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College Football Spotlight: Is There Really A SEC Bias Problem?

As the college football season continues to play out, the SEC continues to look as strong in the polls as it ever has. The most recent Associated Press top 25 sees Mississippi State on top of the college football world, with Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Georgia also appearing in the top 10. With a total of six schools appearing in the latest AP top 25, some are left wondering if there is a bias toward the SEC that continues to have an impact on the polls. The thought has been around for some time now, but at some point even the most skeptical of college football fans probably needs to come to the realization that the best teams just happen to play in the SEC.

This is not to say the best team in college football automatically comes from the SEC, and that title or playoff contenders will not be found in other conferences. Florida State proved that last season by snapping the SEC’s streak of BCS championships. But anyone who pays close enough attention will see the SEC is continuing to offer the best brand of football through hard work on the recruiting trail, in practices and seeing results on game day.

The recipe for the SEC is simple. Recruit the best talent to play in warmer weather with some of the best coaches in the sport of college football. There is no bias here. This is just how it is, and this is coming from a writer who lives in the Big Ten footprint. Just because the SEC is getting the results on the field and gaining a reputation across the conference does not undermine the work being done at other programs around the country, such as in the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12 and beyond.

The Associated Press took notice of increasing criticism of a perceived bias in the polls and dug into the numbers a little to see just how teams from different conferences tended to rise and fall in the AP poll on a weekly basis. The numbers suggest SEC schools do not have quite the advantage as some might have thought, although the depth of the study was slightly flawed in logic considering a team ranked highly would not have much more room to rise in the polls, and SEC teams have tended to be ranked highly over the last few years.

On Saturday’s edition of College GameDay on ESPN, host Chris Fowler took offense to the perceived bias shown toward the SEC. Fowler suggested his company, ESPN, would benefit greatly from a conference like the Big Ten rising as a conference to the level of the SEC, and he is right. But sometimes it is hard to fully accept that argument when ESPN has a deal with the SEC to operate the SEC Network. But ESPN has business deals with every conference, including the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12. If there was any doubt by the other conferences that their deals were not being honored in order to please the SEC, they would get out of the deal as quickly as possible and sign on with another network.

Are some individuals on networks biased? Sure, of course they are. But these voices have been around for generations, in one form or another. Nothing has really changed all that much in 2014, but we are more accessible to rapid reactions and opinions with social media and increasing media coverage options 24 hours a day. If this all existed in 1940, there would be an extreme prejudice in favor of the Big Ten or Notre Dame.

The good news for all fans of college football is the argument over bias is supposedly coming to an end. The College Football Playoff selection committee was constructed with the intent of eliminating bias as much as possible. Having representatives on the committee theoretically representing all conferences and bringing different voices to the selection process is supposed to avoid the talk of any bias. However, even the most trusted and unbiased of opinions will likely have some degree of bias in their opinions. Aren’t all opinions based off some notion of bias anyway?

Biased or not, it is time to let the selection committee do its job in putting together the four best teams in the country into a four-team playoff field. Let’s see how unbiased the committee will be.

Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on

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