SEC vs. Pac-12: A Team-by-Team Comparison
The SEC has a seven-year streak of national championship victories under its belt, and the Pac-12 has had plenty of success in BCS bowls recently. Oregon won 2011's Rose Bowl and 2012's Fiesta Bowl, and Stanford won 2012's Rose Bowl.
The top-tier teams in these conferences have had major success, but recognition isn't always given to the schools that deserve it. There are teams in both conferences that bring derision from fans, but schools from the SEC and Pac-12 consistently earn the highest honors in college football.
From Oregon to Arkansas, here is a team-by-team comparison of every team in each conference. From last place to first place, here are the results of the side-by-side exams.
*Records and stats not individually linked are from ESPN team profile pages.
SEC 13 and 14: Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Auburn and Kentucky each finished the 2012 season with zero conference wins, and if you combine their overall wins, the combo team would still have been ineligible for bowl season with a 5-19 record. These two teams have been removed from this side-by-side comparison in order to even out both conferences at 12 teams.
As new coaches develop the talent at these two schools, their places on this list will rise. After all, Auburn won a national championship just two years ago.
12. Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Arkansas had a terrible 2012 season, with only two conference wins and a 4-8 overall record. The worst loss of the season was to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in Week 2. The Hogs' best win was a four-point victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
In comparison, Colorado won only one conference game and finished the 2012 season with a 1-11 record. The Buffaloes' best win, naturally, was the lone victory over the Washington State Cougars in Week 4. Colorado's worst loss was to FCS foe Sacramento State in Week 2.
In a head-to-head battle, Arkansas would win fairly easily. That's mostly due to the fact that Colorado gave up an average of 46.0 points per game while scoring only 17.8.
Final verdict: Arkansas 42, Colorado 13
11. Washington State Cougars vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Tennessee finished the 2012 season 5-7, and Washington State finished 3-9. Both teams had some severe issues throughout the year, but the Cougars had a few more problems than Tennessee.
Tennessee's worst loss of the season was to a Vanderbilt squad that eventually finished 9-4, but Washington State provided 1-11 Colorado with its only win of the year.
Tennessee had the nation's 22nd-best scoring offense, and Washington State fielded the nation's 108th. There is no amount of defense that can make up for the almost 16-point difference in the teams' average per-game scoring, but even if it could, the Cougars had the 101st scoring defense in the land.
That's not a recipe for success, even against a mediocre team like the Tennessee Volunteers.
Final verdict: Tennessee 56, Washington State 28
10. California Golden Bears vs. Missouri Tigers
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
California upset the then-No. 25 UCLA Bruins on Oct. 6, but finished the season a disappointing 3-9. Missouri finished the season 5-7 with a signature win over the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Cal and Missouri both had horrible offenses that ranked worse than 80th in the nation. The defenses were the only major points of separation. Missouri's scoring defense ranked 68th in the country (28.4 points per game), while Cal's ranked 98th (33.1 points per game).
Since the offenses were separated by fewer than three points, the only question is which of each team would show up to the cross-conference encounter. Missouri's signature win was an overtime shootout over the Tennessee Volunteers.
Both teams proved that they could beat good units, but neither team was consistently good throughout the season. Overall, the worst losses have to be examined to find a real difference. Cal lost to a Utah team that went 5-7, and Missouri's worst loss was to a Syracuse team that went 8-5.
Final verdict: Missouri 33, California 30 (OT)
9. Utah Utes vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
As we rise through the ranks of each conference, the Pac-12 keeps getting closer to victory. Unfortunately, Utah enters the mix to mess that right up.
Utah finished the season 5-7, including a respectable win over the BYU Cougars and a tough loss to the Washington Huskies. Mississippi State amassed an 8-5 record through the 2012 run, and its only horrible loss was to the Ole Miss Rebels in the rivalry game at the end of the regular season.
Mississippi State outdid the Utes in all four major statistical categories, but the Mississippi State defense would eke out the win. The Utes are on their way up the Pac-12 food chain, but they still have a couple of years before they are a true threat even in their own conference.
