SEC and the Big 12: Which one is better?

Matt Gubbels and Jessica White

Each year there is a debate over which conference is better, but how can each conference be rated equally?

Each conference has its strengths and weaknesses, and the view on which conference is superior changes each year. This year in college football the big debate is between the SEC and the Big 12. Each conference has five teams in the top 25 and three teams in the preseason top 10.

SEC (Jessica White)

The Southeastern Conference stakes a strong claim to be the best conference in college football. The SEC has a strong tradition of performing at its best.

According to the SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom, the SEC is the first conference to win consecutive BCS titles and the only conference to have five head football coaches who have won national championships.

The SEC is 11-4 all time in BCS Bowl games and won four in the last two years. The next closest conference is the Pac-10 with an 8-4 record.

“The SEC’s seven bowl wins last year is the most ever for any conference in NCAA history,” Bloom said at the SEC Media Days.

Last year LSU and Georgia finished first and second in the AP.

The last time that happened was in 1971. The SEC also has eight coaches who make at least $2 million a year.

LSU is the reigning national champion, and the SEC again has three legitimate national contenders in Georgia, Florida and LSU. Auburn, Tennessee, and Alabama could also win double-digit games as well.

The SEC has four Heisman Trophy candidates with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin of Florida and Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno of Georgia.

There are no easy games, as shown by LSU’s two losses, which were upsets by Arkansas and Kentucky.

Alabama has the top recruiting class in the nation, and Arkansas is prognosticated to have the second-toughest schedule this year, behind Washington.

Florida’s offense brings back Heisman winner and coach Urban Meyer has had three of his last four recruiting classes finish in the top five of the national rankings.

LSU has won two national titles in the last five years. Coach Les Miles said he can’t imagine a more competitive league.

“I think that great teams in other conferences can be and will certainly contend for national spots,” Miles said at the SEC Media Days. “If you go through our schedule and if you go through those that play in this conference, they will be representative of every national honor.”

Last year was the first time two SEC football student-athletes, Tebow and Darren McFadden of Arkansas, were named National Player of the Year in the same season.

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said the SEC has the best talent level in the country shown by their number of players in the pros.

“If you’re gonna win in this conference, you’ve got to prepare well and you’ve got to play well each week,” Croom said at the SEC Media Days. “Anybody in the conference can beat anyone at any given time.”

Big 12 (Matt Gubbels)

The Big 12 has a strong resume to aid it in being named the nation’s toughest conference.

The Big 12 had two teams reach BCS bowl games last season and eight teams overall reach bowl games last season, splitting their BCS games and finishing 5-3 in the bowl games. The biggest thing the Big 12 has going for it is that 11 of 12 teams return their starting quarterbacks from a season ago.

This, along with the fact that many of the offenses in the Big 12 have undergone a transformation from run-first to pass-first spread offenses, puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses, according to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

“I think for sure it’s just the quality of overall play, but I think everyone knows it’s the great quarterbacks there are throughout this league,” Stoops said at the Big 12 Media Days. “It’s really challenging for defenses to play well and to limit them.”

Chase Daniel of Missouri was a finalist for the Heisman last season and joins Todd Reesing of Kansas and Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech as possibilities from last season.

Colorado’s upset of Oklahoma, who were rated No. 3 in the nation at the time, shows that teams have to show up ready to play every day.

Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma all contended for the national championship last season and the Sooners and Tigers are poised to do so again. Stoops leads a once-again stout defense and also boasts the nation’s passing efficiency leader in quarterback Sam Bradford.

Missouri lost twice to Oklahoma last season, but returns 10 starters on defense, as well as Daniel and do-everything target Jeremy Maclin on offense.

Reesing and Kansas, despite a much tougher schedule, could contend for a North division title and Texas Tech and Texas will attempt to knock off Oklahoma in the South.

Four other teams – Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M – are expected to contend for bowl games and Iowa State and Baylor will be improved as well.

“For a defensive guy, this kind of woke me up a little bit,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said at the big 12 Media Days about the improving offenses. “At the same time, again, I think all the coaches understand you’ve got to be able to play defense to win.”