February 8th, 2011 at 9:02 PM ^

True, but the SEC isn't nearly as deep as everyone says it is. The meme that every single week in the SEC is a brutal battle is kind of riciulous considering how awful the SEC East was compared to the west this year. It was like the '08 Big XII this past year: one division was incredibly strong and the other was very mediocre. The five best teams in the SEC West were  arguably better than any SEC East team this past year.


February 8th, 2011 at 9:24 PM ^

I don't know how you can say that.  Four different SEC programs (Florida, Alabama, LSU and Auburn) have won national titles in the last five years.  That's incredible.  (To put that into perspective, only three Big Ten programs have won national titles in the last forty years.)  A fifth program, Tennessee, won it all in 1998 (and was a perennial contender until a few years ago).  Two more programs (Georgia and Arkansas) have appeared in BCS games since 2005, and still another (South Carolina) was a game away from winning the conference in 2010.   Heck, Mississippi State, one of the worst historical programs in the conference, beat the crap out of the winningest program in history last month.  This is a league in which most of the programs genuinely expect to compete for national championships.  That simply can't be said of any other conference.    


February 9th, 2011 at 10:29 AM ^


The SEC had arguably five of the top twelve or so teams in the country last year.  The top five teams in the SEC West were 44-2 against teams outside the SEC West...

The SEC has been, for several years now, both better at the top and deeper than any other conference.  And given the recent recruiting and the quality of the coaches down there, that gap could keep growing wider.

Yeah, the SEC East had a down year, but surely Florida, Georgia, and maybe Tennessee will all bounce back within a couple years.  These are all historically good teams with strong recruiting classes recently.


February 8th, 2011 at 9:10 PM ^

The racial profile and population growth of the South (and oversigning, which is a pretty new phenomenon) are secondary to the fact that playing football is simply far more popular in the South than anywhere else.  I don't have the data in front of me, but awhile back I saw a list of high school football participation rates for Southern states, and it was incredible.  Georgia had significantly more HS football players than Pennsylvania, despite the fact that PA has over two million more residents (and PA is considered one of the better states for talent in the North).  Florida and Texas had more HS players than California.  When practically every able-bodied male high school student is playing football, a lot of good players are going to emerge.  (Also, spring football is common for HS programs down there, allowing players to further refine their skills, while it remains rare here.)



February 8th, 2011 at 9:21 PM ^

Their rates of HS football participation were comparable to those of the rest of the South, which is why I mentioned them.

This is the key factor.  The Great Lakes region has a sizeable black population, too, but much of it is concentrated in gritty cities like Detroit and Chicago, which, by and large, don't have good HS football programs.  Northern cities tend to be more focused on basketball than football.  Detroit alone has 2% of the country's black population, but it certainly doesn't churn out anywhere near that high a percentage of college or NFL players.  If the state of Michigan were as obsessed with high school football as the South is, we'd be able to do most of our recruiting right here.    


03 Blue 07

February 8th, 2011 at 11:14 PM ^

As a race, African Americans are far more highly represented, per capita, than Whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, etc., at football's highest levels- the NFL and major college football. Perhaps those from the South Pacific are more highly represented on a per-capita basis, but I'd say that's about it. The NFL is predominantly comprised of African Americans, even though they account for less than 25 percent of the U.S. population.

MI Expat NY

February 9th, 2011 at 11:25 AM ^

No it doesn't.  You obviously can't look at two people and determine which is the better athlete solely on basis of skin color.  But you also can't deny reality.  If you define athletic ability as having good strength, speed, and agility, arguably the two sports most reliant on these traits are football and basketball.  Both sports have been dominated by african americans at the highest levels for at least the last 30 years.  It can no longer be considered just a coincidence.  


February 9th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

ah yes, it's a coincidence that 20% of our population, at best, makes up 90+% of the high level athletes in this country. I forgot. It may not be the skin color that does it, but African Americans are better athletes. There will be no white Lebrons or Julius Peppers/Mike Vicks walking through the door anytime soon and if it somehow happens, it will be quite the anomally.

coastal blue

February 8th, 2011 at 9:33 PM ^

Where the SEC speed really came into play, was the 2006-07 NC game. And watching that game, you could see why. Florida honestly made Ohio State look like a bunch of drunk uncles playing two-hand touch on Thankgiving weekend.

The Chait article is very good.


I loved the link to OSU's win over if OSU would have finished any better than third in the SEC this year.


February 8th, 2011 at 9:42 PM ^

The speed of Florida's D killed OSU. Kickoff returns for touchdowns have a lot more to do than just being able to outrun people, so that was a one-off situation that is unlikely to happen very often.

Overall, Florida was superior and a lot of that had to do with Florida's speed along the front seven coupled with Strong and Mattison's gameplan suffocating whatever OSU had to offer offensively.

Eye of the Tiger

February 8th, 2011 at 10:39 PM ^

They looked genuinely surprised when Florida didn't roll over after Ginn's TD. After all, the media and pundits had already penciled OSU on the trophy before the coin toss.

