Would you care to step outside?
As the college football season approaches, it’s time for fans to puff their chests out about their teams. Recently we have seen a wave of support by fans for their respective conference, as was highlighted by chants of “S-E-C, S-E-C” pouring through the last few national championship games.
Though it is hard to argue that the SEC is not the best conference in football, the Big 12 has certainly at least made it an argument with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and even Oklahoma State garnering much-deserved national attention.
So which conference is better, top to bottom?
Below is the list of teams in each conference ranked from best (the Generals) to worst (the Privates), and how each fare against their respective counterpart in battle. In addition is the numeric weight of each battle, which will be accumulated to determine the winner.
Two conferences. Twelve battles. One winner. Let’s get it on.
The Generals (12 pts)
Florida Gators vs. Texas Longhorns
These two Generals would clash, sending a shockwave that could be felt for miles around the battlefield. Both are loaded with talent, and both are lead by eerily similar quarterbacks that can beat you with their arm, feet, or leadership alone.
Both teams have savvy coaches in Urban Myer and Mack Brown, respectively, and both teams’ systems fit their personnel perfectly. These two heavy weights could certainly find each other in the national championship game and both have won it in the past five years.
Texas gets the nod offensively, behind Colt McCoy, who is more polished than Tim Tebow as a true quarterback. Tebow may be the best quarterback in the country and still not be the best passer in this simulated matchup. Both teams can score points in bunches but Texas’ balance rates this unit slightly higher.
Florida gets the nod defensively as they go two deep at every position with returning starters from a team that clamped down on Oklahoma and Heisman winner Sam Bradford in the national championship game last year. They literally have 22 starters on defense and Brandon Spikes in the middle. Texas’ defense is talented but lacks the killer instinct needed to suffocate offenses.
Florida’s defense rates significantly higher than Texas’ unit, and defense wins championships.
Advantage: Florida Gators
The Colonels (11 pts)
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
These two legendary programs have more history oozing out of them than half of the other colleges in these conferences combined. A battle between these two warriors would leave each other battered and bruised. Contrasting styles on offense, however, would make this simulated matchup very interesting.
Oklahoma gets the nod on offense with returning Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford. He will look to prove his unit’s dismal showing against Florida last year was a fluke and with a massive offensive line along with TB DeMarco Murray he will have the right tools to make that happen.
Alabama breaks in talented, but inexperienced QB Greg McElroy who they hope can duplicate John Parker Wilson’s ability to manage the game. The game plan will still be to pound the ball and play defense, which Alabama will do extremely well with mammoth NT Terrance Cody and LB Rolando McClain.
Defense usually sways the vote, but Oklahoma’s offense is just too good and would put up too many points for Alabama to match in this what-if scenario.
Advantage: Oklahoma Sooners
The Majors (10 pts)
Ole Miss Rebels vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
These are two teams that aren’t used to the spotlight but have been thrust into it lately with their play, their recruiting, and their heightened expectations.
Ole Miss boasts a Heisman-type candidate in Jevan Snead at quarterback, and some playmakers on offense, but it is the defense that is the true strength of the team. Despite the loss of DT Peria Jerry to the NFL, Ole Miss will get after the quarterback and put a lot of pressure on opposing offenses with a deep front-seven of athletic linebackers and linemen.
Oklahoma State has its “big three” in QB Zac Robinson, TB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant, and will rely on the experience of Robinson to set up the play making abilities of Hunter and Bryant. The Cowboys have flirted with success before and appear to have a nose hair lead over Ole Miss in this battle for “not ready for prime time players,” but Houston Nutt is the intangible that swings the scale in Ole Miss’ flavor. He simply gets the most out of his players.
Advantage: Ole Miss Rebels
The Captains (9 pts)
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. LSU Tigers
This is a no-contest. Both teams strength over the years, the defense, has been tested lately. LSU gave up over 30 points a game in the last three games of the regular season to Troy, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Meanwhile Nebraska’s “black shirts” have been looking for their play to match their nickname since Tom Osborne left.
The Cornhuskers benefit from being in the Big 12 North and will compete for that title behind a solid offensive line, and a coach in Bo Pelini looking to put his stamp on the defense.
LSU benefits from the addition of John Chavis at defensive coordinator, replacing the two headed monster experiment they tried last year. Just like clockwork, LSU again brings in a boat load of talent on both sides of the ball.
The big question is at quarterback, but there is too much talent in the backfield and too much speed at receiver to keep LSU from being one of the more prolific offenses in the SEC.
Nebraska could easily go 9-3 and still lose this matchup with LSU on the battlefield.
Advantage: LSU Tigers
The First Lieutenants (8 pts)
Kansas Jayhawks vs. Georgia Bulldogs
For Kansas, it’s all about the offense. Their game scores resemble the basketball team’s more than the football squad. QB Todd Reesing returns to run an offense similar to the old Redskins “fun bunch,” with three of their top receivers returning as well.
As good as the offense is, the defense is not. A unit that was porous last year is returning only a handful of starters. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is yet to be determined. New meat isn’t necessarily good meat.
