SEC West is the best division college football has had to date
The SEC West Division awoke in the heart of the BCS era to accomplish more than most other conferences would only dream for.
That’s not an exaggeration. First of all, we’re talking seven national championships in nine appearances on the big stage since 2003.
Before you attribute all of that success to Alabama, keep in mind that two other schools from the West — the elite half that’s been on the front lines of the SEC’s takeover — made multiple national title game appearances over that span in LSU and Auburn, which could’ve played for another after going undefeated in 2004.
And before you dismiss its other four teams, how’s this for a mic-dropping fact that solidifies the West’s place as the best division college football has seen yet?
The SEC West has sent all its teams to a bowl game in each of the last two seasons. There’s only been one other instance where an entire division from a Power 5 conference qualified for postseason play, and that was the ACC’s Atlantic Division in 2008.
That was the only occurrence for the ACC, which split into divisions in 2005. The Big 12 had divisions from 1996-2010 and it never happened. The Big Ten and Pac-12 didn’t have divisions until 2011, but neither has done it.
When you add all those seasons up, that’s 36 combined opportunities for those other divisions to duplicate that feat. Yet it only happened once, while the West has done it in back-to-back years.
MAJOR DIVISIONS WITH ALL TEAMS BOWL-ELIGIBLE
|YEAR, DIVISION||NUMBER OF TEAMS||OVERALL WIN PCT.||10-WIN TEAMS|
|2015 SEC West||7||.707||2|
|2014 SEC West||7||.674||2|
|2008 Atlantic Division||6||.595||0|
The West accomplished that despite having to send one extra team than the Atlantic, and did so while posting a significantly better overall record.
Some will say the division is top-heavy, but they’re wrong. From top to bottom, the SEC West has ascended to unprecedented heights for any single division that we’ve seen to date in college football.
Meanwhile, the West has ruled its own conference by winning seven straight SEC championships. The only division to feast on its own brethren the same way was the Big 12 South, which also won seven straight conference titles from 2004-10 before the Big 12 decided to abolish divisions for the 2011 season.
Of course, the SEC East had its own period of dominance from 1993-98, winning six straight conference championships. Here’s a look at how the East stacked up vs. the West in those two time frames.
GOLDEN AGES FOR SEC DIVISIONS
|CATEGORY||SEC EAST (1993-98)||SEC WEST (2009-15)|
|Consecutive SEC titles||6||7|
|SEC title-winning schools||2||3|
|Overall win pct.||.582||.679|
Of course, you have to factor in one extra season for the West here. Plus, there’s an additional team in the West now in Texas A&M. However, that doesn’t account for the massive edge in postseason appearances (22) and the other discrepancies across the board.
And yes, the division has also forged arguably the greatest dynasty in college football history. The Crimson Tide has accounted for four of the last seven national titles.
Even so, the West’s seven national crowns since the turn of the century equals the output from all the other conferences in the country combined. Then, there’s the ridiculous fact that two of its schools — Alabama and LSU — played for the ultimate prize in 2011.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the four Heisman Trophy winners to come out of the division over this stretch: Mark Ingram in 2009, Cam Newton in 2010, Johnny Manziel in 2012 and Derrick Henry in 2015.
That’s four different players represented by three different schools. Only one other conference as a whole, the Big 12, can match that seven-year haul in the 16 seasons since 2000.
The SEC has held its place atop college football for some time now, and it can thank the rise of its historically better half for that.