Sunday, November 06, 2005

Evaluating the SEC

The Associated Press writers and Coaches who dilligently fill out their polls are faced with a dillema every year: is the SEC any good? Every year, there are always a few teams with very impressive records from the conference that linger around at the top of the polls, but we're stuck wondering if they're actually powerful teams or if they are simply feasting on the weaklings in the conference as well as on their out-of-conference slate.

A lot of us have been brainwashed to think of the SEC as a dominant top-to-bottom conference, but even a cursory look at the conference will show otherwise. From my vantage point, there are 5 SEC teams that are 1-AA caliber, and shouldn't even be counted for a team's win-loss record. Let's have a look-see.

Best Win
Worst Loss
Kentucky fought off the Bengals from Idaho State, who are 5th place in the mighty Big Sky Conference in 1-AA. Their other win was against Mississippi StateA 38-14 drubbing at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers, currently ranked 9th in the Big 10
Mississippi State
The Bulldogs gutted out a 21-14 win against Tulane, a school that is currently underwater, in 11th place in Conference USA, and recently the victims of a 4-touchdown drubbing by Navy. NB: MSU is averaging 7.7 points per game against Division 1A competition.Houston, tied for 7th in Conference USA, defeated the Bulldogs 28-16
The Hogs put an impressive beating on Louisiana-Monroe, 44-15. While the Indians stand on top of the Sun Belt conference, their 3-5 record includes losses to Nortwestern State and Florida InternationalAside from their usual drubbings from the hands of their SEC bretheren, Arkansas' only other non-conference game against a 1A opponent was against USC, who hung 70 on the hapless Hogs.
Ole Miss
Ole Miss squeaked by Memphis in a taffy pull, 10-6. Memphis is in 6th place in C-USA and dropped key matches to Tulsa and George O'Leary's Golden Knights of Central FloridaWyoming, 6th place in the Mountain West, beat the Rebels 24-14, in Oxford no less.
Vandy went on the road and took down ACC doormat Wake Forest, 24-20.The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State outlasted the Commodores 17-15. While they have a cool mascot, they are still 5th place in the Sun Belt Conference

My friend, these are not football teams. Let's look at the numbers. This "Gang of Five" has posted, between them, four victories over Division 1A competition (excluding, of course, games against each other, where one of teams had to win, out of necessity more than anything). The victims? Two Conference USA doormats (Memphis and Tulane), the ACC's whipping boy (Wake Forest) and Sun Belt Conference heavyweight Louisiana-Monroe.

Now, every conference has its patsies, but this is ridiculous. And lots of marginal teams have enjoyed the spoils of this depravity. Auburn, currently ranked 17th due to a 7-2 record against a "brutal SEC" schedule, has a resume that looks like this:
Wins: Mississippi State, Ball State, Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina
Losses: LSU, Georgia Tech.
Take out the "Gang of Five", plus non-games of Ball State and Western Kentucky, and what do you have? A 1-2 team. Yet thanks to a scheduling delight that included all five SEC patsies, Auburn is mingling with credibility in the Top 20. LSU is sitting in the Top 5 after playing 4 of their last 6 games against the likes of Mississippi State, Vandy, North Texas and Appalachian State, with two more of these patsies (Arkansas and Ole Miss) on the slate to close out the season. And until SEC teams start scheduling real football teams for non-conference competition, it will be difficult to take them seriously in the National Title hunt.