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SEC Still Tops Big 12, but Gap is Closing


The national and regional debate over college football’s best conference happens every season. The criteria for this argument tends to sway towards your favorite conference (fans) or your target audience (many in the media). Should it be based on national title contenders, number of above-average teams, or strength from top to bottom? That’s part of the fun and frustration each year. The SEC has won five national titles in a row and is generally considered the best, but many across America are claiming the Big 12 is best after the first half of the season. The quartet of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all BCS Championship contenders, and the debate on the rest of each league gets very interesting.

At the halfway point, who is college football’s best conference?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Many fans and media members around the country are tired of hearing it, but I still think it’s the “S-E-C, S-E-C!” The claim against the reigning five-time champ is, “They are down.” My response is “From what?” Has the SEC gone from being “clearly the best” to “just the best” this season? Maybe so, but that’s still the best. If you see South Carolina (at 6-1) and Auburn (at 5-2) as down, then you would also have to consider the Big 12’s non-conference wins as “down”. While Dan Beebe’s former league has an impressive record, the Florida State, Arizona, Miami and TCU wins now do not stand out as much now as they did at the time of the game. If you match up the SEC and Big 12, I think the SEC starts 3-0. From then on, it probably splits even. I haven’t seen anyone as good as Alabama or LSU this season, although that could change by the end of the year. The good news for other leagues is that only one of those stalwarts can make the BCS title game, where it’s looking more and more like the SEC will be for a sixth straight time.

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Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is a lot harder to answer than I thought it would be. I think the SEC is better at the top with Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, but you can make a strong case that the Big 12 is better in the middle — would you take Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech over Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Mississippi State? I think at this point of the season you’d have to say that the middle class of the Big 12 is a bit stronger than the SEC. There are bad teams at the bottom of both league, so it comes down to what you value more — star power at the top (which goes to the SEC, though the Big 12 obviously has two very good teams at the top) or overall depth (which goes to the Big 12). I will go with depth and make the surprising claim that the Big 12 is stronger than the SEC through the first half of the season.

Nathan Rush
The Southeastern Conference will demolish any conference in its way. Alabama and LSU alone make the SEC the biggest, baddest bully league in the land. The Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals are the top two teams in the country — and it's not even close. The winner of their Nov. 5 heavyweight prize fight will destroy whichever team (Oklahoma? Wisconsin?) lines up against them in the BCS national title game. The SEC's mid-level teams may not be as strong this season. But there are really only two bottom-feeders (Kentucky, Ole Miss). And the top of the conference is so powerful, it's scary — like trying to tackle Trent Richardson.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
It all depends on how you evaluate a conference. I think that at the top, meaning teams 1-2, the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are the best with an edge going to the boys from the South. The middle of the Big Ten is much stronger than most leagues with Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State filling slots 3-8, but Wisconsin is the only true national title contender at the top of the league. I believe it is incredibly difficult to truly compare leagues, but the SEC and Big 12 appear to be the strongest. While the SEC is elite at the top, it has major mediocrity in Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, while Florida, Auburn and South Carolina are much worse than a year ago. The Big 12 is strongest from top to bottom. It has three total non-conference losses: the Aggies’ choke-job against Arkansas, at Georgia Tech by Kansas and overtime at Arizona State by Mizzou. The non-conference featured road wins at Miami, Florida State, UCLA and UConn with home wins over TCU, Iowa, Arizona and BYU leaving the league 27-3 overall against every other leagues. With two national title contenders and six more quality teams, I give the slight edge to Big 12, but we will find out the only thing that matters when the LSU/Bama winner faces the Bedlam Series winner in the national title game.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think the top two conferences are clearly the SEC and the Big 12. Both leagues have national title contenders, as the Big 12 boasts Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while the SEC has LSU and Alabama. The Big 12 has a great resume this year, but I’m still going to stick with the SEC. I think Alabama is the best team in college football, which helps tip the scales in the SEC’s direction in a tight battle. Georgia is also coming on strong after an 0-2 start, while Florida will get things going in the right direction once quarterback John Brantley returns from an injury. The bottom of the SEC is bad (Kentucky and Ole Miss), but Vanderbilt has shown improvement this year in James Franklin’s first season. One factor hurting the Big 12 is Texas. Although the Longhorns are better than they were last season, the conference needs Texas to be among the top 10-15 teams in college football.