Big 12 flying high, but SEC maintains an edge
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
While footballs fly like missiles over Big 12 stadiums, keeping statisticians, historians and scoreboard operators busy, one undeniable truth remains in college football: You can't beat the SEC.
Not on the field and not in the living rooms of the nation's best players.
“Without a doubt, the SEC is dominating recruiting,” national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “I don't think there is conference even close to them.”
The reason is simple and difficult to combat: SEC schools are located in the talent-rich South.
“There is more talent (there) than any other area of the country,” Lemming said.
The 2013 projected recruiting classes offer proof.
Alabama, No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, has 20 verbal commitments from this year's seniors. That includes 12 4-stars, according to rankings compiled by Rivals.com, and 5-star O.J. Howard of Autauga, Ala., the top tight end in the country.
No. 4 Florida has 19 verbals, with 11 4-stars, plus 5-star Vernon Hargreaves III of Tampa, Fla., the nation's No. 2 cornerback.
Meanwhile, No. 5 West Virginia (5-0), which has raised the profile of the Big 12, has only two 4-stars among its 15 verbals. No. 6 Kansas State has a mere six, all 2- and 3-stars.
The ACC has nearly the same benefit of geography as the SEC. No. 12 Florida State has 17 verbals, with eight 4-stars, and Virginia Tech has a promise from the nation's top cornerback, Kendall Fuller of Olney, Md.
Of course, signing day is 31⁄2 months away, and young minds can shift their allegiances. But the SEC clearly is also out front when the topic switches to current teams and players.
The polls are dominated by the SEC, with defending national champion Alabama on top, followed by conference rivals South Carolina (No. 3), Florida (No. 4), LSU (No. 9) and Georgia (No. 14). Four of the nation's 16 unbeaten teams are from the SEC, and the conference has won seven of the past nine national championships.
WVU quarterback and Heisman front-runner Geno Smith leads the nation in passing efficiency (202.4) and yards per game (399.2) and is second in completions per game (33.2). In fact, the Big 12 has six of the top 11 quarterbacks, a list that has just one Big East representative — No. 11 Tino Sunseri of Pitt (164.7).
But the SEC counters with three of the best pass rushers: Damontre Moore of Texas A&M (seven sacks), Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina (61⁄2) and Jarvis Jones of Georgia (51⁄2). In fact, defense may be what the SEC does best: Alabama is No. 1 (191.6 yards per game), and LSU is No. 3 (221).
At least one Big 12 team has shown it can play defense. Texas Tech is No. 2 in yards allowed (210) — for now. WVU visits Lubbock on Saturday.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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