and third highest against BCS opponents. Not too shabby!

David Hale said...

Yup, and that's with Syracuse weighing down the average. Ugh. Syracuse.

Anonymous said...

I would hope the SEC has more non-conference BCS wins than the Pac-10. They have 12 teams and the Pac-10 has 10. The SEC also only plays 8 SEC teams a year, while the Pac-10 plays 9 Pac-10 game.