Who would win an SEC vs. Big Ten challenge? Check out our picks
With the Power 5 conferences seeking to toughen their non-conference schedules, if only a little bit, to improve their chances of placing a team in the College Football Playoff, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema floated the idea of an SEC vs. Big Ten challenge series.
Like the many conference basketball series’, the first-place team from the SEC would play the first-place team from the Big Ten and matchups would follow down the line with each team facing a team from the other conference that finished in the same place in the previous year’s standings.
It’s a great idea, though it probably will never be approved. Some teams such as South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, which have strong traditional in-state rivalries with teams from other conferences aren’t apt to want a second tough non-conference game.
Plus, the concept would eliminate the option for some schools to play an all-home non-conference schedule.
Still, it’s a good suggestion — one that might give legitimate bragging rights to one conference over the other because the challenge would include every team.
Here’s how the challenge would work next year (prediction in bold, based on current roster) if applying the conference records through last week’s games (to make it more realistic, 6-1 Alabama was No. 1 in the SEC instead of 7-1 Florida):
Alabama vs. Iowa
Florida vs. Michigan State
Ole Miss vs. Ohio State
Georgia vs. Michigan
Arkansas vs. Northwestern
LSU vs. Wisconsin
Tennessee vs. Penn State
Mississippi State vs. Nebraska
Texas A&M vs. Illinois
Auburn vs. Minnesota
Vanderbilt vs. Rutgers
Kentucky vs. Indiana
Missouri vs. Purdue
South Carolina vs. Maryland
As our predictions reflect, the Big Ten is top heavy with four very strong teams at the top. Alabama gets the nod over Iowa in the matchup of best records, but Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are picked over the next wave of SEC teams.
But the SEC is stronger in the middle. It’s close at the bottom where the Big Ten teams have better offenses and the SEC teams are stronger defensively.
Each conference has one significantly stronger division, so the matchups probably don’t accurate reflect the strength of the teams in their conference. For example, Florida isn’t widely considered the second-best team in the SEC. Iowa isn’t considered the best team in the Big Ten.
Our tally would give the SEC a 9-5 edge in the series, though most of the games would be very competitive matchups.