Which aspects of a college are more important than others when making your final decision? School enrollment? Which ones are its bread-and-butter programs? Where are we? How many national titles have been won over the past decade?
College athletes share the same priorities as the average student when it comes to choosing a university: a promising job market after graduation. Even if only 2% of college football players go on to play professionally, it’s impossible to believe that prospects don’t take the success of college teams and programs into account when making life choices.
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is often considered to be one of the most successful NCAA sports conferences due to its numerous honors, championships, and professional athletes. However, is the SEC genuinely dominant, or is it merely overrated?
We took a closer look at the SEC by counting the number of Heisman Trophy winners from SEC schools and the number of NFL players who came out of SEC universities from 1998 through 2020.
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) consists of fourteen Division I NCAA schools. Schools like these can be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M.
These 14 institutions had a 58.4% winning record between 1998 and 2020, with 2,299 victories and 1,573 losses. More than any other conference, SEC teams have brought home 21 college football championship trophies between 1950 and 2020. The Big Ten had 14 and the ACC had 13, both behind the SEC’s 17 titles.
However, not every SEC school has contributed equally to this winning storyline, despite the conference’s long history of success. Since 1950, Alabama has won 10 of the SEC’s football championships, followed by USC with six, Oklahoma with six, and Texas with four. Only LSU of the SEC schools has contributed more than one NCAA title since 1950.
Getting Their Bearings
The Southeastern Conference may have had the best record in college football, but the Big 12 and Big Ten were not far behind. Between 1998 and 2020, Big 12 schools had a winning percentage of 57.9, with 1,614 victories and 1,135 losses. Big 12 teams have the second-best winning percentage in the NCAA, although they have the fewest conference victories of any NCAA division since 2011. Since 1998, Big Ten schools have had a winning percentage of 55.6%, with 2,173 victories and 1,678 defeats.
The SEC may have had the most victories overall, but the Big Ten and Big 12 were responsible for the two most successful individual programs. Ohio State had the most successful NCAA program from 1998 through 2020, with 236 wins and 50 losses, followed by Oklahoma with 231 wins and 60 losses. Only five SEC schools—Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Auburn—appeared on that list of 20 winningest teams.
Day names and titles
It’s not always about the outcome; sometimes, all that matters is that you get to play. There is a wide range in quality amongst Bowl games, although participation in those with more tradition and distinction tends to be taken more seriously.
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has sent more teams to the postseason bowl games (62 in total) since 2000 than any other conference (59.7 percent winning percentage). With 45 bowl games played by ACC schools since 2000, their winning percentage was significantly lower at 44.4%. The Pac-12 had a better winning percentage (63.3%) than the Big 12 and the ACC over the same time period, but fewer bowl appearances (30) overall.
It’s hard to argue against the fact that SEC teams have dominated bowl games over the past two decades. While they didn’t have the best winning rate, they did win more games than any other conference (37 to be exact). With 15 bowl appearances since 2000, Oklahoma trails only Ohio State (13 games) and LSU (11 games).
The Heisman Trophy is often considered college football’s highest individual prize. The Heisman Trophy is given annually to the college football player who has demonstrated the most remarkable performance regardless of conference affiliation. While winning the Heisman may be the crowning achievement for a college football player, it has never been an accurate predictor of success in the NFL.
Getting Noticed in a Crowd
Since 1998, the SEC and Big 12 have both had six different players win the Heisman Trophy. LSU’s quarterback Joe Burrow won the 2019 Heisman Trophy, besting the Big 12’s Oklahoma and the Big Ten’s Ohio State.
The University of Oklahoma has produced four Heisman Trophy winners since 1998, including 2018’s Kyler Murray and 2017’s Baker Mayfield. In the last twenty years, the only other schools with more than one Heisman winner were Oklahoma, USC (with three), Florida State (with two), and Alabama (with two). Although many deserving college athletes have won the Heisman Trophy, only one in the recent decade, Auburn’s Cam Newton, has gone on to appear in a professional championship game.
Playing at the Major League Level
Even if they have a stellar collegiate career, only a small percentage of college football players will ever make it to the NFL. Most collegiate athletes won’t continue playing football after college because only 256 players will be selected by the NFL’s 32 teams in the draft.
In Favor Of
There were 344 players from the SEC currently playing in the NFL as of the completion of the 2019 season, followed by 251 from Big Ten schools and 240 from ACC schools. Alabama (56), Florida (35), LSU (32), and Georgia (29) are the four Southeastern Conference schools with the most current NFL players. However, there is a difference between making it to the NFL and succeeding once there. However, since Von Miller of the Denver Broncos won the award in 2015, no player from the SEC has been awarded NFL MVP.
The New England Patriots’ Most Valuable Player award for 2019 went to wide receiver Julian Edelman. In college, Edelman competed for the Mid-American Conference’s Kent State Golden Flashes. Only Edelman from the MAC has ever won the MVP award.
Legends of the Past
Whether you’re a fan or a hater, you have to admit that the SEC has dominated college athletics for quite some time. The depth of skill produced by SEC programs is impressive, with more players on active rosters in the NFL, more MVP awards in professional championships, and tied for the most Heisman Trophy recipients since 1998. The Southeastern league (SEC) boasts more collegiate championships and bowl victories than any other league, while not having the highest winning % when it comes to bowl games. It’s impossible to argue against the SEC’s legacy of dominance in college athletics, even if you only look back 20 years.
For this study, we compiled information from a variety of sources to see how the SEC stacks up against other college football conferences. The following information was examined: From 1998 to 2020, all of the Heisman Trophy winners, New Year’s Six bowl MVPs, Power Five conference champions, and Big Game MVPs will be listed, as will all national championships won by the College Football Playoff from 1950 to 2020.
Information was gathered from:
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