Is Big Ten Facing Past Perception Bias in Polls?

Andrew CoppensContributor INovember 12, 2016

Oct 12, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; A general view of the Big Ten logo prior to the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

As the Week 8 polls came out for college football, two major themes emerged—the SEC is amazing and the Big Ten is plain awful. 

How else do you explain eight members of the SEC in the polls and only two from the Big Ten? 

The Big Ten started the season with five teams in the preseason polls—Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin. There's really nothing to quibble with there at all. They were all good teams and teams with legitimate shots at division titles. 

The SEC started with just one more team, at six, in the preseason polls. Again, a number most wouldn't quibble with.

Yet, lets take a look at the different treatment the Big Ten and SEC teams have gotten since that time. 

Currently 10 of the 12 teams in the Big Ten have a winning record on the season, yet only two of those ten are worthy of making the Top 25 nationally (and there is but one in the latest coaches poll)? 

Sep 28, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio Stadium. Buckeyes beat the Badgers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Over in SEC territory, just 8 of its 14 teams have a winning record—and you guessed it, all eight are in the Top 25 this week. 

Bias much? 

The bias becomes clearer when you take a look at the record splits of the winners and losers so far from each conference.

In the SEC, those eight winners own a conference record of 21-6 so far this season and the six losers are just a combined 1-16 to date. 

That one win? It wasn't a bottom six team beating a top eight team. Nope, it was Ole Miss beating Vanderbilt at the start of the season.

Over here in Big Ten country, those eight schools with winning records are just a combined 11-9 in conference play, while the two schools without winning records are 1-3 so far. 

Could it be that the Big Ten's competitiveness overall is being held against it, while the SEC's feasting on bad teams is being exalted as something to be proud of? 

Only in college football are you rewarded for playing in a conference where only a few have a chance of winning every week.

Sure, it is early in the year and things will ultimately come down to earth in both conferences. The cream will rise to the top and whatever other cliché you would like to use, but the fact of the matter is that in the here and now, the SEC's perception of strength doesn't match up with reality. 

How else do you explain Ole Miss going from undefeated to 0-3 in SEC play, yet being as high as No. 21 in the country at one point? 

Nebraska has just one loss (to the now No. 9 UCLA Bruins), yet they aren't worthy of a Top 25 spot this week and a school like Auburn, who's lone "good" win of the season has been over a now SEC-winless Ole Miss squad? 

How else do you explain a scenario happening like that other than perceptions being held in favor of one conference and held against another?

Thankfully the beauty pageant that has become college football will start to fade a bit next season with the College Football Playoff and games on the field will decide a lot more than perception.

But for the here and now—maybe, just maybe the SEC is getting way too much love from the pollsters while the Big Ten is being put out to pasture for its past perceptions?

The evidence sure suggests that the Big Ten is being punished for being a much more competitive conference from top to bottom.  


*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @ andycoppens.

Ask yourself this question based off of what was just laid down for you, is the SEC really as tough as perception and some here in the media would have you believe?