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The SEC’s Best Football Programs Part 5: Ranking Them From 1 To 14

mrsec stat analysis newFour categories.  Twenty sub-categories.  Numbers and data.  All-time wins and climate reports.  Heisman trophies and talent pools.  You name it, we’ve included it in our multi-part series that attempts to rank the SEC’s best football programs from #1 to #14.

You can read an overview of the project here.

Part 1 — Recruiting Base — can be found here.

Part 2 — Tradition — can be found here.

Part 3 — Campus Life – can be found here.

Part 4 — Recent History — can be found here.

And below, you’ll find our scoring chart.  Seeing as how we’ve received at least one email or comment expressing disagreement over every single one of the 20 topics we’ve chosen to include, we fully expect to hear some gripes and grumbles about our scoring methodology.  That’s OK.  We’re not trying to get this project past Will Hunting and the guys at MIT.

Rather simply providing a ranking of programs off the top of our heads — which so many folks have done in the past — we wanted to put some numbers to the whole thing.  In fact, we’ve wanted to do this for a couple of years now… but it’s a time-consuming drill.  These numbers couldn’t all be found in one site (until now).

Over the past few days we’ve shown you the breakdowns of how the SEC’s programs ranked in terms of:

 

* Recruiting Base: NFL Picks over Recent 20 Years

* Recruiting Base: 4- and 5-Star Signees over Last 5 Years

* Tradition: All-Time Wins

* Tradition: Conference Championships (1950-2012) (Most modern conferences began to take shape around 1950)

* Tradition: National Championships (1936-2012) (The AP Poll was launched for good in 1936)

* Tradition: All-Time Bowl Appearances

* Tradition: All-Time Heisman Trophy Winners

* Campus Life: Average Number of Sunny Days

* Campus Life: Percentage of Female Students in Campus Population

* Campus Life: Percentage of Ethnic Students in Campus Population

* Campus Life: Average Football Attendance

* Campus Life: Licensed Merchandise Sold

* Recent History: Stadium Size (Current capacity)

* Recent History: Wins over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Conference Championships over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: National Championships over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Bowl Appearances over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: Heisman Trophy Winners over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: NFL Draft Picks over Last 10 Years

* Recent History: 1st Round Draft Picks over Last 10 Years

 

So what counts most?  The category labeled Recent History.  Those accomplishments are essentially covered twice (in the Recent History and Tradition categories).  Recent success is what today’s recruits know.  So when you see the final rankings, the last 10 years will play a role.

At the same time, tradition counts, too.  A program that has lived through 90 years of frustrations to turn things around in the most recent decade shouldn’t be expected to land atop our rankings.

As for determining those rankings we decided to convert league-wide percentages into a point system.  Example: Since 1936, the SEC’s current members have won 22 “major poll” national championships.  Alabama has won 10 of those.  Percentage-wise, that’s .454 of the SEC’s national titles.  So Bama would receive .454 points in our system.

Yes, yes, there are other ways to do it.  We welcome you to have at it.  But for our fun little exercise we decided it would be more fun to say: “School X is responsible for .333 of the SEC’s conference titles in the last decade… so we gave them .333 points in this category.”

Obviously the higher the score the better a team’s rank.  Of the 20 categories we used, 19 are positive numbers (meaning the higher the number, the better).  Merchandise sold, however, was a ranking provided by Collegiate Licensing Company in which the lower the number, the better.  So for that one category, we actually subtract the percentages/points.

We counted to the third decimal place, in case you’re wondering, and all of our percentages when added together equal between 99 and 100.

You can click the links above to see the actual wins, losses, championships, etc for each category.  Below, we simply show you what percentage of a category each school was responsible for.  The final number — merchandise sold — was subtracted as part of the tallying process.

Before you get too upset about out over-simplified methodology, take a look at the actual results.  We found them to be pretty darn close to what we might have thrown out off the top of our heads anyway.