Florida was much better prepared. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen a more poorly prepared team in the Nat Champ game in the BCS era than OSU was. It was different from the loss to LSU, when there was a clear talent gap.

Not saying this is all that went into the loss, but it was a good part of it.


February 9th, 2011 at 8:07 AM ^

When I remember that game, I just remember the Florida front 4 applying huge pressure on Troy Smith.  Now, that seemed to be a product of a crappy offensive linemen and/or missed assignments as much as anything amorphous such as "speed" or "wiggle."  It was the same when UM played USC - that team had NFL-quality players up and down the line, many of whom went on to better careers in the pros than the opponents, yet the coaching and preparation was so bad that it was a route.


February 8th, 2011 at 10:09 PM ^

argument doesn't make a strong point. Saying Midwest kids stay at Midwest schools and start at those schools (with same being true of the SEC) isn't saying anything but the obvious. Adding another premise - that non-SEC schools would raid second pickings - doesn't lead to his conclusion. Since kids SEC kids themselves ultimately make the choice, not the Midwest schools, it's very possible that they've chosen to be second and third stringers in the SEC. In other words, waiting behind all of the Southern Ubermensch may be exactly what they've chosen to do. Given the full rosters (including non-starters) are similarly aligned, there's no evidence either way. As an example, if the rosters of MW schools were populated with a small # of SEC area kids, and those kids started, you'd have an argument for SEC superiority. Likewise with the reverse.
But you don't have that. You have kids staying home in both locales. Applying Supply and Demand here assumes that playing time is the only, or at least the prime, motivator in school selection. In reality it's one of multiple factors. This article also explicitly invokes it on behalf of the MW schools, who don't really make the choice (MW schools may want every SEC area kid they can get, those kids may not want to come).
The SEC RULZ argument is a simple statement: they believe their starters from their areas are a higher quality player than MW starters from MW areas. This rosters-origin argument doesn't do anything to refute that.
In fact, given that the roster analysis does prove 'homers stay home', things like head-to-head conference record and BCS wins are probably the best objective arbiters of this argument.

Clarence Beeks

February 8th, 2011 at 11:58 PM ^

Exactly.  This is exactly what I was thinking when I was reading this.  Not only do kids not necessarily stay in their region, but he also misses another major point when he tried to compare the number of students SEC to ACC states.  Apparently it slipped the author's mind that most three of the largest contributors of elite talent in the south (i.e. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) have both SEC and ACC schools.  It's just one of several extremely tenous claims that he makes and tries to pass off as justified conclusions.  The one I mentioned already is ridiculous, but there is another that was almost as bad, at least from an historical perspective.  He makes the claim that genetics can't be part of it because there is no evidence of forced breeding (that's more or less his argument, anyway).  That argument, however, misses the mark, though.  While there isn't conclusive evidence of forced breeding to achieve certain genetic characteristics, there most certainly was preferential selection of certain traits at the point of purchase (on both continents).  That is significant because it completely omits the need for forced breeding, which was the lynchpin for his entire argument.  It's a point that so basic, and is completely omitted, that it really destroys any credibility that otherwise would have existed on that particular argument, at least in terms of how he made the argument.  I tend to think that his conclusion is right, at least as it pertains to speed, but his analysis is way off base, historically, at least.

Frankly, I have quite a few issues with this article that make it decidedly not excellent (it's a good read, but it leaves a lot to be desired):

First, this article completelty whiffs on another major point: the argument about "SEC speed", at least as I understand it, has to do with the speed of players that the non-skill positions, predominantly defensive linemen.  That is never mentioned in his analysis.  The issue isn't whether Ted Ginn is faster than a comparable receiver from the south.  The issue is whether Ken Dorsey is faster than a comparable defensive tackle from the north.

Second, the decision to not include Florida, especially consider the reasons that he states, is just laughable (and incorrect).  He goes off of the assumption that because most of Florida's population came to the state within the last 50 years that it is not southern influenced.  That's just crazy.  Sure there are a lot of people from the midwest and the east coast who live in Florida, but they are by and large fall into the retiree group (i.e. they are not parents of school-aged children in Florida).  There is a substantial difference between where Florida's population comes from, depending on the age group.  There is a lot more soutehrn influence in Florida than the author would believe, or lets on.

