Down year? What down year? According to the S&P+ ratings, the SEC still rates as the top conference in college football.
That’s something that’s like to make Big Ten fans quite angry, as the league has enjoyed a successful season that includes four teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin) rated among the top 8 in the country.
But a deeper dive into the conferences by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly reveals that the SEC is still the conference to beat in the long-term. And, if not, it may actually be the ACC, not the Big Ten.
Here is a look at the S&P+ averages by conference since 2005:
The SEC has plummeted in the last 2 years … and still might be the top conference. https://t.co/iDXznIIrbr
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) December 19, 2016
For those that are not familiar with the S&P+ ratings, here’s a quick overview of what they measure according to the Football Outsiders website:
The components for S&P+ reflect opponent-adjusted components of four of what Bill Connelly has deemed the Five Factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. (A fifth factor, turnovers, is informed marginally by sack rates, the only quality-based statistic that has a consistent relationship with turnover margins.)
While it may prove that, for those that believe in the rankings, the SEC reigns supreme as the elite college football conference in America, it also shows a disturbing downward trend for the conference during the last two seasons.
In Connelly’s article on the best conferences, he acknowledges a clear decline for the SEC, but still writes: “The SEC is the best long-term conference in college football because it is the most consistently strong. It still holds that mantle, but the slippage of the last two seasons has been undeniable.”
In spite of last year’s downward move in the rankings, the SEC appeared to be better than ever during bowl season. The league won 9 of 11 bowl games and Alabama brought home another national championship.
This season, though each team not named Alabama has at least four losses, the SEC still put 12 teams into bowl games. The first of which will be played on Dec. 26 when Mississippi State kicks things off against Miami Ohio in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
The league’s performance in the bowl games likely will determine whether it finishes the season atop the S&P+ rankings once again, or whether the ACC can steal the crown.