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SEC POWER RATING TRENDS
For many years, the pundits and the on the field results have supported the view that the SEC provides the best in college football. In recent years, the SEC has produced the National Champion, and in years that the SEC failed to do so, the SEC provided the runner up in what has been regarded as the National Championship game under the BCS system. These SEC champions have come from the East and West Divisions of the SEC with Florida, LSU, Auburn, and Alabama all capturing at least one National Championship in this period of dominance. One year, the SEC produced both teams to play for the National Championship, despite the hue and cry from the protagonists of the PAC12, Big 12, Big 10, and ACC.
The BCS system started for the 1998 season, and the 16 champions, crowned by this system include a who's-who of college football history. The first 8 season produced champions from each of the Big 5 Power Conferences, with the ACC, Big 12, and SEC each claiming two championships, and the Big 10 and Pac 12 each claiming one. However, the SEC then claimed the next 7, between 2006 and 2012 before Florida State broke the SEC run by beating the SEC's 2nd or 3rd best team of the 2013 season.
The period I have selected to examine for this analysis are the 2010 through 2014 seasons, inclusively. Certainly, by 2010, the SEC dominance was well established by the 2010 season. For several years, the SEC's power, top to bottom, tracked along relatively constant levels, with an average power rating between 78 and 79 based on Adjusted Net Game Efficiency. The West has tracked along at a slightly higher level than the East, yet the East was able to produce two national champions in the recent 7 year dominance (Florida twice), and the SEC East produced one of the SEC's two BCS champions in the 1998 through 2005 period (Tennessee 1998). However, the SEC West produced 6 champions in the same period, from three teams (Alabama 3, LSU 2, and Auburn 1).
Through the 2012 season, the customary relationship between the SEC and the Nation, and the customary relationship between the SEC East and SEC West appeared to remain consistent. In 2012, the SEC East appeared to be closing the gap with the SEC West. However, 2013 and now 2014 are producing a change in these relationships, primarily in the SEC West as illustrated below.
First, the manner of calculating the rating based on the Adjusted Net Game Efficiency is based upon a forced average for all NCAA FBS teams of 60. The average SEC rating of 78 to 79 between 2010 and 2012 was the highest average power rating of the five BCS power conferences. In many years, the SEC East average (75-77 in 2010 to 2012) was strong enough to compete for the second highest division in the BCS power 5 conferences. In 2013, the average power rating for the SEC rose about 4%. While the SEC West did increase slightly more than the SEC East in 2013, the difference was relatively small, and both divisions appeared to improved together. However, through 4 weeks of the 2014 season, the SEC West has surged an additional 7% while the SEC East has given back its 2013 gains. Over the two year surge, the SEC West average power ratings have increased over 19%, pulling the overall SEC average power ratings with it a whopping 10%.
Kentucky fans grieved, for good reason, as they saw the hard fought position carved out by the Rich Brooks era eroded deeply in 2011 and 2012 by poor recruiting and poor coaching provided by Phillips. While Coach Brooks was not able to bring the UK program on par with the overall SEC power ratings, Coach Brooks did bring UK into respectability and nearly on par with the average SEC East power. But, all that ended after the 2010 season, and the UK power eroded 20% from 2010 to 2011, and another 3 to 4% from 2011 to 2012. That slide dropped the UK program to the dubious distinction of the worst program in the SEC by the time UK hired Coach Stoops to replace Coach Phillips with the mission of taking UK football to true SEC competitiveness.
In Coach Stoops' first year on the job, the UK program did improve. It's power rating increased over 10%, about 2 1/2 times the average rate of improvement for the SEC in the same year. However, the UK program had sunk to such great depths, that a 10%+ increase from 2012 to 2013 was not sufficient to deliver a single SEC win. Nevertheless, the fan base, the administration, and the coaching staff recognized the improvement they had achieved, and optimism marked the 2013-2014 off season. That optimism has proven justified, because through the first 4 weeks of the 2014 season, the UK power rating has surged another 20% since the 2013 season to a level, after 3 games of 2014, of 75, nearly equal to the SEC East average 76. However, despite this tremdous surge, the program still has work to do before it can claim SEC competitiveness. True SEC Competitiveness should be defined by the median of all SEC teams, which currently stands at a power rating of between 85 and 83 1/2.
Through 15 games, it seems Coach Stoops deserves high marks, and widespread support as he continues his quest to move the UK program into the top ½ of the SEC and claim true SEC Competitiveness.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks