CFB Primer: What Is the SEC, and Why Are They So Good at Football?

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The SEC is a monolith. That’s the best way to describe what is actually an NCAA conference, the Southeastern Conference, but is a whole lot more than that. Comprised of 14 schools and stretching from South Carolina to Texas, the SEC attracts fans as an entity, taking in individual college affiliation and superseding it, creating a ‘SEC Against the World’ mentality that makes the whole conference special — or insufferable — depending on where you fall on the fan spectrum.

That unabashed fanaticism has been embraced by everyone within the program, and their continued excellence has bumped it up from the standard issue NFL boot camp that most Division-I football programs are into the Ivy League of NFL prospects. Would AJ McCarron have been drafted if he hadn’t been playing for Alabama? Would anyone outside of the Aggies have thought that Manziel was ever going to go Top 10 if Texas A&M hadn’t been hoisted into SEC ranks back in 2012?

Those are, for better or worse, fair questions, as the SEC is the gold standard for college gridiron. A standard that is heavily touted by the conference’s advocates, to be sure, but a standard that is also true.

There’s an entire line of judgement about CFB teams when it comes time to rate and evaluate different programs that boils down to “How well did they fair against the SEC?” There was a national outpouring of joy when Florida State beat Auburn in the BCS National Championship, an echo of the elation that was caused by Alabama’s loss to Oklahoma. The SEC is so good that everyone else cheers when they lose — an entire conference made up of the New York Yankees or LeBron’s Miami Heat in 2011.