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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, August 08, 2022

SEC’s recent dominance may be more hype than actual results

I know I have a reputation for being an SEC hater in football, and I won’t hide from it. So when No. 8 Arkansas lost Saturday to Louisiana-Monroe at home, I couldn’t keep myself from opening up Microsoft Word and throwing out a few words of joy.

In other words: I told you so.

Sure, Arkansas isn’t Alabama or LSU. And as I have said many times before, non-conference games are a terrible barometer of where a team stands.  

But come on: Louisiana-Monroe? They aren’t even the best of the Louisiana teams (that would be Lafayette).

 While it isn’t Alabama or LSU, it wasn’t Ole Miss or Auburn either. It was the No. 8 team in the country.

 And that is where the “haha, told you so” moment comes in. Who in their right mind put this team inside the top 10 in the country? And without anything other than historical reference (without regard to the fact that the Razorbacks have a new roster and a new head coach) to rely upon, what basis did the writers and coaches have to put this team so high on their preseason rankings?

 Now that they have lost to a team like ULM, it doesn’t really matter that Arkansas was overrated in the preseason because no one would allow a team that lost to a non-BCS school to make it to the BCS title game, or would they?

 But it is nonetheless a perfect illustration of the inherent biases in the BCS system, biases that have been successfully designed to boost the chances that an SEC team (or two) will play in the final college football game of the season.

 SEC teams start the season high in the rankings. And that in itself gives them a better chance to move into the top two and an even better chance to return to that pedestal in the standings after an early- or mid-season loss.

More importantly, however, the preseason rankings set in motion a series of biases that results in SEC teams having substantially better strength of schedule rankings than their counterparts in other BCS conferences.

 Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Arkansas’ upcoming game against Alabama had come before, rather than after, the Razorbacks’ loss to UL-Monroe. If this were the case, Alabama would have the chance to face a top-10 team on the road.

 Now assume Arkansas beats Alabama. Arkansas moves way up the totem pole, having beaten the top team in the country. Alabama, on the other hand, moves down maybe two spots at the most. After all, a road loss to a top-10 opponent is more than forgivable.

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 Then say that Alabama runs the table from there on out. They are almost assuredly in the BCS title game with that one loss.

 Now back to Arkansas. They beat Alabama and follow that up by losing to UL-Monroe. Likely they remain highly ranked. They did beat Alabama so that loss must be an anomaly. If they also run the table, they also have a good shot to go to the national title game.

 See the preseason rankings set us up for a self-fulfilling prophecy that has allowed for the consensus opinion that the SEC is far superior to anything else that college football has to offer.

 There certainly is an argument to be made that SEC football is the best out there. And perhaps the more physical nature of the conference makes its brand of football closer to that of the NFL and thus more appealing to the average fan.

 But when all is said and done, the numbers speak for themselves. When presented objectively, of course.

 ESPN throws this out on its airwaves time and time again: “Since 2006, the SEC has posted a higher nonconference winning percentage than any other conference, 231-55.”

 However, I am sure that there are teams in every BCS conference that would have no problem running the table against Kent State, Penn State, North Texas, and Georgia Southern. Yes, that was Alabama’s “unparalleled” non-conference schedule (at the end of the regular season, Alabama was 1-1 against ranked opponents, conference or nonconference).

 What ESPN fails to mention is that since 1990, the SEC is just 160-127 against other BCS conference foes. And since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the conference is just 81-77 in regular reason games against BCS non-conference opponents.

 Yet somehow that mediocre record has resulted in the conference gaining a reputation as the nation’s best, a reputation that has allowed them to set the stage for excused conference losses allowing teams to maintain their high rankings, thus allowing the self-fulfillment of the prophecy of SEC dominance.

 The response to this claim is almost always the national title run. But in a sport that sets its national title matchups based upon subjective rankings and supposedly “objective” computer rankings of prowess, the fact that those national titles have stayed in the SEC is evidence of the bias, not evidence that the bias is even remotely justified.

 There is a distinct bias that has allowed the SEC both to obtain and maintain its reputation as the dominant conference in college football. The bias not only pervades the discussion in television coverage (ESPN, cough, cough), but also extends itself into the very formula upon which the BCS is built. A formula that was devised, curiously, by then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer.

 So why does the media allow this bias to exist? I don’t know, but the $2.25 billion at stake for ESPN may play a part.

Do you think the SEC is overrated? Are their six straigt titles overblown? Let Max know what you think at max.sternberg@yahoo.com.

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