Southeastern Conference simply the best

By Frank Gogola

Saturday’s football game only helped to hammer home the point that the SEC is the premier college football conference in the land.

The Huskies (3-1) went into Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., with hopes of being the first MAC team to knock off an SEC opponent since 2004, but they left with a 52-14 beating from the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1).

Now, NIU isn’t just any Group of Five program. NIU has played in four consecutive MAC Championship games, winning two of them. NIU is the first MAC team to beat two Big Ten teams in one regular season and the first MAC team to play in a BCS bowl. Heading into Saturday’s game, NIU’s 49 wins over the past four-plus seasons ranked second among all FBS teams, trailing only the Oregon Ducks.

The Huskies are one of the best, if not the best, Group of Five teams in the country. And even they couldn’t hold their own against the Razorbacks, a middle-of-the-road — at best — SEC team.

Sure, it didn’t help that the Huskies basically spotted the Razorbacks 14 points with Korliss Marshall taking the opening kickoff 97 yards to the house and Darius Philon returning Trey Flowers’ strip-sack of Drew Hare 14 yards for a touchdown. It was evident throughout the game that the Razorbacks were simply too big, too strong and too fast for NIU.

And that very Arkansas squad that laid a 52-14 thumping on NIU may not even be a bowl team this year. With six of its remaining eight games against teams ranked in the top 17, Arkansas probably won’t even finish in the top half of the SEC.

That speaks to how strong and deep the SEC is. The Razorbacks probably will finish the year with four or five wins — maybe six if some things fall their way — but put them in any other conference and they’re no-doubt a 10-win team.

There’s a huge drop-off from the SEC to whoever the No. 2 conference is, and anybody who wants to argue the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 are better than the SEC is either arrogant or ignorant. The SEC didn’t win seven of the last eight national championships by being lucky.

The ACC has Florida State and Clemson. The Big Ten has Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Big 12 has Baylor and Oklahoma. And the Pac-12 has Oregon and UCLA. But, no conference is as deep and as good as the SEC.

The Huskies could travel to any of the previously mentioned teams and would probably lose, but those teams have been or are perennial top finishers; the Razorbacks could very easily finish last or second-to-last in the SEC West Division this year, and they just laid a 52-14 pounding on the Huskies.

The Razorbacks simply took the Huskies out of their element, and that’s what good teams do: They make you play their game. The Razorbacks will be in the Huskies’ shoes multiple times the remainder of the season — going up against the likes of No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M, not to mention the four other SEC teams ranked in the top 17 they’ll face — that’s just how good and how deep the SEC is.