Is the SEC Really the Best Conference?

December 7, 2012

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(Photo via SEC Football Online)

You've heard it again and again. Every season, those rabid fans down south come out of the woodwork, screaming to anyone who will listen. Then the national pundits hop on board. Their message? The SEC is the best conference in college football, and it's not even close. This opinion is not without support. An SEC team has been crowned BCS champion in each of the past five seasons. In this article, we break down the teams that played in each conference's championship game last weekend to figure out if the SEC is truly miles ahead of its competition.

SEC Title Game

#2 Alabama (11-1) vs. #3 Georgia (11-1)

In one of the best college football games in recent memory, two one-loss teams battled for a chance to play Notre Dame for the BCS championship. Each team's regular-season stats are impressive.

Total Defense                                                                                       Total Offense

Alabama: 1st  Georgia: 22nd                                                               Alabama: 43rd  Georgia: 24th

Yards Given Up Per Game (YPG)                                             Offensive Yards Per Game (YPG)

Alabama: 233.67  Georgia: 337.83                                                   Alabama: 433  Georgia: 463.67

Points Given Up Per Game (PPG)                                           Points Scored Per Game (PPG)

Alabama: 9.25  Georgia: 17.67                                                          Alabama: 39  Georgia: 38

As you can see, the SEC's two top teams are among the nation's best in most categories. Alabama's defense is on another level, coming in #1 overall and giving up a ridiculous 9.25 points per game. The Bulldog's D is no slouch either, while its offense piles up 463.67 yards per game. Despite coming in 19 spots below Georgia in total offense, the Crimson Tide still score more points per game than Georgia (almost 40 per contest). Alabama has pitched four shutouts this season, while playing five ranked teams. Although Georgia has only played two ranked teams, its defense also has a shutout under its belt, as well as a 3-point effort. It will be tough to live up to these teams' high standards.

Alabama(Photo via CBS News)

ACC Championship

#13 Florida State (10-2) vs. North Carolina* (8-4)

FSU came into its conference championship game with just two blemishes on its record. North Carolina, though banned from any postseason play, carried the best record in the Coastal division of the ACC.

Total Defense                                                                                            Total Offense

FSU: 2nd  North Carolina: 54th                                                              FSU: 19th  North Carolina: 15th

YPG                                                                                                                YPG

FSU: 249.42  North Carolina: 389.58                                                   FSU: 477.42  North Carolina: 485.58

PPG                                                                                                                PPG

FSU: 15  North Carolina: 25.67                                                              FSU: 41.5  North Carolina: 40.58

North Carolina didn't have much of a defense this year, as evidenced by its loss to Georgia Tech, which was able to run off 68 points against them. But offensively,  the Tar Heels were fairly prolific, racking up almost 500 yards a game and 40 points per contest. FSU came in just a spot behind 'Bama in total defense, giving up a measly 15 points per game while performing slightly better than 'Bama on offense. But when you look at who the Seminoles have played, those stats don't seem to mean as much. Besides an early win against Clemson, FSU didn't play another ranked team until its loss against #4 Florida during the last regular season game. The team's other loss? To a bad (7-5) NC State squad. In between those games, FSU racked up wins (and points) against mediocre teams like Duke, Maryland and Boston College. Is FSU a good team? Sure. But 'Bama and Georgia appear to be on another level.

Florida State(Photo via USA Today)

Big 10 Championship

#12 Nebraska (10-2) vs. Ohio State* (12-0)

Nebraska took the "Legends" division of the Big 10, while Ohio State ran through their season without a single loss to come in first on the "Leaders" side of things. Even though the Buckeyes are banned from the postseason, and Wisconsin played in the Big 10 Championship Game, Ohio State was the best team in the Big 10.

Total Defense                                                                                               Total Offense   

Nebraska: 12th  Ohio State: 34th                                                               Nebraska: 26th  Ohio State: 47th

YPG                                                                                                                   YPG

Nebraska: 318.33  Ohio State: 359.58                                                     Nebraska: 460.92  Ohio State: 423.75

PPG                                                                                                                  PPG

Nebraska: 22.58  Ohio State: 22.83                                                        Nebraska: 35.42  Ohio State: 37.17

Nebraska got back to playing defense this season, although for being ranked as high as 12th in total defense, the team gave up about the same number of points as Ohio State, which came in 22 spots above the Cornhuskers. Also, Nebraska forgot how to play defense in the Big 10 Championship Game, where they gave up 70 to Wisconsin. Offensively, Nebraska held the edge in total offense and yards per game, although Ohio State came out on top in points per game. The Big 10 was in a down year, and Nebraska and Ohio State took advantage of it, as you can tell by an undefeated team (Ohio State) having such middle-of-the-pack stats. During the regular season, these two teams came close to the SEC's offensive stats, but couldn't begin to match the SEC's defense.

Nebraska(Photo via Bleacher Report)

Pac-12 Championship

#16 UCLA (9-3) vs. #8 Stanford (10-2)

Stanford used a huge win against #5 Oregon in Eugene to propel themselves to the conference championship game, while UCLA took advantage of an average South division in the Pac-12.

Total Defense                                                                                              Total Offense

UCLA: 77  Stanford: 19                                                                                UCLA: 21  Stanford: 83

YPG                                                                                                                  YPG

UCLA: 417  Stanford: 328.75                                                                     UCLA: 475.67  Stanford: 381.08

PPG                                                                                                                  PPG

UCLA: 25.83  Stanford: 16.92                                                                  UCLA: 36  Stanford: 28.58

These two teams are polar opposites. UCLA is fairly awful on defense while boasting an above-average offense. Stanford is a stout defensive team but struggles mightily on offense. The Cardinal is the only team on this list averaging fewer than 400 yards per game on offense. So while both UCLA and Stanford perform well on one side of the ball, their ineptitude on the other side keeps them from being considered elite.

UCLA-Stanford(Photo via Kval)

Big 12

(The Big 12 didn't have a championship game this year, so we took the top two teams from the conference)

#6 Kansas State (10-1) vs. #11 Oklahoma (9-2)

Led by Heisman candidate Colin Klein, Kansas State was on a fast track to the national championship, until the team got derailed by Baylor. Oklahoma dropped two games, but both came against ranked teams (Kansas State and Notre Dame).

Total Defense                                                                                               Total Offense

Kansas State: 40th  Oklahoma: 44th                                                       Kansas State: 55  Oklahoma: 9

YPG                                                                                                                   YPG

Kansas State: 371  Oklahoma: 381.36                                                     Kansas State: 415.73  Oklahoma: 513.64

PPG                                                                                                                   PPG

Kansas State: 20.82  Oklahoma: 24.58                                                  Kansas State: 40.55  Oklahoma: 41.73

Kansas State and Oklahoma are probably the two teams that come closest to matching the SEC standard, with offenses that can score loads of points (especially Oklahoma) and defenses that do just enough to win. But the Big 12 drops a bit in quality after K-State and Oklahoma, with Texas coming in at 8-3 followed by Oklahoma State at just 7-4. Close to the SEC, but no cigar.

Kansas State(Photo via Bleacher Report)

So What's the Answer?

What do you think? Are the top two SEC teams better than the best in the other conferences? Could Florida State and Oklahoma hang in the SEC? Or would they be in for a rude awakening? Take a look at the regular season stats and let us know what you think on our Facebook page or through Twitter.

*team will not be playing in the conference championship due to a postseason ban

Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...
Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...
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