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Big Ten Football vs SEC Football: The Race to Supremacy and Power

Jake DavisContributor IIIMay 14, 2011

Big Ten Football vs SEC Football: The Race to Supremacy and Power

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    We have been hearing it for the last five years, "The SEC is undoubtedly the nation's No. 1 conference in football." Along with that comes the argument that other teams that go undefeated in other conferences would never make it through the brash SEC schedule unscathed.

    Fortunately for me, I have had the privilege of seeing both sides of the Big Ten vs SEC debate—as I was born near Ann Arbor, Mich. and have resided in middle Tennessee for the last 20 years. In my time in both states, I have learned a number of things involving the goals, traditions and futures of both conferences.

    I want to discuss the myth that the SEC is light years beyond every other conference, even though they are the deepest conference and most notably discuss the growing tensions between SEC and Big Ten fans.

    Let's look at some reasons why it might appear the SEC is "above" all other conferences and offer some guidance for the average football fan. 

The National Media Has Adopted the SEC

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    Lee Corso is a vocal advocate for the SECCraig Jones/Getty Images

    The national media has taken it upon themselves to put the SEC on a pedestal ever since the Ohio State debacle vs. Florida in January 2007. Lee Corso even went as far on College Gameday this year to say the Big Ten did not have a team that could match up with any of the SEC's top six. When looking at history, that is just flat out wrong. 

    On College Football Live, former Florida Gators QB Jesse Palmer constantly talks about the "rough SEC schedule" he had to face when asked why SEC teams beat up on UT-Martin, Florida A & M and Furman out of conference.

    To be clear, Jesse's lineup on the Bachelor was probably tougher than the Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Arkansas and out of conference teams he faced. This is not to bash the SEC, because they are a true power conference; however, the media has portrayed them over the last five years as unbeatable, unstoppable and impeccable.

    The SEC is strong, but to the point that they are the undisputed best conference in America can be disputed. Unless you are talking to the media of course.  

Stats and Numbers Do Not Lie

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    Heisman winner Tim Tebow and Florida were stunned by Michigan in January 2008Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Since 2002, the SEC has done a great job of winning bowl games vs other conferences. According to College Football Data Ware House, the Big Ten is 12-13 vs. the SEC in that time span. The SEC just took that lead this year as they went 3-1 in the Citrus, Outback, Gator and Sugar Bowl, respectively. If you were listening to the media, you would think that the SEC would be undefeated in bowl season vs. every conference and in every game they play. 

    Unfortunately for southern football fans, that's not the case as we saw this season with Georgia losing to UCF.

    Here's some results over the last 10 years:

    2010 season

    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-3
    Outback: Florida 37, Penn State 24
    Capital One: Alabama 49, Michigan State 7
    Gator: Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14
    BCS Sugar: Ohio State 31, Arkansas 26

    2009 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-1
    Outback: Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (OT)
    Capital One: Penn State 19, Louisiana State 17 

    2008 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-1
    Outback: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
    Capital One: Georgia 24, Michigan State 12

    2007 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-2
    Outback: Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
    Capital One: Michigan 41, Florida 35
    BCS title: Louisiana State 38, Ohio State 24


    2006 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 2-1
    Outback: Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
    Capital One: Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14
    BCS title: Florida 41, Ohio State 14


    2005 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-1
    Outback: Florida 31, Iowa 24
    Capital One: Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10


    2004 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 2-1
    Outback: Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
    Capital One: Iowa 30, Louisiana State 25
    Music City: Minnesota 20, Alabama 16

    2003 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 1-2
    Outback: Iowa 37, Florida 17
    Capital One: Georgia 34, Purdue 27 (OT)
    Music City: Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14


    2002 season
    Big Ten vs. SEC: 2-1
    Outback: Michigan 38, Florida 30
    Capital One: Auburn 13, Penn State 9
    Music City: Minnesota 29, Arkansas 14

The Atmosphere of College Football

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    Night games create a frenzy in the southStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Ask any athlete and they will tell you that there is nothing better than playing a game under the lights with a crowd going insane. That is definitely what you get with the SEC. CBS and ESPN have done an amazing job of scheduling night games for the Southeastern Conference. Obviously, ratings will be higher for a prime-time Alabama vs. LSU game at night than a noon Ohio State vs Nebraska kickoff.

    The atmosphere and time of the game makes all the difference. When the tables have been turned, we have seen higher ratings for the other conferences in America. Michigan vs. Penn State in prime time last season drew the same ratings as Tennessee vs. Alabama (a major SEC rivalry). The Ohio State at Wisconsin game drew huge ratings in prime time last season. 

    The Big Ten has three of the four largest stadiums in North America (The Big House, Beaver Stadium, and Ohio Stadium). Those atmospheres need to be better utilized like Mike Slive is able to do with Neyland, Bryant-Denny and Tiger Stadium. Mark my words, the Notre Dame at Michigan night game this season will draw a bigger audience than nearly any other night game the SEC offers this year.

    Scheduling will need to be improved and include more night games for other conferences if they want to "get on the SEC's level."   

You Have to Play the Games

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    Penn State's Joe Paterno and Alabama's Nick SabanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It does not matter how we feel individually, the games have to be played, the coaches have to out-coach one another and the players that were recruited have to play. Anything can happen on any given Saturday in college football.

    We saw that in 2006 when Appalachian State stunned Michigan. Exactly five months from that day, Michigan stunned Heisman winner Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl. Does that mean that Appalachian State could beat Florida? The answer is we do not know. Every game has to be played. 

    Much has been made about the SEC's five consecutive national titles. This season, Auburn had two of the best players in America regardless of if one was eligible or not. They won the national title, while dominating most every team in the SEC not named Alabama or Mississippi State.

    But, let's not assume just because they were in the SEC that they were far better than every team they played. AU needed a miracle and an injured Kyle Parker to come back and beat Clemson. More importantly, they needed a crazy run by Michael Dyer in the closing seconds to beat Oregon in the National Title.

    This just proves that anything can happen, anyone can be beat regardless of their conference, and the games have to be played.  

The Great Respect of the Major Conferences

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    Alabama and Texas have great respect among othersJeff Gross/Getty Images

    The major college football conferences all have great respect for one another. I think sometimes we as fans all get a little carried away and do not realize that football is a game. We far too often listen to the media, don't do our own research and assume that "our" team or "our" conference has to be the best.

    Often it is assumed that the Boise States, TCU's and Utah's can't compete with the big boys. We have seen that argument be trounced with Utah demolishing Alabama, Boise beating Oklahoma and TCU shutting down Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. 

    The simplest answer is let them continue to play the games. It is great to see non-conference games like Boise State vs. Georgia, Penn State vs. Alabama, TCU vs. Oklahoma (2012), LSU vs. Oregon and Michigan vs. Alabama (2012). Will these high profile, prime-time games will give us some clarity to who's conference is "best?" 

    For now, the SEC is the deepest conference. As history tells us, that is not sustainable. Can the Big Ten regain their stronghold of national prominence in the next five years, or will it be someone else? The answer lies with the games that will be played by 20-year-old kids. 

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