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The SEC Sucks

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And the ACC helped kill it

Nick, blowing off the rest of the conference, pretending he doesn't see us
Nick, blowing off the rest of the conference, pretending he doesn't see us
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Let‘s not mince words: the SEC is terrible. Outside of Alabama, which boasts perhaps the best Crimson Tide team in history, the rest of the conference is drowning in mediocrity. Part of what makes this last season so painful for LSU fans is the extraordinary missed opportunity it was: a really good LSU team should have cruised to 7-1 in conference play.

Instead, LSU lost heartbreakers on the final play to both Florida and Auburn, and it sits outside the top 20 in the most recent CFP playoff poll. LSU doesn't have a single win over a ranked team this year, yet is still 7-4 overall and 5-3 in SEC play. And of course, no SEC team not based in Tuscaloosa has less than four losses.

The biggest sign of the SEC's decline can be seen not just in the polls, in which the second highest ranked SEC team is Auburn at #14, but in its longtime rivalry with the ACC. All-time, the SEC is 299-154-10 against the ACC. This year, the tables are turned and the SEC is a mere 3-6.

The ACC has now posted a winning record against the SEC in two of the past three seasons. The previous two losing seasons to the ACC were in 2002 and 1999. The ACC has overturned over a decade's worth of utter dominance by the SEC, and it's not looking like an accident.

At root of the problem is that Nick Saban has effectively run off all of his coaching peers. There are only four coaches in the conference who have been at their current job for five or more years, and only Saban has lasted at least a decade. Dan Mullen is the only SEC coach other than Saban who has been at his job for more than five years. He's the sole survivor of the Saban Era.

There is a batch of four coaches with precisely four years of experience at their current job. It's been a mixed bag. Gus Malzahn has alternated between great seasons and terrible ones, Butch Jones is dodging rumors of his imminent demise, Bret Bielema has yet to post a winning record in conference play at Arkansas, and Mark Stoops warded off the axe this year. This means that the coach with at least a four year tenure with the second-best winning percentage in the SEC is Kevin Sumlin.

Let that sink in. Kevin Sumlin is arguably the most successful coach in the SEC not named Nick Saban. Ask an Aggie fan how happy they are with the job he's done.

Compare the SEC coaches to the rest of the nation, and you can see how the star is fading. Below is the average coaching records of each conference by career and at their current job. I've listed the SEC twice, once with Saban, and once without.

Conference

Career

W

L

Pct

Current

W

L

Pct

Big 12

11.7

91.4

50.6

0.644

8.9

73.2

36.0

0.670

SEC

9.6

54.6

30.2

0.644

3.8

29.6

17.2

0.633

MAC

11.7

68.5

38.2

0.642

3.9

22.9

24.8

0.481

ACC

14.1

81.6

45.6

0.642

4.5

34.4

21.6

0.614

Pac-12

11.3

71.7

44.0

0.620

4.8

34.8

23.3

0.600

Big Ten

10.8

57.9

36.7

0.612

4.6

34.4

22.3

0.607

SEC No Saban

7.5

42.8

27.9

0.605

3.3

23.0

17.2

0.573

AAC

7

51.0

33.5

0.604

3.1

20.4

15.8

0.564

MWC

8

45.4

34.4

0.569

3.8

24.2

21.7

0.527

Sun Belt

6.2

39.0

30.2

0.564

3.3

18.9

17.5

0.519

CUSA

8.8

36.2

33.9

0.517

4.0

23.9

23.3

0.506

Nick Saban is hiding the overall mediocrity of the SEC coaching establishment's overall record all by himself. Even with Saban, the SEC is the only Power 5 conference in which the career coaching tenure of its average coach is under ten years. For all of the talk that the SEC is the pinnacle of the profession, it is the other conferences with the longest careers and the longest current tenures.

