The rest of the country doesn’t want to believe it but it’s true.
The Pac-12 has elevated itself into national prominence. The Big Ten is the reigning national champion and has added serious coaching cache over the last few seasons. The Big 12 is rolling in new television dough and the ACC is slowly but surely regaining form.
But the SEC is still the best conference in college football and the SEC West could be better in 2015 than it’s ever been before.
It all starts with the coaching, continues with talent and ends with victories.
Nick Saban and Les Miles have a combined five national titles and have played in the BCS title game or College Football Playoff six times since 2007. Saban (.802) and Miles (.780) are fifth and sixth all-time in SEC history in winning percentage and second (.780) and 11th all-time (.690) in league games.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn is nipping at their heels. He’s won one national title as a coordinator and played for another as a first-year SEC head coach and ranks behind only Saban as the best current coach in the league.
Needless to say, their resumes speak for themselves. But the depth of coaching is what makes the SEC West so daunting. Bret Bielema has a losing record (10-15) at Arkansas but is a hot pick by many as the top challenger to the state of Alabama this fall and he won three straight Big Ten titles at Wisconsin before jumping ship to Fayetteville.
Kevin Sumlin has ushered Texas A&M into a new conference with a Heisman Trophy and a better winning percentage (.718) than every coach in College Station since 1928 with the exception of R.C. Slocum (.721).
Dan Mullen is doing things at Mississippi State that are unprecedented. No coach has left Starkville with a winning SEC record since Allyn McKeen in 1948. Mullen has led his program to its first AP No. 1 ranking and reached a bowl game in four (much less five) straight seasons for the first time in school history.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
In Oxford, Hugh Freeze is doing things only Johnny Vaught had accomplished. Only one Rebels coach since Vaught (David Cutcliffe) has posted a winning SEC record and only once since Vaught has Ole Miss entered a season ranked in the preseason AP top 15 (2009).
The Rebels are ranked No. 11 in Athlon Sports preseason Top 25.
That’s just the head coaches. John Chavis, Will Muschamp, Cam Cameron, Kirby Smart and Lane Kiffin are some of the best (and highest paid) coordinators in the nation.
It’s not just the elite-level coaching that makes this league so terrifying, however, it’s also the players. The SEC led all conferences at the NFL Draft for a ninth consecutive year in May and is a near lock to do so again in 2016.
All seven teams in the SEC West are ranked in the Top 26 in terms of raw talent. Six of the seven are ranked among the nation’s 22 most talented rosters.
This division is responsible for seven preseason first-team All-Americans and seven second-team preseason All-Americans.
One could argue the SEC West has the best quarterback (Dak Prescott), running back (Leonard Fournette, Derrick Henry), wide receiver (Laquon Treadwell, D’haquille Williams), tight end (Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, O.J. Howard), offensive tackle (Laremy Tunsil, Cam Robinson), offensive guard (Sebastian Tretola), defensive tackle (Robert Nkemdiche, A’Shawn Robinson), defensive end (Myles Garrett), linebacker (Reggie Ragland) and safety (Tony Conner) in the nation.
The SEC West may have the best player at almost every position… IN THE NATION.
This says nothing of how this division fared on the field a year ago. The SEC West went 28-0 in non-conference play with wins over Wisconsin, at Kansas State, West Virginia, at Texas Tech, Boise State and Memphis. This division lost a combined 25 regular season games a year ago — four to the SEC East and 21 to itself.
(Don’t talk to me about bowl… ahem, exhibition games. I won’t count Arkansas’ romp over Texas if you don’t count TCU’s crushing of an injured and unmotivated Ole Miss. The only one that actually counts is Alabama’s loss to Ohio State.)
There is a reason that Mississippi State is picked last in the West and still ranked No. 21 nationally. There is a reason that two teams from this division are projected to make the Playoff.
This division isn’t the best because of some southern broadcasting media bias.
The SEC West is the best in football because it has the best coaches in the nation leading the best players in the nation on the best teams in the nation.