College Football Handicapping: the SEC is Overrated
by Robert Ferringo - 8/14/2013
Failing educational systems. Rotting infrastructure. High rates of obesity and infant mortality. Yes, the South has a lot to be proud of. But as we head toward the fall the conversations between the Secesh focuses on their one true love: Southeastern Conference football.
SEC football is the end-all, be-all in southern sports culture. And along with political and religious extremism, it is the third prong of the Holy Trinity of Southern living. Much like the Tea Party and Stalinism, the zealotry and unyielding support of SEC football was first seen as novel and cute by the mainstream. But now it is the mainstream, and that is having a big impact on the college football betting market.
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College football fans and bettors are almost forced to pay homage to the Almighty SEC – the self-proclaimed Greatest Conference Ever. Through a mix of talent and gaming the system, the league has won seven straight BCS Championships and is heavily favored to win an eighth. Four of the Top-7 teams in the initial 2013 USA Today Coaches’ Poll are from the SEC. The league allegedly boasts six of the Top 13 in the nation, and every SEC team but one is favored in its Week 1 game.
But the SEC is a false idol. I truly believe the hype of its Greatness has outpaced the league’s actual performance. And with betting markets trying to stay ahead of the gambling public’s lust for all things Southeastern, I think that bold college football bettors can make their money by shorting this stock.
The Myth of the SEC’s Greatness has become a self-perpetuating, photorealistic version of itself. Everyone believes that the SEC is above the rest of college football, so it is treated that way. Its teams are voted as the best. When they lose, it is rationalized because, well, they lost to another SEC team, so it isn’t as damaging. SEC teams are given preference in bowl games. Their players are drafted higher. The coaches are paid more. Their rivalries are considered more important.
And the perception about this league has become some accepted fact, parroted throughout the college football-loving country.
But it’s just not true.
The SEC has some exceptional teams playing in it. There are some amazing coaches and outstanding players. But I assure you; despite what these moonshiners try to sell you, the SEC does not play some brand of mega-football. These teams are not bigger, stronger or faster than everyone else. And they can only be considered the “minor leagues of the NFL” because their coaches are primarily pro football washouts, and the programs are enabling the next batch of multiple felons on their way into The League.
Here are five indicators that the SEC isn’t all its cracked up to be in terms of its “national dominance” and reasons why it might be time to start betting against this league in the nonconference portion of the schedule:
1. The SEC’s nonconference performance in 2013 was subpar.
Nonconference records aren’t a perfect measurement of how leagues stack up to one another because you have to account for the matchups. If Alabama is playing San Jose State, that’s not exactly the same thing as having LSU face Oklahoma.
But that is where the spread comes in. And in 2012 the SEC went just 31-33-1 against the spread in nonconference games. That was No. 4 in the country in terms of winning percentage and shows that their expected performance was greater than their actual performance.
The SEC’s 2012 ATS mark looks worse the deeper you dig into it. Texas A&M and Missouri, two league newcomers and SEC teams in name only, went 6-3 ATS. And perennial league bottom feeder Vanderbilt chipped in a 4-1 ATS record. That means that the rest of the SEC – the “traditional powers” - went a pathetic 21-29-1 at the window.
Also, for the second straight year the SEC actually finished behind the Big 12 in terms of straight up nonconference winning percentage.
2. Texas A&M couldn’t compete in the Big 12 but steamrolled the SEC.
I understand that the 2012 Aggies welcomed a new coach and new quarterback. But the fact is that Texas A&M was a complete and total afterthought in the Big 12. For 20 years they have been perfectly mediocre, and the Aggies had notched a winning record in Big 12 conference play just three times in the previous 10 years.
SEC fans have been nothing but dismissive of the Big 12 during The South’s BCS reign. But didn’t it raise anyone else’s eyebrows that this totally mediocre Big 12 team was able to step into the SEC, beat the league’s best team (Alabama) and fall just short of playing the conference title game?