Final verdict: Mississippi State 31, Utah 28
8. Washington Huskies vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Washington's 2012 record was 7-6, and Vanderbilt's was 9-4. The Huskies' best win was clearly the one over then-No. 8 Stanford, while the Commodores' best was over the Ole Miss Rebels.
Both teams dropped some major games throughout the season, but Washington's collapse against Washington State was one of the biggest upsets of the season. (Washington State finished the season 3-9 off that win.)
Vanderbilt is rising through the ranks of the SEC East, much as Washington is rising in the Pac-12 North. Both teams have major obstacles between current success and conference championships, but they are in the same spot in each of their conferences.
Vanderbilt's defense ranked 15th nationally at the end of 2012, and Washington's finished 39th. The teams were equal in terms of passing yards per game, but Vanderbilt outranked Washington in the other three major categories.
Final verdict: Vanderbilt 34, Washington 21
7. USC Trojans vs. Ole Miss Rebels
Harry How/Getty Images
The USC Trojans were considered a threat to end the SEC's title streak in 2012. USC ran up a 7-6 record, however, by the time the last whistle blew against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but there were extenuating circumstances.
Quarterback Matt Barkley had to step down due to injury, so the Trojans started backup Max Wittek for the Notre Dame and Georgia Tech games. Both games would likely have been won by an experienced quarterback, even if he wasn't a Heisman contender.
Ole Miss also finished 7-6 on the season, which was a vast improvement over their 2-10 performance from 2011. Thanks to coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels are on a meteoric rise through the SEC's ranks, though there is still work to do.
Final verdict: USC 32, Ole Miss 27
6. Arizona State Sun Devils vs. LSU Tigers
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Arizona State went 8-5 in 2012, compared to LSU's record of 10-3. The Sun Devils did upset then-no. 24 Arizona 41-34, but that wasn't a major accomplishment compared to LSU's season.
LSU beat then-No. 3 South Carolina, and only lost to teams ranked in the Top 15. They beat Washington in 2012 and Oregon in 2011. The Tigers' track record against the Pac-12 is stellar.
Arizona State would put up a good fight, especially with the nation's second-best sack total last season, but the Tigers would roll over them just like every other Pac-12 team over the past couple of years.
LSU's defense has consistently been one of the best in the country, regardless of how many players the Tigers lose to the NFL. That would continue against the Sun Devils.
Final verdict: LSU 42, Arizona State 17
5. Arizona Wildcats vs. Florida Gators
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Statistically, the Florida Gators have the advantage all over the board. However, their display in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville cast a shadow over the Gators. Sure, Floridians didn't really care about the game, but the Gators should have been good enough to win the game all in the fourth quarter if the statistics were all true.
Arizona, on the other hand, proved that it would show up for games against major competitors. The Wildcats upset then-No. 9 USC 39-36 in Week 9, and they stepped up against Toledo and Oklahoma State in the first two games of the season.
Other than the Oregon and UCLA games, Arizona hung around in all its games this season. The major difference would be Florida's lack of an aerial game. Without one entire phase of its offense, the Gators would have a tough time winning this one.
The Gators' defense would step up in a big way, but it wouldn't be enough.
Final verdict: Arizona 17, Florida 14
4. UCLA Bruins vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
South Carolina's signature win of the 2012 season was a 35-7 beat down of then-No. 5 Georgia. Georgia would go on to win the SEC East, but South Carolina would roll on to an 11-2 record, with their only other loss coming at the hands of then-No. 2 Florida.
UCLA found a way to win (or lose) every game it needed to in order to get into the Pac-12 championship game. Unfortunately for the Bruins, that included back-to-back losses to the Stanford Cardinal, which put UCLA out of the BCS bowl picture.
UCLA's offense was shut down by Baylor, Stanford and California during the 2012 run. Baylor is widely known to have a Swiss-cheese defense, but the Bruins still could only manage 26 points. That does not bode well for this theoretical battle against Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks.
Final verdict: South Carolina 42, UCLA 10
3. Oregon State Beavers vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Oregon State had a great run in 2012, and posted great season-opening wins over Wisconsin and UCLA. That win over Wisconsin turned out to be the signature win of the season for the Beavers, because the Badgers ended up being the Big Ten champions.