Wolverine in 312

February 8th, 2011 at 11:15 PM ^

A state-by-state breakdown of Division I FBS signees per participant. Data collected from participation stats distributed by the National Federation of High School Sports and signees as reported by Division I FBS schools and the database.
State Signees Players Ratio
Florida 344 38,268 111
Louisiana 87 14,839 171
Georgia 170 32,088 185
Alabama 86 22,052 256
Utah 30 8,104 270
Oklahoma 44 12,000 272
Maryland/D.C. 49 16,123 329
Hawaii 14 4,926 352
Ohio 144 55,027 382
Arkansas 28 11,120 397
California 253 104,224 412
South Carolina 44 18,962 425
Mississippi 52 22,306 429
Delaware 7 3,091 442
North Carolina 79 35,214 446
Pennsylvania 60 26,730 446
Texas 345 161,210 454
Virginia 56 25,651 459
Arizona 41 19,103 466
Nevada 13 6,594 507
Tennessee 44 22,868 520
New Jersey 45 25,872 575
Colorado 22 14,825 674
Illinois 73 49,543 679
Kansas 20 14,302 715
Kentucky 19 13,842 729
Michigan 59 43,678 740
Indiana 31 23,023 743
Washington 24 22,422 934
New Mexico 8 7,672 959
Oregon 11 13,357 1214
Missouri 18 23,504 1306
New York 29 38,354 1323
Nebraska 8 10,667 1333
Wisconsin 22 29,442 1338
North Dakota 2 3,018 1509
Massachusetts 12 20,626 1719
Connecticut 6 10,792 1799
Idaho 4 7,340 1835
Alaska 1 2,037 2037
West Virginia 3 6,404 2135
Iowa 9 19,451 2161
Minnesota 11 25,433 2312
South Dakota 1 3,756 3756
Maine 1 4,024 4024
Montana 1 4,775 4775
New Hampshire 0 3,679 0
Rhode Island 0 2,901 0
Vermont 0 1,385 0
Wyoming 0 2,654 0



February 8th, 2011 at 11:38 PM ^

I think a much stronger argument can be made if you look at the money spent on coaches and their resumes prior to joining the conference.  There the SEC clearly has an edge on everybody else.

Saban left the NFL for Alabama after already winning a national title at LSU.  Spurrier had dominated the conference and won a national title at Florida before spending a brief stint in the NFL.  Petrino won the Orange Bowl at Louisville before heading to the NFL for a brief stay in Atlanta.  Richt had spent 7 seasons as the OC at Florida State at a time when they won four major bowl games and a national title.  Before that he was Charlie Ward's QB coach.  Les Miles had a fairly successful run for four years as the head coach at Oklahoma State, which included a couple of wins over highly rated OU teams.  Meyer won the Fiesta Bowl at Utah after posting an undefeated season. 

All of these guys also make top dollar.

Now look at the Big Ten where you have old man Paterno getting paid in Jelly Beans, Illinois hiring the guy Florida didn't want anything to do with, MSU raiding Cincinnati, Michigan raiding SDSU (a step up from just promoting guys from the current staff), OSU raiding Youngstown State (though admittedly Tressel had had loads of success there), Brewster/Kill, Lynch, Northwestern promoting their native son from linebacker to head coach, Wisconsin promoting a guy who had been their DC for two years, Purdue promoting their o-line coach after a stint as the head man at EKU, and Iowa hiring an NFL offensive line coach.

One of these things is not like the other and there shouldn't be any surprise when the school's winning national titles and BCS bowl games are the schools that hired guys who had done it before.



February 9th, 2011 at 9:27 AM ^

I hate to admit liking anything a  buckeye has created, but it is a well written piece. I also think that this myth about the SEC will soon fade as the B1G will start to take over. Michigan is on the way back to the top, OSU will still be there, Iowa is well coached, Wisc is a tough team to beat any day, and Nebraska is here now.  We will start a BCS title streak of our own starting with this year after our first conference championship game. I can't wait! Go Blue! 

Benoit Balls

February 9th, 2011 at 10:29 AM ^

can we see one of these "fast" teams play a game in the mud and snow? all the bowl games are played in pristine conditions (or at least they make every effort to make that the case)

The weather does make a difference. The elements do come into play. The only way they ever delay a football game is if there is lightning nearby. To act as if the only way to truly measure teams worth is a game played in a pristine environment exhibits the myopia of SEC fan.

Look at the NFL, the Packers for example...blew Atlanta's doors off (dome), almost yakked one up to Chicago and their 3rd string QB, and then their offense shredded one of the leagues top 3 defenses (again in a dome). And we know the game would not have been as close as it was if Mr. Woodson hadnt been injured.

Hey SEC fan, think weather isn't a factor? It sure seemed to be for the Super Bowl Champions and one of the 5 best QB's in the world

If you are the real deal, you should be able to get it done in any conditions. I simply doubt many of those SEC teams could do so




February 9th, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

Ken Dorsey was a QB in the Big East ;) , but anyways, the guy who talked about speed outside of skill positions hit the nail on the head. SEC makes its mark with athletes on DEFENSE. SEC DLs especially are uber talented. Before the Bama/MSU bowl game this yer, there was a quote from Saban saying how MSU's D wouldn't bother them as much as they didn't have speed rushers like SEC teams they were used to. That about sums it up. Speedy pass rushers are generally missing across the Big10. Even Ohio State doesn't have much in that area. LBs and DBs and probably TEs for that matter are also more athletic across the SEC.