The question of who is the nation’s best college football conference isn’t as obvious as most people think — at least depending upon your interpretation of “best.”
If your definition is the league that is most top-heavy, the SEC is the only choice. Alabama and Florida are ranked 1-2 in the year’s first BCS rankings, and an overwhelming six teams are ranked in the nation’s top 12. At this point, you can’t rule any of them out of national championship contention, which would give the SEC its sixth straight national title.
But in terms of pure top-to-bottom depth, the BCS poll indicates that you can’t do any better than the Big 12, which has 70 percent of its teams in the Top 25. Kansas State leads the way at No. 4. They are followed by No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 13 West Virginia, No. 17 Texas Tech, No. 23 TCU, No. 24 Iowa State and No. 25 Texas.
The league certainly has one terrible team in Charlie Weis’ Kansas squad, but Oklahoma State and Baylor are both over .500. And there’s no question the bottom of the Big 12 looks better than the bottom of the SEC, which has truly awful teams in the form of Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
The Big 12’s ascension is all the more impressive when you consider that it looked to be on its deathbed the past two years. It all began when Texas starting flirting with what was then the Pac-10 before playing “hero” and staying put after creating the Longhorn Network to assure itself of the lion’s share of conference revenues. That alienated Nebraska enough to bolt to the Big Ten, and send Colorado to the suddenly Pac-12.
The defections continued when Texas A&M and overmatched Missouri left for the SEC for this season, forcing the league to throw out a lifeline to TCU and West Virginia — a move that is paying dividends thus far.
While the SEC has the nation’s best teams, the Big 12 is proving it has no easy weeks outside of facing Charlie Weis and his decided schematic advantage.