Georgia, on the other hand, took a hit on offense with QB Matthew Stafford and HB Knowshon Moreno leaving for the NFL. But the offensive line is a strength and has the potential to be overwhelmingly good. QB Joe Cox isn’t a world beater, but he is experienced and will benefit from a deep backfield.
Georgia’s defense will be good but seems to lack the playmakers at key positions (i.e. pass rushing end and shut down corner). Depth and overall talent will still make them a unit to be reckoned with, and will also be the difference in this simulated matchup.
Advantage: Georgia Bulldogs
The Second Lieutenants (7 pts)
Missouri Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
For Arkansas, the theme should be “transition.” This year will feature more of the same as Bobby Petrino still tries to wean the offense from being a run-oriented style into the pass-happy, quarterback-friendly system Petrino likes to run. Things will get easier with transfer QB Ryan Mallet finally taking over at the helm, but there are still too many questions with the offensive line to make this an easy transition.
The defense is experienced, but they are experienced at being pretty bad. This team will look to outscore a lot of teams like it did LSU (31-30) at the end of the season.
Times are a changing in Missouri. Gone are super studs QB Chase Daniel and WR Jeremy Maclin. The defense returns only four starters, so there may be worry among Tiger fans that the past two years success will be short lived.
However, I am impressed with Gary Pinkel and his ability to recruit consistently on both sides of the ball. Even after losing stars Daniel and Maclin, this may actually be a better team.
Missouri is overall a better team on both sides of the ball, and their lack of a true weakness makes them the victor in this battle.
Advantage: Missouri Tigers
The Warrant Officers (6 pts)
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Without QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree you would think the offense for the Red Raiders would take a hit. Don’t count on it. Harrell didn’t even get drafted, further supporting the argument that it was the system and not necessarily his talent that made the Red Raider machine go.
This offense will still be the NCAA’s version of “40 minutes of hell.” New QB Taylor Potts is actually a more talented quarterback according to many scouts, and head coach Mike Leach seems to grow pretty darn good receivers in the fields of his Texas campus.
The defense will look to just get out of the way, although the secondary has become pretty good facing that offense in practice everyday.
South Carolina is just keeping Steve Spurrier from his real love...golf. The writing is on the wall that Spurrier is bored and frustrated. He is a shell of his former coaching self, even apologizing at the SEC media day for leaving Tim Tebow off the first team All-SEC team.
Apologizing? My, how far this once cocky coach has fallen. Stephen Garcia will at least start the first few minutes of the season until Spurrier gets ticked off. With their offensive line problems, that may be sooner rather than later.
The defense is decent, but not game changing as there is holes in the secondary. Eric Norwood will be counted on to apply pressure to take the heat off of its young corners.
The frustrations over the past couple of years with talented but inconsistent Stephen Garcia may push Spurrier out the door and onto the front nine sooner than he imagined. This program seems stagnant while Texas Tech is finding its way onto the map.
Advantage: Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Sergeant Majors (5 pts)
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Colorado Buffaloes
These teams are almost mirror images of each other.
Colorado isn’t a threat to anyone on offense and lets face it, last year Tennessee wasn’t either. The problem may be mental for Tennessee, but talent for Colorado. There aren’t the pieces to get excited about coming into the season for Colorado that Tennessee has up on the hill. That being said, the injuries Tennessee has had in the offseason have leveled the playing field a bit.
Both teams also boast a very talented stable of running backs, and they will be needed to control the clock and control the tempo of the game.
On defense, both team’s strengths are in the secondary with Heisman hopeful Eric Berry headlining Tennessee’s backfield. Colorado’s linebackers are deeper and better, as they will likely run a version of the 3-4. The Vols' defensive line, however, is head and shoulders above the Buffaloes’.
Intangibles alone, caused by the excitement stirred up from head coach Lane Kiffin, tips the scales in Tennessee’s favor. That, along with his pro staff and his ability to recruit, makes Tennessee the victor on this make-believe battlefield.
Advantage: Tennessee Volunteers
The Sergeants (4 pts)
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Baylor Bears
Both of these schools are on a steady rise. The only problem is that both of these schools play in a murderous conference.
Vanderbilt went to—and won—its first bowl game in over two decades despite the offense being ranked 117th in the nation. That may get a little bit better with the entire offensive line returning. The running game must improve for Vanderbilt to do what it wants to do on offense: control the clock. QB Mackenzi Adams must play smarter or risk losing the position to sophomore Larry Smith.
The defense will again be the Commodores strength, even with losing CB D.J. Moore to the draft. Injuries to the defensive line will cause some depth problems but the starting eleven will be, and can be, counted on to keep Vandy in each game.
Baylor will once again look to Robert Griffin, if they can see him. He usually appears as a blur on the TV screen. He is that fast. Young and exciting, he has injected a spark into this Baylor offense and creates problems for opposing defenses. He is complimented by speedy players at the skill positions giving him a wide variety of weapons.
