Perception is reality in the SEC vs Big Ten debate

Back in early February, Urban Meyer called out his fellow Big Ten coaches with regards to the average recruiting performance of the conference. Why would he want to push his competition to recruit better players? Because in today’s world of college football, the perception of the strength of each conference is huge.

Last night, the evidence was again on display as the Big Ten had only a single player drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. The SEC had 12.

The gap has widened so much that the debate really isn’t a debate anymore. Everyone knows the SEC consistently plays a much better brand of football than the Big Ten right now. This doesn’t mean this will last forever, but it is meaningful for the near term and for as long as the SEC is keeping national titles down south.

Never before has conference reputation mattered so much in college football. Part of the environment has been created as a result of the fusion of SEC dominance and SEC pride. The noise has been getting louder and if you’re not from the SEC, frankly, it’s getting annoying. A form of conference pride in the Big Ten and other conferences has taken root essentially in response to the SEC chants.

While the conference pride is becoming more widespread, the conference reputation has real ramifications in what happens during each season of college football.

During the 2012 season, there were times when more than half of the top ten teams in the country were from the SEC. Single loss SEC teams were ranked higher than undefeated teams from other conferences. Two loss SEC teams were ranked higher than one loss teams from the other conference. This reality in the polls has been earned by years of consistent dominance on the field.

This same reputation will be enormous as we move into a four-team playoff with the selection committee seeding the four teams. Of course anything can happen in a season, but it’s difficult to imagine any conference having a decent chance at placing two teams in the four playoff teams other than the SEC.

The NFL Draft is an NFL event, but it’s impact isn’t confined to just the pro league. People are paying attention, and people notice that the talent level of the SEC is constantly reinforced whether it is recruiting rankings or the NFL Draft. Don’t think that this doesn’t have a lasting impact. It does, and it’s yet another reason why the SEC will be given the benefit of the doubt for polls next season. Rightfully so.