Bob Somerby provides data for one of my hobbyhorses, the egregious underrating of the PAC-10 in college football. Admittedly, I would prefer that he made the point of comparison the Big 10, given that it’s (in most years) far more overrated than the SEC, but obviously that’s necessary in light of the bitching and whining about Auburn:
Scripted pundits love to insist that the SEC is the best football conference. Michael Wilbon has been saying this all week, as have many other pundits. But chauvinistic scripts to the side, the SEC rarely proves it on the field. This year, for example, the SEC has gone 3-4-1 against other BCS programs:
Kentucky beat Indiana, 51-32 (at home)Florida beat Florida State, 20-13 (at Florida State)Georgia beat Georgia Tech, 16-13 (at home) Tennessee lost to Notre Dame, 17-13 (at home)South Carolina lost to Clemson, 29-7 (at Clemson)Vanderbilt lost to Rutgers, 37-34 (at home)Arkansas lost to Texas, 22-20 (at Texas)LSU beat Oregon State, 22-21, in OT (at home.)
That doesn’t make the SEC weak, but it hardly suggests dominance. Meanwhile, SEC teams lost to a rich assortment of lesser programs this year. Mississippi State even lost (at home) to Maine, which went 4-6 in Division I-AA! And Kentucky managed to lose (at home) to Ohio, whose other three wins were at the expense of VMI, Buffalo, and winless Central Florida (in OT). Yes, Ohio beat hapless Central Florida by one point. But they had no such problem with the SEC. They beat Kentucky, 28-16.
Meanwhile, does Auburn want to play Southern Cal? We’re not sure why. They got to play Southern Cal last year—and got their noses ground into the mud. Magnanimously, the Trojans left their blue-state idyll to crush the Tigers, 23-0. The previous year, they beat them in LA. This year, Auburn took the smart approach. They scheduled three podunks outside the league, then pretended to want Southern Cal.
We hate to be the spoilsports here, but the Sagarin computer has the Pac-10 as the year’s top conference, with the SEC ranked fifth. (In other years, the SEC has done better.) That doesn’t make it so, of course, but we don’t know where the Wilbons get their notions. On Monday, he said the SEC was better than the Big 12 “by far.” Really? The Big 12 went 6-2 against other BCS teams this year. What must the nation’s colleges do to address this persistent red-state chauvinism?
And, of course, this is without even mentioning that Cal has far, far, far, more to complain about than Auburn….