On to the scores:

 

Category ALA ARK AUB UF UGA UK LSU MSU MU UM USC UT A&M VU
RB: NFL Picks .060 .019 .060 .200 .101 .018 .081 .047 .026 .047 .054 .035 .212 .035
RB: 4/5-Stars .142 .036 .105 .125 .103 .015 .115 .033 .021 .061 .072 .085 .065 .015
T: All-Time Wins .088 .072 .076 .072 .080 .061 .079 .054 .067 .066 .060 .085 .073 .060
T: Conf. Champs (1950) .208 .120 .076 .087 .098 .010 .098 .000 .021 .054 .010 .098 .109 .000
T: Nat. Champs (1936) .454 .000 .090 .136 .045 .000 .136 .000 .000 .000 .000 .090 .045 .000
T: All-Time Bowls .127 .083 .078 .085 .102 .031 .093 .034 .061 .072 .038 .104 .072 .012
T: All-Time Heismans .076 .000 .230 .230 .153 .000 .076 .000 .000 .000 .076 .000 .153 .000
CL: Sunny Days .072 .073 .073 .075 .073 .063 .072 .074 .064 .073 .073 .069 .070 .069
CL: Female Students .074 .069 .067 .076 .078 .070 .070 .066 .071 .076 .074 .067 .066 .069
CL: Ethnic Students .060 .060 .042 .117 .074 .057 .065 .085 .057 .068 .062 .054 .088 .105
CL: Avg. Attendance .096 .064 .080 .084 .087 .055 .087 .052 .060 .053 .074 .089 .080 .032
RH: Stadium Size .092 .065 .079 .080 .084 .062 .084 .050 .064 .055 .073 .093 .075 .037
RH: Wins Last 10 .088 .069 .083 .092 .091 .049 .100 .049 .076 .051 .072 .067 .065 .041
RH: Conf. Champs Last 10 .200 .000 .200 .200 .100 .000 .300 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
RH: Nat. Champs Last 10 .375 .000 .125 .250 .000 .000 .250 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
RH: Bowls Last 10 .092 .061 .082 .103 .103 .051 .103 .041 .082 .041 .072 .061 .072 .030
RH: Heismans Last 10 .250 .000 .250 .250 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .250 .000
RH: NFL Picks Last 10 .106 .069 .074 .104 .124 .030 .132 .034 .045 .043 .076 .076 .052 .028
RH: 1st Rd Picks Last 10 .155 .066 .077 .111 .088 .000 .155 .022 .066 .055 .055 .088 .033 .022
CL: Merchandise Sold -.006 -.033 -.060 -.023 -.026 -.016 -.020 -.255 -.067 -.148 -.053 -.050 -.040 -.195
TOTAL POINTS 2.809 0.893 1.887 2.454 1.588 0.556 2.076 0.386 0.714 0.667 0.888 1.111 1.540 0.360

 

In terms of ranking the SEC’s best football programs as they’re operating today… here’s the rundown:

 

1.  Alabama (2.809)

Who didn’t see this one coming from a mile away?  First, the Crimson Tide is traditionally the strongest program in the SEC.  Bama has accounted for nearly half the national championships won by SEC schools since the birth of the AP Poll in 1936.  Second, Nick Saban has Alabama on top of the football world at the moment.  From attendance to merchandise to recent wins to historical championships, Alabama is the league best all-around football program.

 

2.  Florida (2.454)

Where would the Gators have placed on this list before Steve Spurrier turned his alma mater into a national power?  The Gators out-distance LSU on this list thanks to a deep, deep recruiting base, sunny weather, and lots of girls and racial diversity on its campus.  In other words, recruiting visits are pretty easy in Gainesville.  Winning two BCS titles, two SEC titles and a Heisman didn’t hurt either.

 

3.  LSU (2.076)

And where would LSU have ranked before Saban re-lit the furnace in Baton Rouge?  Aside from Alabama, LSU’s decade of dominance rivals surpasses everyone else in the SEC.  In terms of wins in the past 10 years, the Tigers are the only program to go over the century mark.

 

4.  Auburn (1.887)

Hmmm.  This one caused some double-takes in the SEC home office, but think about the Tigers’ last decade: a BCS title, two SEC crowns, another Heisman winner (bringing their league-leading total to three).  Being in the same state with the assembly line that Saban’s built in Tuscaloosa isn’t ideal, but the Tiger program could easily be placed anywhere between #4 and #7.  All of those are interchangeable in our view (over the long haul).

