How does the Pac-12 North compare to the SEC West?

Kirk Herbstreit raised some eyebrows in SEC country last week.
After Oregon’s demolition of Tennessee, the ESPN analyst took a stab that the holier-than-thou attitude of some from the SEC, which is a conference of a few elite teams, several good teams, but some pretty bad ones too.
“There are fourteen schools. When one of them wins a national championship, all fourteen carry the flag for the national championship. They all claim it. They all claim the national championship like they won it together. So when Tennessee gets ambushed by Oregon, they need to all get their flag out together and accept that loss to Oregon.”

If SEC fans are so secure in their superiority, why do they flip out whenever anyone questions it? They should just say “scoreboard” and point to nearly a decade-long run of BCS championships. It probably comes with having a target on their collective backs.

But arguments can be made that the Pac-12 North is gaining on the SEC West, which has been the best division on college football for the better part of a decade.

Let’s see how the divisions stack up, using a few different methods.

No. 1 — Head to head

Pretty straightforward here. Match each division’s top teams, second teams, third teams, ect. The division with the best record wins. We’ll use AP rankings to determine the winner for teams that qualify, and the eyeball test for those that don’t.

Alabama over Oregon

Stanford over LSU

Texas A&M over Washington

Ole Miss over Oregon State

Auburn over Washington State — The Tigers won head-to-head for real this year.

Mississippi State over Cal — Cal’s only win is a skin-of-their-teeth escape over Portland State

Arkansas gets a bye.

Verdict: SEC West wins 5-1

No. 2 — What the pollsters say

Take each team’s AP rank and give as many points as their ranking is worth, with the lowest score winning. For teams below the Top 25, “others receiving votes” are taking into account. Teams with no votes earn a score of 40.

Pac-12 North: Oregon 2, Stanford 5, Washington 16, Oregon State 40, Washington State 40, Cal 40 = 143

SEC West: Alabama 1, LSU 6, Texas A&M 10, Ole Miss 21, Auburn 40, Mississippi State 40 = 118

Verdict: Four ranked teams for the SEC West vs three for the Pac-12 North gives the SEC an edge.

No. 3 — Recent history

Take the season-end AP ranking of each team over the past three years (most recent year first). Average those out and then add them together to get a score for each division.

Pac-12 North: Oregon 2-4-3 (3.0) Stanford 7-7-4 (6) Oregon State 20-40-40 (33.3) Washington 40-40-40 (40) Cal 40-40-40 (40); Washington State 40-40-40 (40).
Total = 162.3

SEC West: Alabama 1-1-10 (4.0), LSU 14-2-8 (8.0), Arkansas 40-5-12 (19), Texas A&M 5-40-19 (21.3), Auburn 40-27-1 (22.7), Ole Miss 40-40-40 (40). Total = 115.

Verdict: The SEC wins here because it has had a wider variety of teams ranked highly over the past three years. Oregon and Stanford, however, have been as consistently near the top as any teams in the nation.

Conclusion: The SEC West is still the best division in college football, but the Pac-12 North is a solid No. 2 and gaining if UW turns out to be for real. In recent years, Oregon and Stanford were ranked high but didn’t pass the eyeball test when on the same field as an elite SEC team. That might not be the case this year. Alabama’s defense got lit up by Johnny Manziel, who doesn’t have nearly the supporting cast Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has. An early Vegas line has Alabama a 3-point favorite over Oregon should the two meet in the BCS title game.Oregon is simply a much better, more-balanced team than the ones which lost to LSU and Auburn in recent years. And Stanford is just as good, if not better, than Oregon.

The only way to settle it for sure is on the field. And here’s hoping an Oregon vs. Alabama title game sends the often-maligned BCS out in style.

Micah Rice

Micah Rice

Columbian Sports Editor Micah Rice is the author of Tailgate Talk: College football from a Clark County perspective.

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