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RIP SEC?: A College Football Conference Shake-Up

Jeffrey Dubrof |
January 14, 2015 | 8:13 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Devin Smith (@ESPNCFB/ Twitter)
Devin Smith (@ESPNCFB/ Twitter)

Ohio State ran away with the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship against the Oregon Ducks this past Monday night. With the 42-20 dominant victory, the Big Ten Conference also won its first title in 12 years breaking what seemed to be a never-ending drought caused by past years of SEC dominance.

While the SEC was represented in the four team football playoff, by the Alabama Crimson Tide, the overall performance of the conference in this year's postseason games was subpar. With lackluster performances from the annually stellar SEC West, is it fair to say that the SEC is starting to decline in caliber? If the SEC is no longer the best conference in college football, who is? 

The SEC had the highest number of bowl-eligible teams this past season. Represented in bowl games by twelve schools, the SEC looked as if they were the most well rounded conference in college football. Experts believed the SEC would continue the upward trend of the last ten years and hold the best bowl record when the confetti fell and Alabama would once again be crowned as champions.

The SEC, the supposed “best” conference in college football, went 7-5. It should be noted that the conference had an aggregate record above .500. However, it seemed the SEC lost every important, noteworthy bowl game.

Ole Miss, the former number two team in the country, lost to TCU in a game that was a blowout from the start. Mississippi State, the former number one team in the country, lost to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. LSU lost to a Notre Dame team that the USC Trojans beat down on Thanksgiving weekend. Auburn lost to Wisconsin and we all know that the mighty Crimson Tide lost to the eventual National Champion Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.

Imagine: the SEC, winless in noteworthy bowl games.

SEE MORE: Should The College Football Playoff Expands To 8 Teams? 

I will not go far enough to say that the SEC is on the decline. However, the teams that added to the depth of the SEC in previous years, i.e. Texas A&M, Auburn, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, are not nearly as strong now as they were in past years.

The Aggies had a mediocre season in their first without Johnny Manziel. Auburn, who didn’t perform as well as people thought following its miracle run in 2013, finished the season by losing to Wisconsin. Georgia and South Carolina have repeatedly fallen way short of preseason expectations. Even with both teams winning their bowl games, the teams did not live up to their annual ESPN-fueled hype that this could be the year they finally win a title. The Florida Gators have been in shambles since Urban Meyer dumped. With a new head coach and the 94th ranked recruiting class in the country according to Rivals.com, it could be a very long time until there is good football in Gainesville. The SEC is not nearly as powerful as they once were and it showed in the bowl season. 

Bryce Petty (@ESPNCFB/Twitter)
Bryce Petty (@ESPNCFB/Twitter)
Hypothetically, if we were to say that the SEC is truly not the best conference in college football anymore, then who is? We can eliminate the obvious non-Power 5 conference teams, unless someone wants to make a claim that the Mountain West is the best conference in football… No Boise State fans?

Right off the bat, I would eliminate the ACC from contention. Florida State has been the only bright spot for the conference in the last ten years. Since 2006, the ACC has a record of 3-7 in the Orange Bowl, the marquee matchup that always includes an ACC team. The ACC went 5-7 in bowl play this season.

The next conference to hit the chopping block is the Big 12. Words cannot explain how hard it has been for me to watch the Big 12 struggle. Raised by a family of University of Texas graduates and diehard Longhorn fans, seeing how much the Longhorns and the rest of the conference struggles is sad. What used to be a conference of high-flying offenses and juggernaut teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech), the Big 12, now run by Baylor and TCU, is unrecognizable!

As nice as it may be for some people to see that Baylor and TCU are the kings of the Big 12, it must be acknowledged that the Big 12 will not be relevant until Oklahoma and Texas, who was recently named by Forbes as the most valuable collegiate athletic program in the country, are playing the way they played in the 2000s.

SEE MORE: USC Football Fans Must Temper Expectations For 2015

That leaves us with two conferences remaining: the Big Ten and the Pac-12.

The Big Ten's performance in the postseason was far better than other conferences, even if it didn’t not have many teams eligible for bowl play. It is hard to argue against the conference that has Michigan State, the Cotton Bowl winner and the winner of last year’s Rose Bowl, and the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. And with the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh, look for the Michigan Wolverines to be back in the spot light of the college football world.

Cody Kessler (@ESPNCFB/Twitter)
Cody Kessler (@ESPNCFB/Twitter)
However, between these two conferences, it is hard for me not to think that the Pac-12 is the superior conference. Of course, the Pac-12 has not won a national title since USC last did it against Oklahoma in 2004. However, it is currently the deepest conference in college football.

Sporting the best record in bowl play this season by a long shot at 6-2, the Pac-12 is only going to get better and better. USC is finally becoming relevant in college football and teams such as Arizona, who unfortunately suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Fiesta Bowl to Boise State, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford, are hitting their stride in the recruiting game as well. USC has the third best recruiting class in the country according to Rivals.com, and UCLA has the 14th-best class and have what some consider to be the best recruit in the country in quarterback Josh Rosen. The Pac 12 is also starting to slowly develop pipelines into states such as Texas and Florida and soon the west coast will be the premium destination for recruits.

So watch out for the Pac-12: the new best conference in college football.

Reach Staff Reporter Jeffrey Dubrof here.



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