 

5.  Georgia (1.558)

The trick for the Bulldogs has been consistency.  They are won of the traditionally elite of the Southeastern Conference.  They’ve rolled off nine or 10 wins per year almost annually since Mark Richt arrived in Athens.  And for recruiting trips, well, there sure are a lot of girls on the UGA campus to entice teenage visitors.  Like the other programs on the top of half of this list, Georgia has the big stadium, solid ticket sales, and sold merchandise to compare favorably with any power programs in the country.

 

6.  Texas A&M (1.540)

If SEC programs were stocks, we’d advise you invest your money in A&M.  The Aggies have everything a coach needs to thrive: facilities, rabid fanbase, and — like Florida — a talent pool in the backyard that’s deep and wide.  The Aggies were hurt in this project by their overall downturn over the last decade.  But Kevin Sumlin and some kid named Johnny Manziel — you might’ve heard of him — apparently flipped the “on” switch in College Station last year.  It appears to be onward and upward for A&M.

 

7.  Tennessee (1.111)

Speaking of downturns, who in 1998 would have foreseen Tennessee tumbling from BCS champion to SEC also-ran?  The fact that UT scores in the top half of our rankings is a testament to the program’s tradition.  If Alabama has been the king, historically speaking the Volunteers have acted as prince.  And just as we’d say about Alabama, Georgia, LSU or any other top SEC program that stumbled, Tennessee will bounce back.  Despite a poor recruiting zone in their home state, UT still has a lot to sell.  As Butch Jones is proving with a top-ranked class of commitments.

 

8.  Arkansas (0.893)

The Razorbacks, since joining the SEC, have always been just one step away from establishing themselves as an upper-echelon program.  Houston Nutt had his ups… and then his downs.  Bobby Petrino had things on the rise… and then he wrecked his motorcycle and the UA program.  Arkansas — like Tennessee — lacks a solid recruiting base within its state borders.  Bret Bielema will have to overcome that.

 

9.  South Carolina (0.888)

Speaking of overcoming obstacles, Steve Spurrier has accomplished what only he and thousands of loyal Gamecock fans believed could be done — he’s turned Carolina into an SEC power team.  Can the Gamecocks maintain their current form once Spurrier leaves?  No one has won like him before, so the odds would suggest no.  And what happens when Tennessee rebuilds — be it in five years or ten?  That’s the East Division slot the Cocks have claimed.  Can they keep it?

 

10.  Missouri (0.714)

The Tigers have — for the most part — had a very, very good decade.  Gary Pinkel had the Mizzou program ranked #1 in the nation just a few years ago.  That fact has been forgotten following an injury-plagued first year in the SEC.  Still, Missouri’s program lands on this list about where we would have placed it if we’d just used the eyeball test.  They and Ole Miss are quite similar.

 

11.  Ole Miss (0.667)

As we were saying, the Rebels remind us of the SEC’s newcomers from Missouri.  Both schools are capable or producing very, very good seasons.  There’s nothing wrong with Cotton Bowl berths, for example.  The teams beneath UM and MU haven’t reached those heights in the past decade.  But like Missouri, Ole Miss just can’t seem to establish itself as a perennial big boy.  And in the SEC West, that’s a pretty tall order right now.

 

12.  Kentucky (0.556)

The Wildcats, not surprisingly fell into the bottom-third of the league.  The tradition just isn’t there and that leaves every new UK coach to try and build from scratch.  Mark Stoops is showing already that he can sell a dream.  But can he make those dreams come true?  (Cue the “Laverne and Shirley” theme.)

 

13.  Mississippi State (0.386*)

Like Kentucky, there’s just not much tradition at State.  The Bulldogs and Vanderbilt are the only two schools on this list to have not won a single conference championship since 1950.  Dan Mullen has done a very good job in Starkville when you consider State’s history.  (As for the caveat, MSU was not listed on Collegiate Licensing Company’s top 75 list for merchandise sold because they use another company for their licensing work.  For that reason, they were given a 76 rating by us and that led to the deduction of .255 points from their final score.  But even if MSU had led the league in merchandise sales, they still would have only moved past Kentucky on our list… and it’s doubtful State would have led the league in merchandise sold.  Still, if you’re an MSU fan, you can say that your program shoulda/coulda been #12 had their data been available.)

