The Big 10 and SEC Champions will play each other for the BCS Championship on January, 8 in Glendale, Arizona. The Big 10 Champion, Ohio State, is a 7 to 8 point favorite as they have earned the number one ranking so far this season. However, conferences are not measured by just your best teams. They are measured from top to bottom where the SEC is clearly a much stronger conference overall.
The addition of a 12th regular season game caused most teams to add one, non-conference game to their schedule for 2006. The SEC was 41-7 in non-conference play this season with an average margin of victory of 18.1 points. During this bowl season, the SEC is 5-3 thus far. Against other BCS Conference teams, the SEC was 9-6 during the regular season. During the 2006 regular season, the Big 10 was a respectable 33-12 in non-conference play, but the margin of victory was only a shade over 12 points per game. However, two of those 12 losses came to Division I-AA teams (Southern Illinois and New Hampshire) by a combined 24 points. The Big 10 is guaranteed to finish below .500 in bowl games; their best hope is a 3-4 bowl mark. One of those losses was by 17 points (Purdue) and another came after blowing a 31 point lead (Minnesota), the largest ever in a bowl game. The Big 10 was .500 (7-7) against BCS conference teams including Notre Dame before the bowl season began.
It is easy to run up victories over teams like New Hampshire (oops...sorry Northwestern) or Ball State, but what about when you go up against the "big boys". As I mentioned earlier, the SEC was 9-6 versus BCS conference schools during the regular season. The season started with a bang when Tennessee slapped Cal back to the West Coast in week 1 in a game not even as close as the 35-18 final score indicated. Additionally, the SEC finished the season very strong in their out of conference rivalries and bowl games. Georgia was the most impressive with victories over arguably the two best teams in the ACC in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. South Carolina went into Death Valley and defeated Clemson 31-28 and followed that with a victory over the Conference USA champs Houston. Even the SEC's perennial basketball powerhouse Kentucky had an 8 win season with a victory over Clemson in their bowl game. Auburn closed their season out strong as well with a victory over Big 12 North Champion Nebraska. The Big 10 had a decent amount of success as well during the regular season bowl games, but all four of their quality wins came from the top 4 teams in their conference. I look at the results of teams like Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois and I don't see any win that sticks out as a game where they were the underdog, but managed to win on the road or against a better team.
Finally, if you get right down to it and measure these teams up 1vs1, 2vs2 and so on, the argument is most clear who has the better conference top to bottom. Most Big 10 Fans would agree that Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State are the top four teams respectively. This foursome is pretty strong if you stop the comparison right there. However, teams 5-11 are a long ways down the conference ladder. Lets look at 1-11 in each conference and match them accordingly.
1. Ohio St vs 1. Florida
2. Michigan vs 2. LSU
3. Wisconsin vs 3. Arkansas
4. Penn State vs 4. Auburn
At this point the conferences look very even. I would say each conference would win 2 of these match ups. But here is where the real gap begins.
5. Purdue vs 5. Tennessee
6. Minnesota vs 6. Georgia
Two easy wins for the SEC
7. Iowa vs 7. South Carolina
8. Indiana vs 8. Kentucky
9. Michigan State vs 9. Alabama
SEC wins 2 out of 3 here considering only 1 Big 10 team made it to a bowl and they were 6-6
10. Northwestern vs 10. Ole Miss
11. Illinois vs 11. Vandy/Miss St
I see 7-8 wins out of 11 games for the SEC when you match these teams up head to head. What makes the SEC such a great conference is the strength of these teams from the top to the bottom. The Big 10 is essentially the Big 4 plus 7 also rans. The Big 10 does not have teams like Vanderbilt who can go into Athens and beat Georgia; Ole Miss who took LSU to overtime; South Carolina who came within a blocked field goal of defeating potential national champion Florida. Some would say this equals parity, but not when you have five or six teams ranked in the polls the majority of the season. Throw in the facts that the SEC leads the nation in attendance and has the most passionate fans in college football, and it is easy to why the SEC is better than the Big 10.