SEC fans have clamored for years, begging to play the Big Ten schedule instead of enduring the grueling grind of the toughest conference in America.
Of course, that’s not a rational argument.
The SEC fields numerous great, traditional football programs for sure.
It’s not as if the Big Ten is playing two-hand touch, though.
When examining how many SEC teams could win the Big Ten in 2014, the conversation isn’t about ignorance or arrogance.
It’s about taking a realistic look at the conferences as a whole.
Let’s get this out of the way early: The top of the Big Ten—notably Ohio State and Michigan State—has become too strong to think SEC teams would simply come in and dominate the league. For an SEC team to contend for the Big Ten title, it would have to be considered a realistic threat to win its own league.
Several Big Ten teams will enter 2014 thinking they could win their league or any other. That goes for the favorites of any conference.
Think about the Big Ten, itself, for a minute.
Nobody should be shocked if Michigan State takes home the conference crown again in 2014.
Few would question that Ohio State could win the league.
What about Wisconsin? Or Nebraska?
Writing off Michigan before the season starts rarely makes sense.
Even teams like Iowa and Minnesota can look at the new West Division and rightfully think that, with a few breaks, they can get to the Big Ten Championship Game and win the league.
If Big Ten teams can look at 2014 and find ways even five—much less seven—teams could win the league, how would it be an insult to insinuate that five teams from another league could win the conference?
That, of course, falls on deaf ears today.
For good reason, too.
For years now, the mantra of college football has seemingly been: The SEC plays better than you and its fans will let you know about it.
The reaction should have been obvious.
Diehard fans of other conferences are repulsed—and perhaps have even become overly sensitive to the idea that other teams could win their leagues.
Let’s think about this realistically, though.
At least six teams—Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina—enter 2014 with a realistic chance to win the SEC.
Alabama and Auburn could win any league in the country. Auburn’s brutal schedule could make the difference this year, but few will say that the Tigers aren’t talented enough to make a move.
LSU’s place in the SEC West will make it tough just to get to Atlanta, but Les Miles’ team never lacks talent—though it might be rough after consecutive years of NFL raids.
Offense might be a challenge for the Tigers in 2014 considering the losses on that side of the ball.
Then again, bringing in the No. 1 overall prospect—tailback Leonard Fournette—is a luxury afforded to few.
Remember, Miles learned his brand of football playing and coaching for Bo Schembechler at Michigan.
Miles knows Big Ten football. If LSU got dropped into the conference tomorrow, the Tigers would be able to keep themselves in games as they typically do in the SEC.
The SEC East will begin wide open this year.
|Ohio State||Big Ten||12/1|
|Michigan State||Big Ten||20/1|
|Field (Unlisted teams)||N/A||50/1|
Imagining Missouri, South Carolina or Georgia running the table in the Big Ten would be difficult.
Fathoming one of them doing enough to reach the championship game—as one likely will in the SEC—is far easier.
Georgia is sure to draw the most ire, so let’s deal with the Bulldogs first.
Yes, Mark Richt’s team ended the 2013 season with a neutral-field loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
That doesn’t, however, mean the Bulldogs would be written off as a potential Big Ten contender if Georgia suddenly merged into the conference.
To make such an assertion would be akin to saying Wisconsin can’t win the Big Ten this year because it lost to Penn State on the final week of the regular season.
Georgia’s leaky defense should see vast improvement in 2014, thanks to the return of numerous starters and the addition of former Florida State coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall would also provide the Bulldogs a traditional Big Ten-style rushing attack capable of dominating the line of scrimmage as well as time of possession.
Could the 2014 SEC champion win the Big Ten next year?
Missouri and South Carolina both lost a lot of talent. Both lost their starting quarterbacks and critical members of defenses that dominated at times.
Yet, the Tigers and Gamecocks notched double-digit win totals in 2013 partly because of good depth at positions of strength.
In other words, don’t look for a huge drop-off from either program next season.
The fact that both teams have quarterbacks with experience—Maty Mauk at Missouri and Dylan Thompson at South Carolina—only helps.
The point here isn’t to say the six SEC teams named are better than anyone in the Big Ten or that Michigan State or Ohio State would rank seventh in the SEC.
Realistically, though, six SEC teams could be transplanted into the Big Ten and be a realistic contender to win the league crown in 2014.