Currently, the Big 12 and SEC dominate the top section of the college football polls. The Big 12 boasts three teams among the top five and four in the top 10, while the normally superior SEC fills in the rest of the top five and has six among the top 25 (like the Big 12).
If you give each team a point value for its spot in the top 25 (i.e. 25 points for being number one, 24 points for number two, etc.), the Big 12 leads with 102 total points and the SEC is close behind with 96.
Those two dwarf the totals of the third conference, the Big Ten, which has just 40 (it might surprise to note the Mountain West is in fourth place).
As you can tell, it’s a two-horse conference race after five weeks of college football. With that established, is there any clarity as to which is the best?
You’ll note the Big 12 leads in top five teams (three vs. two) and top 10 (four vs. two), but it’s also true that SEC teams have already started beating one another up, while no Big 12 squad has played a conference bout. This, too, will have the effect of knocking one another down a peg.
Another way of analyzing is how they’ve each performed in non-conference tilts. The Big 12 boasts an overall 38-10 non-conference mark, with the SEC an even better 27-5.
Realizing many of these come against relative lightweights from non-BCS schools in the larger division, as well as FCS-level (I-AA) schools, we can peel back the excess and focus only on the BCS conference counterparts.
In those, the Big 12 suddenly looks much more down to earth, going 7-8 versus schools from other BCS conferences. The SEC is only slightly better, at 5-4.
For fun, let’s go back to those non-BCS level foes each conference has faced. The Big 12 is 31-2 while the SEC is 22-1—pretty much the same success, with a narrow edge going to the SEC again.
Despite the Big 12 loading up the nation’s top five and 10, I have to give a slight nod to the SEC as the better conference this year as things stand. Their total points from poll placements (cited above) are virtually identical.
Also, as noted earlier, the SEC has already begun battling each other. Georgia and Auburn would be in the top 10 had they not faced fellow SEC stalwarts Alabama and LSU, respectively.
As the Big 12 moves into conference play, it will find those lofty rankings in peril (for example, Oklahoma and Missouri each face Texas in October). Still, any notion that the conference lacks strength has largely been quenched.