Marc Daniels: SEC-Big 10 Breakaway? For Who? Ten Schools?

Tennessee v South Carolina

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"The SEC and Big Ten should just start their own playoff."

"I think the new Super 2 should form their own league."

"It's the SEC and Big Ten and then everyone else."

And the hits keep on coming. It's easy to find college football people talking about the two biggest revenue leagues and what they should do. It's the offseason and everyone looks for clickbait stories.

First, the Big Ten is the biggest league in the country. It has more alumni in the 50 states than anyone. It stands to make more in their new media deal than anyone else, including the SEC. 

Second, the SEC has been the best conference in college football. No one has more national titles in the college football playoff era and no area of the country talks college football all 12 months of the year like fanbases who make up the SEC.

Now that we have taken care of that, let's move onto the topic some love to talk about: breaking away and forming their own division in the sport. After all, if they are the two biggest conferences, why not just form your own new thing and do your own playoff?

Well, that's not happening and not anytime soon. The new 12-team playoff will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to these two leagues so there's one reason to stay. The other is their new media deals likely have them locked in for the foreseeable future. 

But here's my question, who would you be breaking away for and from? The current model has worked pretty well for the SEC and all those titles they have won. Well, at least for a few of those teams. The same thing for the Big Ten and the few of those schools that played or were in the hunt for a playoff spot.

And before you say "well let those two break away and forget about NIL/pay-for-play and just sign the players to contracts and pay them- are you sure any school in those leagues really want that? Forget federal legislation, because it is impossible to get one law that all states will agree to and the SEC is not interested in doing what is best for the Mountain West.

But back to my point, I have said for years when we had 12 and then 14 and soon to be 16 team leagues- and now with no divisions- someone finishes in 12th and 14th and now 16th. And even before we grew leagues closer to 20 than 12 coaches realized how hard it was to win six games and get a contract extension if you were part of the league that knew you were not likely to contend for the league title unless you had one of those magical seasons that comes around maybe once every dozen years. Which by the way, fits more than half of the teams that either make up the SEC and Big Ten or about to be part of those leagues.

I have always said people will find stats to back up their positions and this is no exception. I looked at the last five seasons of college football and teams that were ranked in the top 10 by the College Football Playoff committee. Yes, the SEC and Big Ten have had the most teams ranked in the top 10 in that final ranking before the playoff games but take a closer look at those groups and you will realize just how deep we are going.

The SEC has had seven different teams ranked inside the top 10 in that final pre-playoff ranking. Those teams include: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss. Georgia has been in that top 10 all five seasons, Alabama in four of the last five years. The Gators have been in three times with the others once. In the Big Ten, Ohio State has been there all five seasons. Michigan has been there three times and then Penn State twice and once for Michigan State and Wisconsin. 

Here are the teams that have not been in the top 10 in the final pre-playoff committee rankings over the last five seasons: South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Auburn, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern. And you can add UCLA and Texas since they are headed into these two leagues.

If I asked you today to name the teams in the SEC and Big Ten that have the best chance to make the playoffs in the next five seasons, how many from the above list are in your answer? And while you may select a team or two from that list of 18 you likely will take off the list one of the teams from the group above that have been in the top 10 in the last five seasons.

There is no argument that Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State have been arguably the top three programs in the country and Michigan has been in the group the last two seasons. And you can even argue that with the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma that one might join the group. But Texas hasn't sniffed a playoff spot in the current four-team model and joining the SEC may make that even more challenging. 

There are very few brands that drive the television ratings and revenue for all leagues, including the SEC and Big Ten. Yes, the two conferences sell lots of tickets and have large alumni and fan bases but the majority of the programs have not and likely will not compete for a conference title in the coming seasons, let alone the national championship.

So who are you breaking away from and why are you forming your own playoff? For who? Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State? You certainly aren't breaking away because Vanderbilt, Rutgers and anyone else averaging a 12th place finish is so dominant over those upper tier programs in the ACC, Big 12 or Pac 12.

Yes, I think schools like LSU, Oklahoma, USC and maybe Penn State can regain their position as title contenders. And I agree that in a 12-team playoff era the SEC will have an argument for four to five schools being in. But those who have the largest stadium and attendance are not always a national title contender. If that was the case, Nebraska would be playing in January and that has just not been in the case in years.

There is nothing more comical than fans of that team who hopes to finish 6-6 in the SEC chanting "SEC, SEC, SEC" as Georgia or Alabama wins another national title. 

Former UCF coach George O'Leary said it best years ago when he said "A lot of these schools are just cashing checks and living off the success of others in their league."

He was right then and he's right now. Most schools in the SEC and Big Ten don't want anyone to do a breakdown to what their real value is compared to their conference rivals and where they rank. Everyone screamed how valuable Oklahoma and Texas were to the Big 12 and the numbers were real. Trust me, the schools that are averaging, or about to average, a 12th or 15th place finish in the standings are likely in the same range in their conference value.

So while many love to talk about the SEC and Big Ten breaking away and going on their own, it is really about six to ten teams that have the real value. Any other group would be living off the success of the few that really drive the value...

Final note: The College World Series has been held in Omaha, Nebraska since 1950. The first event was held in 1947 in Kalamazoo, Michigan before it was played the next two years in Wichita, Kansas before shifting to Omaha.

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