It's really no secret that the SEC is the toughest conference in College Football. It's been that way since the Southwestern conference folded and Arkansas joined the SEC.Still the SEC didn't get where it is because Arkansas joined.
But why is the SEC so much better?
Recruiting - Florida has been a breading ground for talent longer than most people remember. The speed that comes out of the state of Florida is second to none. Exactly why the spread works so well for the Gators, and Spurrier's run and gun before that. Since 1990 I don't think there has been two teams faster than Florida and Miami.
Alabama set the bar for recruiting in the days of Paul Bryant. Because of Alabama's ability to get the best players to play there, rules were set in place to keep them from loading their team.
Bryant got the best players from every state, because when he came into the living room and talked to your parents, they wanted you to sign with him. As a player if you wanted to win you wanted to sign with the Bear.
Tradition - The NFL noticed the football presence in the southeast, they added two franchises Carolina and Jacksonville in the early 90's. Only to have the Houston Oilers to join them in SEC country in the late 90's.
Before that there was only the Atlanta Falcons. It's in my own opinion that the conference realignment in the NFL had something to do with creating a South division in the NFC and AFC.
Football is king in the south, not Hockey, not baseball, not basketball, or any other sport. Fans alliances with their teams are strong, they don't waiver or, change colors.
Tickets to see SEC football can be hard to come by, outside of the game itself the festivities around the stadiums make it an incredible experience. Other SEC football fans understand the passion another fan has for their team.
Rivalries - The Iron Bowl, The Egg Bowl, The Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, 3rd Saturday in October, these rival games are intense hardcore football. Fans have battle lines clearly dividing themselves from the other teams. Hate is a harsh word to use, but on game day it's the only one that seems to fit.
When there is another team pushing you to be great, the competitive nature makes you better. Most of these rivalry games go back 75 to a 100 years. There is a history between them that creates a level of importance to the game that records or rankings can't match.
Coaching - The SEC has had the best coaches in college football for a longtime. Bear Bryant, Johnny Majors, Vince Dooley, Shug Jordan, pioneered the league from the 50's until the early 80's. Paving the way for the future of the conference with guys like, Gene Stallings, Phillip Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, and Tommy Tuberville.
Those coaches with the addition in 1992 of the SEC Championship Game set the conference up for Nick Saban, Urban Myer, Bobby Patrino, Gene Chizik, and Houston Nutt. For decades the SEC has went after and gotten the best coaches.
The SEC sells the coaches to the fans like no other conference. The SEC has positioned their coaches to be celebrities because the players come and go every four years. But the coach stays with the program. The conference goes after the hottest coaches when there is an opening at an SEC school, always bringing in the newest formations. They take some chances, but for the most part they stick with what works.
Offense and Defense - The SEC isn't an offensive league, and they're not a defensive league. They constantly have a team among the best in both categories. From Bear Bryant's Wishbone, to the spread offense that has become mainstream, the conference keeps up with the best thing happening. On defense the league is the most physical, the hard hitting smash mouth style of play, might be duplicated, but not conference wide like the SEC.
It's a QB league - The top SEC teams routinely have the best Quarterbacks. Joe Namath, Fran Tarkington, Steve Spurrier, Pat Sullivan lead the SEC into the 80's and 90's.
Jay Barker - Led Alabama to a National Championship in 1992. He finished his career with the Tide with the record of 35-2-1.
Shane Matthews - This Florida Gator led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years (1990–1992), and finished with a career efficiency rating of 137.6.
Stan White - Led the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season in 1993.
Eric Zeier -Freshman of the Year, a three-time All-SEC selection, and a member of the 1994 All-American team.
Danny Wuerffel - The Gators won the SEC title every season during his time in Gainesville. He won the Heisman, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and Maxwell Trophy, and included a national title over hated rivals Florida State.
Peyton Manning - Finishing 10–1 his senior year, Manning advanced to the SEC Championship. Down 20–7 to Auburn, Manning led the Vols to a 30–29 comeback victory. He didn't win the Heisman but, he did win over 20 awards during his career with the Vols.
After Peyton Manning, every SEC team started stocking up with elite quarterbacks. In the 60's, 70's, and 80's not everyone had a pass heavy offense. The run heavy Wishbone Offense was used in the 60's into the 70's. The faster defenses in the 80's would cause SEC teams to abandon the option type offenses. There were no more 70-30 run offenses in the SEC.
From 2000 to 2010 every team in the SEC has had an elite, or very good QB.