P/CP - Which League Will Beat The SEC?

Posted Mar 11, 2012

The SEC has had a choke-hold on CFB for six years now—and it's hard to see an end in sight. History tells us that the nature of the beast is cyclical and there will be a day when another conference catches up and even surpasses the king of the pigskin. Phil Harrison and Terry Johnson debate on which conference is in the best position to challenge the SEC in the coming years.

Phil Harrison – The Big Ten is Best Positioned to Challenge the SEC

This argument is all about what most debates in sport are about--money. We could go with league reputation and geography, or future re-alignment, blah, blah, blah. The stark reality is that the conference that can match the arms race of spending cash like the SEC is going to catch the SEC. That league is far and above the Big Ten Conference.

To have money, you have to be in position to make money. That's good news for the residents of the Leaders and Legends. For starters, the conference has several major television markets sitting squarely in its footprint. It all starts with the Chicago are which is the third largest population center in the US, but with it, you can also add in Indianapolis, Detroit, the Ohio population centers of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, the Twin Cities, Pittsburgh, and not to be forgotten--the Milwaukee area. That's nine of the top thirty-five media markets in this great country of ours. That all amounts to a lot of people, a lot of television ratings, a lot of merchandise, and ultimately a lot of cash streaming into college campuses in the heartland.

That's not all.

Remember when the Big Ten network was an idea that the rest of the sports world scoffed at? Not so much anymore. It's the one conference network that has the biggest dedicated reach and scope along the majority of the nation. To prove that point--The Big Ten now averages more television revenue per year than any other conference not named the National or American Football Conference (that's NFL folks).

What was a trailblazing idea has had many other copy cats, but like most groundbreaking ideas, the window of opportunity closes with the original. Because of the Big Ten Network--or BTN for the cool kids, the teams get another slice of cash that is hard to equal. Things could change a bit with new negotiations going on, but televisions will always be turned on in Big Ten country, meaning the money will always follow.

But all of that money is all for naught unless you do something with it, and in the past, that has been the glaring wart for Big Ten teams. For years, despite having quite the nest-egg, the teams in the conference refused to get in the arms race of paying coaches like the SEC. We're not talking about simply paying head coaches either. When the separation began on the field, it was because the SEC began paying its head coaches and assistant coaches. Suddenly, the coaching talent began flocking to the south like a pack of desperate snow birds looking for warmer weather and more money. And that, is where we stand today.

Ah, but things are changing. Michigan dealt out a wad of cash for Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison, Illinois has begun literally overpaying its coaches, and the AD of Ohio State--Gene Smith--has promised to provide whatever monetary resources necessary to surround Urban Meyer with the coaching staff he desires. So far, the administration has not disappointed. Things are catching up, and will continue to as long as the competitive fire is burning, and you can bet the rest of the conference will follow (okay, maybe not Indiana).

The reality is that because of the tradition, reach, and prestige of the Big Ten, it'll always get its share of recruits. Now however, because of the changing landscape, and more vigorous efforts of matching its competitive desires with its clout, the Big Ten is absolutely the conference that is best positioned to ride along side the SEC, and look to make a pass in grass in the not too distant future.

Who's comin' with me?

Follow me on Twitter: @PhilHarrisonCFN

Terry Johnson – The Big 12 Will Stop the Streak
The Big 12 was the last conference to win a national championship before the SEC started its impressive run of six consecutive BCS titles.

It will also be the conference that finally ends the SEC's stranglehold on the AFCA National Championship Trophy, as the Big 12 has the tradition, the talent, and the depth to compete with anyone.

A quick look at the history of the Bowl Championship Series suggests that the Big 12 is the most likely candidate to dethrone the six time defending champs. The conference has twice as many appearances (seven) and national championships (two) as any other conference except for the SEC.

In other words, the Big 12 places a team in the BCS Championship game just about every other year.

However, there is more to the Big 12 Conference than just historical performances. The 2011 season proved that the talent level (especially on offense) in the Big 12 is equal to that of the SEC or any other conference in the country. Baylor's Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O'Brien Award, but only finished fourth in the conference in passing yards per game. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon won a second straight Biletnikoff award, but did not even lead the Big 12 in receiving yards.

The fact that anyone finished in front of Griffin and Blackmon in any statistical category speaks volumes about the amount of the talent in the league.

In addition, the Big 12 established itself as the nation's deepest conference last season. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma each won at least ten games, giving the Big 12 more teams with double-digit wins than any other conference in the FBS. However, every team in the conference carried its own weight during the season, as eight of the ten teams played in bowl games en route to an AQ conference best 6-2 record in bowl games, highlighted by a win over #4 Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

Thanks to the latest round of realignment, the conference should be even stronger this season. After finishing in the middle of the pack last season, Texas A&M and Missouri depart for the SEC, and will be replaced by West Virginia and TCU. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs are no strangers to playing in BCS bowl games, combining for a 4-1 record on the big stage, highlighted by West Virginia's upset of Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

Now that the Big 12 has more talent, more depth, and two additional schools that excel in BCS games, it is hard to imagine any other conference snapping the SEC's string of six consecutive titles.

Of course, just about every Big 12 fan – as well as many others - will always wonder if Oklahoma State could have broken the streak at five!

Follow me on Twitter: @TPJCollFootball