Commentary

SEC's deep talent pool outshines Big 12

Originally Published: August 15, 2007
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Editor's note: ESPN.com is asking its experts and SportsNation to predict which conference will be the best in 2007. Follow our bracket-style tournament throughout the week to see which teams our experts picked and to vote in the SportsNation polls.

Why is the Southeastern Conference better than the Big 12? Why is ice cream a better dessert than broccoli? Why is "Knocked Up" funnier than "Rush Hour 3"?

This is not rocket science, or for that matter, "Rocket Science" (also funnier than "Rush Hour 3").

Conference Call
Which conference will be the best in 2007? ESPN.com's experts have their opinions. But what is SportsNation's take? Follow along this week to get both. It's down to the final four: Pac-10 v. Big Ten and SEC v. Big 12. Bracket
Vote: Pac-10 v. Big Ten
Vote: SEC v. Big 12

You don't have to sell me on the quality of the Big 12 South, home of two of the last seven national champions, and two other BCS championship game finalists in that time. Texas and Oklahoma have in this decade restored luster to their traditions and won as much as any of the teams at their schools ever did.

But try winning the Daytona 500 with one hand on the steering wheel and the other pulling up the emergency brake. This metaphor is brought to you by the Big 12 North.

I don't have the exact stats in front of me, but they go something like this: In the last three seasons, the North has won only 15 games against the South, and 20 of the games have been against Baylor.

The Big 12 might be a mile wide in terms of its talent at the top, but it doesn't go very deep. Four teams? Six? Since Nebraska fell from its 40-year perch, the league has looked like the old Big Ten -- Woody, Bo and others -- with two more others thrown in for good measure.

The SEC, by contrast, has four head coaches who have won national championships within the league, even if two of the four are now coaching at different schools (Steve Spurrier, from Florida to South Carolina, and Nick Saban, from LSU to Alabama).

The SEC has nine teams that can claim with straight faces that they will compete to win their respective divisions this season. Spurrier, who always calls them as he sees them, believes the Gamecocks can wrest the East from the only three teams that have won it in 15 years -- Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. Kentucky, under the always underrated Rich Brooks, won eight games last year and has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in senior Andre' Woodson.

And that's Kentucky.

We could bring out the number of SEC players in the NFL. We could bring out the size of the SEC fan base. Instead, let's give the microphone to Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese.

"You remember a couple of years ago people were saying the SEC is down," Tranghese said. "I laughed at that. I mean, to think, I don't know what being down in the SEC means. You don't send 20 players to the NFL? You send 10?"

For the record, the SEC sent 11 players to the 2007 NFL draft -- in the first round. The Big 12 sent four.

And for the record, the SEC has beaten the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl four consecutive years. (To be fair, the Big 12 has a two-game winning streak over the SEC in the Independence Bowl. If you want that as a rebuttal, have at it.)

No bracket busters here. No stretching of the intellect needed. If you want to discuss whether "Knocked Up" is funnier than "Rocket Science," there's a debate worth having.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com