- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Here’s a big surprise: The ESPN Stats & Information folks have run the numbers one final time and determined that the SEC was indeed the best conference in the country this season.
It wasn’t even close, either.
The SEC had a final rating of 97.8. The Pac-10 was second with a rating of 88, and the Big 12 was third with a rating of 87.4.
It’s true that the SEC had a mediocre bowl showing, going 5-5. But three of the SEC’s wins in bowl games came against teams ranked in the Top 25 of the final BCS standings.
Moreover, the SEC finished with an FBS-high .766 winning percentage against other FBS conferences.
But the clincher is what happened on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz. For the fifth straight year, the SEC produced the BCS national champion.
Auburn defeated Oregon 22-19 in the Tostitos BCS National Championship game, becoming the fourth different SEC school to win a national title in the past five seasons.
And if you want to go all the way back to the advent of the BCS in 1998, five different SEC schools have won national titles.
No other conference can come close to matching that balance.
Championships are where measurements begin and end in sports, and there’s a reason the SEC has won five in a row and six of the past eight.
Just in the past four seasons, you’ve had six different SEC teams play in BCS bowls, and the SEC has compiled a 6-2 record in those eight games.
National championships, success in BCS bowls, the best winning percentage against other FBS conferences … what else does anybody want?
Those who don’t think the SEC is the best conference in the land are simply in denial.
Now, none of this means the SEC doesn’t have flaws.
Where this league can improve is continuing to upgrade its nonconference schedule, and there’s been a conscientious effort to do just that the past few years.
LSU is opening the 2011 season against Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Georgia will open next season against Boise State in the Georgia Dome.
Alabama travels to Penn State next season after facing the Nittany Lions at home this season, and Auburn will play the return game at Clemson.
It’s imperative that the SEC’s big boys play at least one marquee nonconference game a season, and they’re all doing that now. The gripe about Florida has been that the Gators never leave the state of Florida to play any nonconference opponent of note during the regular season, and it’s true that they don’t.
But in the Gators’ defense, they do play Florida State every year, and go back and count the number of times over the past two decades how many times the Seminoles were ranked in the Top 25 or even the Top 10 nationally.
The bottom line in all this is that the SEC has perched itself atop the college football world, and it’s a perch that gets a little higher each season.