How the rest of the country caught up to SEC Football.


As we look ahead to the 2015 college football season, one thing is abundantly clear, there is more balance across the country in college football that at anytime in the last 10 years. SEC fans may bristle at the notion, but the rest of the country has caught up to SEC in football. Does that mean the SEC isn’t still the best top to bottom football conference in america? It may very well be. Only the Pac 12 is as good across the board.

There is still excellent football being played in SEC, and it’s team will continue to be very much a factor in the national title hunt. The SEC isn’t going anywhere, but the best teams in the rest of the country have caught up. How did this happen?

1) Lack of elite Quarterback Play

Remember when the Tim Tebows, and the Cam Newtons roamed the sidelines as QBs at national championship winning teams for Florida and Auburn. AJ McCarron at Alabama won 2 national titles, and was a Heisman Trophy runner-up and Maxwell Award Winner. The last two years – Florida State had Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston, and Ohio State won with 3rd string QB Cardale Jones who may have been an NFL First Round pick had he came out.

Last season Dak Prescott was the 1st team All-SEC QB, and you could argue he was the second best quarterback playing in the Orange Bowl behind Justin Thomas of Georgia Tech who beat the Bulldogs 49-34. Trevone Boykin manned the controls of TCU when they thumped Ole Miss 42-3 in the Chick Fil A Bowl. Boykin enters 2015 has a Heisman favorite. The SEC no longer has best quarterbacks in the country.

2) Country was catching up prior to 2013.

Even though the SEC has won a national title in 2 years, cracks were starting to show before that. I know what this looks like. Back in 2009-2010 when ACC schools UNC and Duke won back to back basketball national titles, it masked the decline of most of the rest of the conference. In 2012 Florida ranked #3 lost to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl to Louisville. #8 LSU lost to Clemson in the Chick Fil A bowl. In 2010 Ohio State beat #8 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Did the better teams in country starting catching up in the last 2 years, or has this process gradually been going on since 2010 and maybe even sooner?

3) Where’s the defense?

These were point totals given up by the  5 highest ranked SEC teams in bowl games last year. 49, 42, 42,34, and 31. The previous year the SEC’s two highest ranked teams gave up 34 and 45 points. Seven of the best SEC teams over the last two years gave up an average of 39.5 points in their bowl games. The SEC has had 1 top 7 defense the last two years. The similar sized ACC has had 4. A conference that was known for unmatched defense through most of the previous decade now has issues stopping many top-ranked OOC teams.

In 2011 the SEC had 4 of the top 5 defenses in the country.

4) Talent Gap Closing

Back in the 2013 NFL draft the SEC had an astonishing 63 players drafted. That was 32 more than the 2nd place conference that year the ACC. Those were many of players that made up the SEC during 2009-2012 seasons. In 2014 the SEC again finished 1st with 48 draft picks, but the ACC had 42 picks. In 2015 the SEC had 54 picks, and the ACC had 47. Both the ACC and Pac 12 had 9 NFL 1st round picks, and the SEC 7.

The best talent in the country still is in the SEC overall, but the gap has closed in recent years.

5) Coaching in the rest of the country has improved.

When I did my head coach rankings, I had one 1 SEC coach Nick Saban in the top 10. You could definitely argue Urban Meyer is America’s best coach. He’s at Ohio State. Athlon had 2 SEC coaches in the top 10.   This doesn’t mean that the SEC doesn’t have good coaches, it just means there are a lot of good coaches elsewhere.

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