The defense has improved and will continue to improve as it has some playmakers in FS Jordan Lake and LB Joe Pawelek, but there are too many holes to fill to consider this a unit to lean on.
Bobby Johnson has slowly built the Vanderbilt team, philosophy, attitude, and way of life into his own image over the years and its working. The culmination came in its bowl win last year over Boston College. He is their X-factor, and ultimately what tilts this battle in favor of the ‘Dores.
Advantage: Vanderbilt Commodores
The Corporals (3 pts)
Kansas State Wildcats vs. Kentucky Wildcats
There is only room for one Wildcat on this battlefield (sorry, Dolphin fans). Or is it possible we see the Wildcats run “the Wildcat’?
That may very well be the case if QB Mike Hartline is as unexciting as he was last year for Kentucky. If he struggles to make plays with what seems to be a solid group of receivers, look for WR Randall Cobb to line up under center and try to provide some sparks. The offensive line and backfield are both solid, making this offense capable of putting up enough points to compete.
The problem is the defense. Losing seven starters from a defense that was only ok last year is going to be a concern. But then again, defense has never really been a staple of Kentucky.
Kansas State loses QB Josh Freeman to the NFL, and with it Kansas State loses its identity. Though there are playmakers on offense (does anyone in the Big 12 not have playmakers on offense?), the problem will be getting them the ball. QB Carson Coffman is not the answer, but will have to be, until the next big thing is found in Manhattan.
The defense is in worse shape than Kentucky’s, though CB Josh Moore is a stud and true ball hawk. He will get a lot of opportunities to show his skills as they play through the “throw first, ask questions later” conference schedule of the Big 12.
The biggest difference in these two teams is where they play in reference to the rest of the league. Kansas State benefits from playing in the weaker Big 12 North and could levy the aura of having Bill Snyder back at head coach into some momentum. Those two things combined sway the battle in favor of the Wildcats...oh, sorry...the Kansas State Wildcats.
Advantage: Kansas State Wildcats
The Privates First Class (2 pts)
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Auburn Tigers
Auburn last year was uncharacteristically bad. They lost to Alabama, had one of the nations worst offenses (110th in scoring), and didn’t create a lot of turnovers on defense.
The Tony Franklin era is over, to the joy of Tiger fans everywhere. His “spread” never worked in Auburn, and most people wonder why Tommy Tuberville ever tempted fate by allowing Franklin to bring it in. The good news is there is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and a familiar face coming back to replace the departed head coach.
New head coach Gene Chizik is a fan favorite and will be more aggressive on offense and defense than the team was last year. Look for Ben Tate to get more touches from the tailback position and look for the Tigers to get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later.
Texas A&M may as well be a traveling side show as you walk by on your way to get a corn dog from the concession stand with all the gimmicks they try and pass off on you.
On offense we have no idea who will start. At this point WR Ryan Tannehill has just as good a shot at getting the nod as the returning QB Jerrod Johnson. This team will throw even if Tannehill lines up behind center. They will have to.
The defense may as well start over from scratch, and there will be enough true freshmen getting playing time that the perception may be they actually are starting over.
In order to try and get any type of pressure (115th in sacks last year), the Aggies will employ a Jack position (basically an end that plays like a linebacker in spots). That position will most likely be filled by MLB Matt Featherston.
Talent alone gives the nod in this battle to Auburn.
Advantage: Auburn Tigers
The Privates (1 pt)
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Iowa State Cyclones
Both these schools have first year head coaches. You are a private on this list for a reason, and these coaches were brought in to turnaround programs that were just awful last year.
Both teams will use an up tempo spread-like attack. However, Iowa State will be more equipped to run it. They have a few playmakers on offense, including TE Collin Franklin and a true “spread quarterback,” Jerome Tiller, waiting in the wings. The offensive line is solid, and could become one of the strengths of the team.
The defense is experienced but not very talented. They will return to take their beatings from the bombing raids the Big 12 puts on its defenses. The good news is the better athletes are in the secondary. Lucky for them there is no Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford on their schedule.
Nobody was more boring on offense than Mississippi State. That’s why they brought in Dan Mullen from Florida to spice up the attack. The only problem is he can’t line up at any of the offensive positions. This team is not built to do what Mullen wants to do, so patience is required.
They will lean on RB Anthony Dixon Sr. to carry the load, and he is up to the task. Mullen will need to stock the receiving corps and find a quarterback in the future, and he will have time, as expectations in Starkville aren’t very high.
The defense is in good shape despite returning only five starters. Playmakers are not in abundance, but the unit as a whole will keep them in some games. The transition time for Mississippi State alone will cause them to lose this battle to Iowa State, as the Cyclones are better prepared right now to do what they want to offensively.
Advantage: Iowa State Cyclones
Final Score: SEC 50 – Big 12 28
This battle was not as close as Big 12 fans would have liked it to be. Three teams in the top 10 is certainly something to boast, but the SEC has five in the top 13. The drop-off from the haves and the have-nots in the Big 12 is still too far to be considered in the league of the SEC. But the gap may be closing.