Are Sagarin Ratings Right That Big 12, Not SEC, Is Nation's No. 1 Conference?

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterDecember 19, 2012

The debate over which conference is the best has been settled by at least one, non-human poll.

The Big 12 is the best overall conference in 2013, according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings.

Go ahead, Big 12 fans, celebrate the moment. SEC fans, go ahead and argue how Alabama is in the BCS Championship, a Big 12 team is not and a computer doesn't know jack. In the mean time, the rest of us will mull over Sagarin's final decree on FBS football. 

Frankly, Sagarin is correct. 

Nine SEC teams are going bowling this season—nine out of 14 total teams. The Big 12 is also sending nine teams bowling but the league only has 10 teams. Which is more impressive?

Let's also not forget that Texas A&M beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Would Texas A&M be receiving the same amount of respect as it's receiving now if it had still been playing in the Big 12 this year? Probably not, at least not from SEC fans.

The "Yeah, but they wouldn't have had that record if they were getting beat up in the SEC every week" argument would surely have surfaced if the Aggies had beaten the Tide while they were still playing in the Big 12.

So maybe a simple cursory glance at the schedules should be the real test as to whether or not the Big 12 is the superior conference this year.

Only one Big 12 team had a losing record this year: Kansas. The SEC had five teams with losing records: Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Auburn. Except for Missouri, all of those teams will have new coaches for the 2013 season which speaks volumes about the expectations of SEC teams—win or go home.

The SEC teams' schedule also include four non-conference games while the Big 12 teams only have three—that's important because that one extra conference game played by Big 12 teams counts as a BCS team.

Almost every Big 12 team had a three-game, non-conference schedule that included one BCS team—Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas did not have a BCS team on their non-conference schedules. That gives most of the conference's teams a 10-game schedule against BCS teams in the regular season. 

The Crimson Tide played nine BCS teams in their regular season and then played Georgia in the SEC Championship for a total of 10 BCS teams on their schedule. Despite Alabama having to play a 13th game—something Kansas State did not have to do—the Tide really weren't at a disadvantage because they played the same number of BCS teams as Kansas State did.

So is the Big 12 superior to the SEC this year?

It really depends on how you define "superior" but generally speaking, the depth of quality in a conference should be the leading indicator. Even if Alabama wins the BCS Championship, that doesn't change anything. 

Having a BCS champion from your league simply means that one of your teams is deemed the best of all FBS, it does not mean that the entire conference is the best. 

This year, from top to bottom, the Big 12 does look like it is slightly ahead of the SEC albeit the SEC appears to be more top-heavy than the Big 12. The top five SEC teams look better than the top five Big 12 teams. But it's the middle-tiered teams in the Big 12 that look superior to the SEC's. 

Next year, if all the planets and stars align, we may see the SEC return back to its rightful place at the top of the college football universe.

But for now, the Big 12 is the best conference in college football.