Texas A&M, though, fielded Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and the only defense that could contain national champion Alabama long enough to win. Just in case anyone still doubted Johnny Manziel's ability to win football games, the Aggies threw down on the Oklahoma Sooners 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.
Manziel is a dynamic quarterback not unlike Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks, against whom the Beavers posted a 48-24 loss, and the result against the Aggies would be even worse.
Final verdict: Texas A&M 49, Oregon State 10
2. Stanford Cardinal vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Stanford had a great season following the loss quarterback Andrew Luck to the NFL. In a rebuilding year, Stanford went from question mark to hero with a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl win over the Wisconsin Badgers.
The most impressive part of that game was that Stanford held running back Montee Ball to less than half his yardage from the his previous game. Ball only managed 100 yards against the Cardinal, but he had gouged Nebraska for 202 in the Big Ten title game.
Georgia ripped through its SEC schedule with only two losses, to South Carolina and Alabama. The Alabama loss was by four points in the conference championship game. Alabama came up with a huge deflection in the final seconds of the game to seal the win.
Georgia had a prolific offense throughout the season. Statistically, Georgia would crush the Stanford Cardinal. There's one major flaw in that logic, though: Oregon should have crushed the Cardinal as well.
Stanford held Oregon to 14 points, and the Cardinal displayed a defense akin to those in the SEC. Yes, Georgia should win this game, but on-field results through the season prove that things wouldn't unfold that way. Georgia lost to South Carolina 35-7 and Stanford beat Oregon 17-14 in overtime. That's more evidence than any stat sheet can overturn.
Final verdict: Stanford 21, Georgia 17
1. Oregon Ducks vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Oregon demolished the Kansas State Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl in January just before Alabama demolished Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game.
Through the Saban years, Alabama has proved that it has trouble with quick-paced spread/option offenses on the first encounter. In 2008, the Tide lost to the Florida Gators led by Tim Tebow. The Tide avenged that loss in 2009 in the same game.
In 2011, then-FCS No. 3 Georgia Southern brought the option offense to Tuscaloosa and forced the Tide starters to stay in the game into the fourth quarter. Georgia Southern's 21 points were the most scored against the Alabama in any game that year.
The 2012 season brought Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel to Tuscaloosa, and the Tide made just enough mistakes to allow the Aggies to win. In 2013, the Tide may successfully avenge that loss as well, but that's just speculation.
Oregon brings one of the fastest-paced offenses to the table, and it's built on misdirection and capitalization on what the defense gives it. Quarterback Marcus Mariota would need to grow up quickly, but Alabama's defense proved that it was capable of being outplayed in the 2012 season.
If this game were played 10 times, Alabama would probably win seven or eight of them. However, Saban's track record proves that one of the losses would be in the first game these two played.
Despite Oregon's record against the SEC, the 2012 season proved that Alabama would have trouble with the Ducks. Maybe that won't be true in 2013, but as of this evaluation, Oregon would get out to a big lead that the Tide could not overcome before the final whistle.
Final verdict: Oregon 24, Alabama 22
Butch Dill/Getty Images
The SEC and the Pac-12 are evenly matched in the top halves of their conferences. Out of the top four matches, the Pac-12 would come away 2-2.
The Pac-12 would also split the next four matchups 2-2, for a total of a 4-4 record against the top eight teams in the SEC. Yes, any of those games could go either way, but the overall record of 4-4 would likely stay intact.
There is plenty of parity when it comes to the elite teams in the two conferences, but then it all falls apart for the Pac-12. The bottom four teams in each conference are severely mismatched.
While the conferences split the first eight games 4-4, the SEC wins the last four in dominating fashion over teams like Colorado and California. The final record for the SEC against the Pac-12 would be 8-4.
Final verdict: SEC over Pac-12 8-4, with parity in the top eight matches.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the nation can't wait for the 2014 playoff. The national championship this season should have been Oregon vs. Alabama, and the BCS bowl results proved that.