The Southeastern Conference had another good year in the sport of football.
The conference placed three teams (Alabama, Georgia, Florida) in the final regular season CFP Top 10 and seven teams total in the final Top 25.
Alabama reached the College Football Playoffs for the fifth straight year. So the SEC has had at least one team in the CFP for the past five years.
Now over the past few weeks I’ve heard a lot of explanations why the SEC continues to do so well:
**--The SEC plays eight conference games while the Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big 12 all play NINE conference games. That’s not fair.
**--The SEC’s scheduling model includes a number of cupcake games on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. That’s not fair.
**--The media—especially our friends at ESPN--is biased in favor of the SEC and because of that people on the CFP selection committee give the conference more credit than it deserves.
In the spirit of generosity as we approach Christmas, may I offer another theory?
Could the SEC’s success in football possibly be because, quite simply, it has more really good players than the other conferences?
I know it’s a stretch but hear me out.
Wednesday was the first day of the early signing period for football. Eighty-eight of ESPN’s top 100 high school players signed. Of those 88 players 42—almost half—signed with SEC schools. Here is the breakdown:
When ESPN did its class rankings on Wednesday, the SEC had the top three and 10 of the Top 20.
To put it into perspective, Arkansas celebrated yesterday by signing the nation’s No. 19 class after an 0-8 season in the SEC. The Hogs were right to celebrate. Chad Morris and his staff did a helluva job.
They also finished SIXTH in the SEC West.
These numbers translate to the next level.
I went back and looked at the NFL Draft. Of the first 32 picks of the 2018 draft, 10 were from the SEC. ESPN’s Todd McShay projects that 15 of the top 32 picks in the 2019 Draft will be from the SEC. Last April, for the 12th consecutive year, the SEC had more total players chosen in the draft (53) than any other conference.
In the last 12 NFL Drafts, 111 SEC players were taken in the first round. That’s a record.
When the 2018 season started, there were 359 former SEC players on NFL rosters. That, too, is a record.
Now I’m the first to agree with my SEC Network colleague Tom Luginbill that the SEC has a distinct advantage in geography. The SEC schools are located in the very places where vast numbers of great players live. That’s just a fact. But so does Clemson from the ACC and the Tigers have certainly taken advantage of it.
So the next time the topic of the SEC’s success comes up, let’s not lean on the conspiracy and weak schedule theories. Great football is played everywhere. The SEC is successful because it maximizes its geographic advantages, invests money into coaches and facilities, and the schools flat get after it in recruiting.
As my daddy used to say: “Son, it ain’t no more complicated than that.”