To me, that was a red flag that maybe the SEC isn’t all its cracked up to be compared to other big-time conferences in the land.
3. The SEC was really, really bad at the bottom last year.
Sure, the SEC had some really good teams at the top of the league last year. But guess what: that doesn’t make them any different from the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or any other conference.
And beyond the top five or six teams (in the 14-team league) the rest of the SEC was pathetic last year. They weren’t bad – they were absolutely pathetic.
Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee combined to go 3-21 overall in league play and 12-24 overall. Kentucky went 0-8 in league play and 2-10 overall. The Mississippi schools were both pretty average and have been bottom-feeders for the better part of the last 15 years. And Vanderbilt football is really just the Northwestern of the South.
These teams were terrible. And collectively they don’t look that much better heading into this season. So is this is a great conference or just a top-heavy league with a few good teams and a bunch of horrible ones?
4. SEC teams had way too many feeble efforts against fringe opponents.
If the SEC were really some college football superpower then they should be able to crush the rest of the football world without too much effort. But here are just a few of the red flag results from this conference last year:
- Arkansas lost to Louisiana-Monroe (34-31 in OT)
- Auburn nearly lost to Louisiana-Monroe (31-28 in OT)
- Mississippi State (30-24) and Tennessee (55-48) both barely beat Troy
- South Carolina only beat Wofford 24-7
- Florida needed a wild comeback to beat UL-Lafayette (27-20) in The Swamp
- Florida came back the next week with an uninspired 23-0 win over Jacksonville State
- Kentucky lost to Western Kentucky (32-31)
Florida – the team that barely beat Layette (they were down 20-13 with less than two minutes to play) finished the season ranked No. 9 in the country. How could the Gators – who also got slammed in their bowl game – possibly be considered among the best 10 teams in the league when they could barely take down UL-L and Jacksonville State?
Chalk that up to the Myth of the SEC.
5. The SEC’s bowl performance wasn’t all that impressive.
Yes, Alabama demolished Notre Dame to win the SEC’s seventh straight national title. But Notre Dame – although I do credit them with having a dream regular season – was still kind of a joke. Oregon, Kansas State, Florida State or any number of other athletic non-SEC teams would’ve done the same thing to the Irish on a neutral field.
I’m still not counting A&M’s success toward the SEC because the Aggies have been in the league for only about 15 minutes. Beyond that the SEC fared pretty poorly against other “lesser” teams. Sure, just-happy-to-be-bowling teams like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt won in blowouts. But somewhat evenly-matched top teams from the SEC were nothing more than average against their brethren from the rest of the country.
LSU lost to Clemson and Louisville curb-stomped Florida. Georgia beat Nebraska, and South Carolina scored in the final minutes to beat a bad Michigan team. In the end the “real” SEC teams went 5-3 straight up and just 4-4 ATS in their bowl games. That is hardly dominant.
Unfortunately, the myth of SEC domination is here to stay. It has infected the national media and is now becoming an accepted part of the college football discussion. ESPN is now in partnership with the league, and you know that can only mean that the Hype Machine will kick into overdrive to package and sell the myth to every red-blooded American.
In the end, the SEC can bask in the tainted, gruesome glow of owning the college football landscape. And these southerners can continue to pat themselves on the back for excelling at an exploitative sport run by a bunch of corrupt old white men. Because as long as we can resist the public brainwashing and keep ourselves keen to the facts, there is a lot of money to be made betting against these SEC teams through the nonconference schedule and beyond.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he has earned over $9,000 in football profit for his clients over the last 15 football months. He went 5-1 last week with his NFL preseason selections and will have a 7-Unit and a 6-Unit NFL futures bet released this week. Also, for the first time ever, Robert will release selections from his incredible KING College Football Betting System. (Learn more HERE.) We are so confident that you will be amazed by this moneymaking system we are going to give you a free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s football selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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