Arguments have been made for years. The college football world has attempted to prove themselves to be superior to the SEC West. FSU made a statement last week, but in a conference that stops being intimidating after 15% of the list has been exhausted, their conference advantage argument is unwarranted. This fact is evidenced by the 5-6 Bowl record for the ACC as opposed to 7-3 for the SEC (the Pac-12 was 6-3 btw, with only one blow out).
Fact is, the top half of the SEC is loaded with strength. Nine out of their fourteen members have won a national championship. Teams have down years, but the SEC has consistently delivered top level programs, especially recently when five of the past seven national champions has emerged from the western half of the conference.
This is where we make our point, that the Pac-12 North, at the end of this year, could possibly be the equal of the SEC West. The former broke down in this order: Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Washington State, and Cal. The latter: Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. For this argument we’ll combine the Mississippi schools (similar record and schedule and overall, closely matched) so that Arkansas is included. It would not be fair to eliminate this years’ bastard step-child for one division and not the other.
Also, keep in mind, that the only meeting of these divisions this season was Auburn (SEC West #1) defeating WSU (Pac-12 North #5) at home 31-24. This match up featured two teams who both captured their respective divisional basements in 2012, and had hopes to remedy that problem. One managed to accomplish that beyond reasonable dreams, the other, well, accomplished their goal, sort of.
That being said, if we take a cursory reverse look at the two divisions, things could play out in ways that those south of the Mason-Dixon would not expect. We will not predict outcomes or scores, as prognostication is inexact for actual competitions, it is inane for hypothetical ones.. So, if for no other reason that we are not ready to jettison college football yet:
California vs. Arkansas
No real mystery here. Pac-12 fans know the Golden Bears’ woes, but their counterpart in the SEC has fallen on equally hard times. Arkansas was victorious against their OOC schedule of Lousiana-Lafayette, Samford (FCS), Southern Mississippi, lost their last pre-conference game to Rutgers, and then began with the horrible experience that is an SEC schedule with a bad football program. There were some close games, but Arkansas hopes this was anomalous.
Speaking of rebuilding programs, Cal is a mess. New facilities can not possibly mask what happened on the field last season in Berkeley or the mass exodus of transfers and early entries to the draft. No ones seems to want to stick around Cal these days if they have an option to leave.
Razorback and Golden Bear football have seen success, and expectations of resurgence are perfectly valid. That being said, a game pitting these two schools against each other would be ugly, but at least someone would come out of it with a major conference win, right?
We give respect for Arkansas, though, as they have scheduled tough for the upcoming years with games against former Southwestern Conference opponents Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas as well as Michigan in the next few years, where Cal has Ohio State, Northwestern, BYU and Texas to the non-conference schedule, again, respectable scheduling.
On another note, putting Berkeley sensibilities against Arkansas’ would just make for a humorous set of arguments between fan bases, which is always fun.
Washington State vs. Mississippi State/ Ole Miss
Ole Miss had an up and down year with victories against Texas and LSU, close defeats against Texas A&M and Auburn, but losses to Missouri and the soon to be discussed Bulldogs of MSU. Culminating with n grind it out win in the Music City Bowl, Ole Miss should be pleased with their rebuilding process (this process seems to be like setting up bowling pins mid-game and expecting something to stick, however).
Mississippi State played the part of Arizona in the SEC this year, beating who they should, losing to who we would expect, and then took Rice behind their barn and smashed the snot out of them in the Liberty Bowl (the Mississippi schools even both played their bowls in Tennessee, that is how similar they were this year.)
These schools matched up well in the Battle for the Golden Egg (I had to look that one up). An OT win in a 17-10 game gave the Bulldogs bragging rights for the year in Mississippi. These two programs have not had great success in collective memory as Ole Miss has not won a conference title in five decades and MSU has not won a title since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, when they were known as the Mississippi State College Maroons.
A quick recap for non-ACU regulars, WSU had a mountain/canyon type season. Opening with the previously mentioned heartening loss at Auburn, the Cougs defeated Southern Cal in the Coliseum, trounced their sub-major opponents, and then lost momentum leading up to wins against the dregs of the Pac-12 South to become Bowl eligible. The wild card for the Cougs is the father of the Air Raid, Mike Leach. Mississippi, your neighbors two states over in Texas will tell you that this unpredictable offense is difficult to prepare for if you’re used to it, but if the pistons are firing in the right order, it is indefensible.
Future schedules break down as such: MSU has Oklahoma State on their docket for next season, but no other major schools currently on the horizon. Ole Miss throws mid-major (non-BCS no longer qualifies here) powers Boise State and Fresno onto their schedule in the coming years, along with unpredictable Georgia Tech in 2016 and 2018. There is a theme here that the SEC can not possibly argue with: These out of conference schedules are a JOKE. Ole Miss plays Presbyterian next year, whose football team is known as the “Blue Hose”. I do not even know what to say about that.
Unfortunately, WSU is not really pushing the envelope on scheduling. Home and homes with Rutgers and Boise State are the limit of difficult opponents in the coming years for the Cougs until 2019 when the BYU game will finally be played (rescheduled from this past season) and then two games with Wisconsin in 2022 and 2023. One can only imagine what Wisconsin fans will think when they walk into Martin Stadium.
We will return to this conversation on Monday and Tuesday, so we encourage you to post your thoughts below and keep the debate going, as we will not likely see these games played out any time soon. See you next week!