Urban Meyer has Jim Harbaugh (and Dantonio and Chryst). Fisher has Dabo and Petrino. Bob Stoops has Gary Patterson (and Gundy and Snyder). Great coaches tend to have a foil, and Saban no longer has one. Worse yet, there is no young up and comer that seems to be a future threat.

The Pac-12 lacks a current coaching great, but they have younger coaches like David Shaw, Clay Helton, and Mike McIntyre. The Big 12 has Holgo and now Tom Herman. The Big Ten has Franklin, Fitzgerald, Chryst, and maybe Durkin. And the ACC is hotbed of young talent: Dabo of course, but also Narduzzi, Doeren, and Fuente.

What does the SEC have? There's a lot of short-tenured coaches, but who looks like a potential future great? Kirby Smart? Will Muschamp? Bielema? Jim McElwain is short-tenured but he's already 54, and is considered a subpar recruiter, which will catch up to a guy eventually. About the only guy you can make a case for is Hugh Freeze, and he's looking over his shoulder at NCAA investigators.

Line up the coaches by career winning percentage, and compare the SEC and the ACC side by side. The ACC's coaching talent blows the SEC away, once you get past Saban.

Coach Name

School

Age

Yrs.

Win %

Coach Name

School

Age

Yrs.

Win %

Nick Saban

Alabama

65

21

0.774

Jimbo Fisher

Florida State

51

7

0.828

Guz Malzahn

Auburn

51

5

0.698

Dabo Swinney

Clemson

47

9

0.752

Hugh Freeze

Mississippi

47

8

0.69

Mark Richt

Miami

56

16

0.734

Kevin Sumlin

Texas A&M

52

9

0.687

Bobby Petrino

Louisville

55

12

0.727

Bret Bielema

Arkansas

46

11

0.66

Paul Johnson

Georgia Tech

59

20

0.668

Jim McElwain

Florida

54

5

0.645

Bronco Mendenhall

Virginia

50

12

0.66

Kirby Smart

Georgia

41

1

0.636

Dino Babers

Syracuse

55

5

0.641

Butch Jones

Tennessee

48

10

0.627

Larry Fedora

North Carolina

54

9

0.638

Dan Mullen

Mississippi State

44

8

0.584

Pat Narduzzi

Pitt

50

2

0.625

Will Muschamp

South Carolina

45

5

0.567

Dave Doeren

NC State

45

6

0.605

Ed Orgeron

LSU

55

5

0.408

Justin Fuente

Virginia Tech

40

4

0.567

Mark Stoops

Kentucky

49

4

0.383

David Cutcliffe

Duke

62

16

0.519

Derek Mason

Vanderbilt

45

3

0.343

Dave Clawson

Wake Forest

49

17

0.5

Barry Odom

Missouri

40

1

0.273

Steve Addazio

Boston College

57

6

0.458

Who do you take from the SEC against their ACC counterpart? Clearly, Saban. After that, it gets pretty dicey. McElwain over Mendenhall probably, though I'm not ruling out Mendenhall turning around Virginia. Same with Kirby over Babers, with the same caveat. Derek Mason has done more at Vandy than Dave Clawson at Wake. That's pretty much it. Even giving the SEC the close calls, the ACC overwhelmingly has the advantage.

Look at the career records. Addazio is the only ACC coach with a career losing record, and he has a winning percentage better than four SEC coaches, including our own Ed Orgeron. It's the same split at the top. Nick Saban is the only SEC coach with a winning percentage over 70%, while the ACC has four coaches with career marks over that line.

This isn't a bad year. This isn't an accident. The ACC isn't catching the SEC, it has caught the SEC, and the gap probably will only get bigger so long as this gap in coaching talent exists. The SEC has gotten fat, lazy, and complacent. The ACC has capitalized by hiring a bunch of young, hungry coaches all climbing the mountain, trying to make their name.

This is what complacency looks like. It's not just LSU that has fallen into a malaise, it is the entire conference. Well, the entire conference save one school. You know who.