 

14.  Vanderbilt (0.360)

Well, there’s not much need to weigh in on this one.  After a hot start in their first 30 years of football action, the Commodores have struggled for nearly a century.  But — and this “but” should provide hope for any program listed toward the bottom of this list — the right coach appears to be making quite a difference at Vandy.  We’ve always maintained that any school can win with the right guy doing the recruiting and the coaching.  James Franklin appears to be the right guy for VU.  For the MSUs, UKs, UMs and others, the only thing needed is the right coach.  Of course, the right coach isn’t easy to find.

 

So there’s the list from #1 to #14.  The numbers laid things out just pretty much as we would have had we just typed up our own gut feelings.

Here’s guessing you probably disagree with where your school is ranked.  And here’s also guessing you’ll let us know about it.

 


9 comments
ColonelRodimus
ColonelRodimus

You can't rank Mizzou and A&M with the rest of the SEC right now.  It doesn't make any sense.  Also, instead of trying your best to omit national titles from deserving teams you should have given the benefit of the doubt and included titles claimed through rankings in other polls.  While Ole Miss has been mediocre at best for the past 40 years, your method doesn't take into account some of their accomplishments during its prime in the 50's and 60's.  There are many football historians that would argue the Rebels' 1959, '60, and '62 squads were some of the best of all time.  Unfortunately we couldn't prove it at the time due to their not being a championship game.

KeithFrohlich
KeithFrohlich

No mention of academics?  You don't think Vandy, UF, and UGA sell academic reputation to recruits, or that academics don't matter to recruits or their families?  James Franklin would highly disagree with you on that as a large part of his recruiting pitch is the opportunity to earn a top notch degree for free. 

the_voice
the_voice

The surprise isn't that Alabama is a dominant #1, but that Florida is a dominant #2. Florida certainly is one of several obvious #2 possibilities, but I don't see them as dominant in that position; particularly with Meyer being gone (how did it work out when Fulmer left Tennessee)?

Thanks for the mental diversion, John. I've always liked beauty pageants.

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Yep - #6 or #7, what I predicted. No complaints. You can nitpic the data and how it was assembled, but it would not change the results very much.

DearOldState
DearOldState

Who can argue with a ranking that gives "sunny days" the same weight as "all-time wins?" That's just math.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@ColonelRodimus 

In other words, we should have included every school ever ranked #1 by any service?  

Sorry, there were actually some 8-3 and 9-2 teams that won computer polls.  Alabama alone lists about 413 titles from different polls, computers, hens that pecked a crimson kernel of corn, etc.

We went with the major polls.  That's fair.  And those titles are the only ones that were recognized by the NCAA prior to the BCS.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@DearOldState 

There were five sub-categories under Campus Life (including sunny days) and there were five under overall Tradition (including all-time wins).  Recent History was weighted more heavily with eight sub-categories.

So why would sunny days be equal to all-time wins?  Because grading the best programs of today basically shows which programs are the biggest draws for recruits today.  And I'm gonna go out on a limb and bet that a whole lot of 17-year-olds would be more impressed with a beautiful day (and appropriately dressed females) on a campus than they would a coach saying, "Ya know, we've won 678 games all time!"  Not all would.  Some, I'm sure, are football junkies... which is why that tradition is included.  But here's guessing most will be swayed by their visit.  Heck, read comments about how much importance uniforms carry.  

But you can be a smart aleck if you like.  That's fine.  You've been leaving snarky comments all week.

If I were you, however, I wouldn't make too much fun of sunny days.  Judging by the all the other criteria here -- like all-time wins, championships, Heismans, bowls, etc -- sunny days is about the only thing Mississippi State has going for it.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

ColonelRodimus
ColonelRodimus

@John at MrSEC @ColonelRodimus So an 8-2 Minnesota team that lost in the Rose Bowl should be given the nod over a 10-0-1 Ole Miss Sugar Bowl Champ?  It's hard to argue that Ole Miss didn't deserve the NC that year and everyone knows the AP poll is not always fair and accurate.

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