The College Football Playoff may finally put an end to the always controversial BCS, but there is one thing it won’t put an end to in college football if the 2014 recruiting rankings are to be believed: The SEC’s reign as the best conference in the country.
Yes, the coverage and praise heaped upon the SEC is probably overblown, and Florida State from the ACC is the current king of the land, but that doesn’t change the fact that the league has won seven of the past eight crystal footballs and is regularly pumping players into the NFL.
The nation’s best high school football prospects are continuing to take notice.
There are a number of different theories as to why the SEC has become such a dominant force in college football and some deserve more credence than others.
Some are largely made up to fit media narratives, such as the myth of “SEC speed” that subtly suggests players at schools such as Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State and others can’t run with those from Vanderbilt or Mississippi State.
Will an SEC team win the first College Football Playoff?
Some, like the fact that coaching salaries are on an average higher in the SEC than elsewhere, contribute more to on-field winning. Per the USA Today, eight of the top 20 paid head coaches hailed from the SEC in 2013, including three of the top four.
Theoretically, that means the SEC courts better leaders to direct the programs.
Of course, massive television contracts with the biggest agenda setters in all of sports in a collegiate game that is completely altered by perception and selective polls doesn’t hurt the SEC’s cause either.
However, at the end of the day, the schools in the SEC are simply landing better players on national signing day. Stocking programs with elite talent is the surest way to win on fall Saturdays, especially if that talent is being paired with the best coaches money can buy (though don’t ask Arkansas if paying the coach a lot of money directly translates to wins).
The 2014 recruiting cycle was just another example of the SEC reloading in an effort to continue its dominance.
The class rankings, per 247Sports, are as follows:
|Ranking||Team||Conference||5-star prospects||4-star prospects|
|3||Ohio State||Big Ten||1||15|
To further illustrate just how dominant the SEC was in the 2014 recruiting cycle, look at this tweet from TexAgs:
The SEC West signed more 5-star recruits today than the Big 10, ACC, Pac 12 and Big 12 COMBINED. pic.twitter.com/KW2WQLXZ35— TexAgs (@TexAgs) February 5, 2014
Despite the incredible number of 5-star prospects heading south, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel discussed how recruiting can possibly help some teams outside of the SEC change the conference’s momentum with the playoffs right around the corner:
The Seminoles, who hauled in another top-five class on Wednesday, are another team that should consider themselves an annual playoff contender, perhaps even more so than Alabama because they face fewer comparable adversaries in the ACC. Urban Meyer's Ohio State program may soon join their company. Wednesday's third-ranked class marked his third straight top-five haul since taking over in Columbus. No more Big Ten excuses. The recruiting rankings suggest that the Buckeyes will soon be every bit as talented as any Southeast team.
But playoff berths aren't earned on paper. All it takes is one "bust" class to derail a program.
The final tidbit about how “all it takes is one bust class to derail a program” stands out as a perfect summary as to why the SEC will continue its recent run of dominance following the 2014 recruiting process.
The majority of the other power conferences only have one team each that is even in the same league as the SEC on the recruiting trail. If that one team—such as Ohio State in the Big Ten or Florida State in the ACC—was to falter, that conference would not have a great chance at long-term success and could be locked out of the playoffs.
However, if one of the SEC team’s elite classes did not live up to expectations, there are six more in the top 10 rankings that can take its place.
Expect plenty of SEC squads in the College Football Playoff as long as the conference continues to dominate on the recruiting trail.
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