The Alabama Crimson Tide are the New York Yankees of college
football. Since Nick Saban took the job in Tuscaloosa, the Tide have won
four national championships and enter this season as the clear cut
favorites to win again at +250.
‘Bama belongs, of course, to the SEC – the conference long considered to be at the top of the food chain in college football. But a rough 2016 campaign for the group of schools has many people wondering whether the SEC is still the best conference top to bottom or if it is just holding the title based off the success of its most successful school, Alabama.
Four different SEC programs won the crystal football from 2006 to 2012, but Florida (+3300 to win the title), LSU (+2000) and Auburn (+1600) seem to be a couple steps behind big brother ‘Bama.
The pollsters agree, too. Alabama was the only SEC team inside the top 11 of the AP preseason rankings. The Big Ten, in contrast, has four teams inside the top 11. Last season, the SEC went 11-14 straight up against non-conference opponents from Power Five conferences. The ACC, on the other hand, went 16-8 including 4-0 by eventual champion Clemson.
BetOnline.com has odds on which conference will produce the national championship team this season. The SEC is the favorite but would the odds be the same, or even close, if Alabama was taken out of the equation?
The Big Ten would become the favored conference to win the national championship at +250 and the SEC would slide into second at +275 if Alabama were taken out of the equation according to BetOnline’s Dave Mason.
Ohio State, out of the Big Ten conference, is the second favorite to win the national title on many shops’ futures board. If the Big Ten lost OSU its next group of top contenders (Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin) is probably even with the SEC’s second tier.
“Alabama is that good, good enough to affect the power rating of an entire conference,” Covers Expert Ted Sevransky says. “Markets have [Alabama] a touchdown [favorite]over Florida State on a neutral field [Week 1 matchup] and some folks have FSU power rated No. 2 in the country. So clearly, there is a gap between Bama and everybody else.”
Getting back to the conference debate – does the SEC still merit the prestige as big dog in college football or have the other Power Five conferences caught up?
The Big Ten possesses two of the best coaches in the sport (Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh), the ACC houses two of the last three national championship teams (Florida State and Clemson) and the Pac-12 continues to attract the cream of the crop of quarterback pro prospects (Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen).
Despite all those factors, you can’t argue with the talent the SEC draws. We looked back over the last four years and tallied points for schools with Top 25 recruiting classes, according to Rivals, and then attributed those points to each conference. (One point for each school placed inside Top 25 recruiting class).
The SEC programs had 37 Top 25 recruiting classes over the last four years. The Pac-12 was the next closest at 19 – almost half the total of the SEC. The Southeastern Conference is miles ahead in recruiting even if you take Alabama out of the picture.
The recruiting rankings tell us one story but oddsmakers tell us something different. When the Golden Nugget released its spreads for college football games of the year, the book listed odds for Auburn (+5.5) at Clemson, Georgia (+3) at Notre Dame and Florida State at Florida (+4). In all three cases, SEC teams were catching points.
Bettors should be able to learn a lot about the SEC in Week 1 of the season. As Sevransky said, Alabama (-7) against Florida State is the marquee matchup but there are a number of other SEC powers playing opponents from Power Five conferences.
is a 4-point underdog at Michigan, South Carolina is a 6-point dog at
NC State, Texas A&M is getting 3.5 points at UCLA and Tennessee is
giving four points at Georgia Tech.
That means in Week 1 the SEC is chalk in just two of the five matchups against other Power Five opponents. In Week 1 last season, the SEC was favored in four of seven of the same matchups and in Week 1 from 2015 and 2014 combined the SEC was chalk in all seven games.
Alabama continues to roll but the tide might be turning for the rest of the SEC.