As I was watching Florida beat yet another high school. . .ahem, Sun Belt team last week, I found myself wondering, "When was the last time Florida left the south for a non-conference game on someone else’s home field?" After all, I’ve noticed a trend; Florida plays three donkeys at home, then settles into SEC play until the showdown with Florida State.
As it turns out, the last time wasn’t an eternity. In fact, it was September 21. . .
Tim Tebow was still teething, and Chris Rainey had likely not uttered his first word. The last win? October 18, 1986.
No wins at the Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12(8), or the Big East.
By contrast, USC has played seven times out of their region, in just the last seven years.
I’m pulling the trigger now. The Pac-10 is and has been, the best conference in the country.
Some numbers for you
v The Pac 10 is 12-8 since 2000 versus the SEC.
v Pac 10 is home to 3 of the 5 teams that have played exactly ZERO FCS teams in the past 20 years. The SEC seems to play a dozen each year.
v The SEC plays Conference USA and the Sun Belt. The Pac 10 plays the WAC and Mountain West(read:Fresno State, Boise State, and Utah), the two best mid-majors going away.
v The Pac 10 plays a true round robin, ensuring 5 extra losses for the conference each year.
v At the most important position, quarterback, the SEC has been absolutely garbage in recent years. You don’t agree? Four words-Brandon Cox(Auburn 2005-2007) and Jonathan Crompton. How about this? The last three “BCS title” winning QBs have started exactly ZERO NFL games, and when Tebow graduates, it will 4-4.
v Only Tennessee has consistently traveled and invited top notch out of conference foes.
v The Big East owns the SEC recently, and the Big 10 is almost dead even since 1999 against them.
v The SEC owns two impressive non-conference victories as of week three. The Pac 10 has five. Oregon alone has played 3 dangerous foes.
v No Pac 10 team has lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe(Alabama) or Duke(Vanderbilt)
SEC speed makes the defenses dominant, you say? In recent years, Brian Johnson, Matt Groethe, Chase Daniel, Pat White, John David Booty, (USC’s worst QB), Chad Henne and Zac Robinson have not had problems torching these defenses.
For passion and dedication, the SEC wins going away. But as John Wooden said, “Don’t confuse effort with achievement.” There is only one objective measure of conference strength—non-conference wins. For the SEC, there is just no “there” there.
Conference games are always difficult due to familiarity; your opponent knows all about you. But non-conference games are disorienting. Climate changes, different styles of play, time zones, and elevation present additional obstacles to overcome. For these reasons, I will never truly consider Florida a true dynasty, on the level of the great Miami, Florida St, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and USC teams. Once a year, (sometimes twice), these teams would step out of their region and stomp someone. As a college football fan, I feel cheated largely by the SEC, and especially Florida. I’ve never seen how Tim Tebow would respond to running out into the Horseshoe, or the din of Autzen stadium. It wasn’t until I was 36 that I saw UGA barking outside the South. I haven’t seen Alabama in Big 10 country in eons.
Juicy inter-sectional games are the Manna that feeds fans like me in September, and the SEC has largely left me starving for the past 15 years. I will not blindly march in lockstep with the masses.