SEC is still top dog, but the Pac-12 is the best of the rest
By DAVID ROBERTS
College Contributor Network
There are few certainties in life: death, taxes and the undeniable fact that the Southeastern Conference is overwhelmingly the best conference in football. You would be hard-pressed to find an argument that counters 49 selections in this year's draft -- best by any conference -- and seven of the last eight national championships.
The SEC is elite.
Assuming that anybody attempting to refute that claim is reading this while nestled comfortably under their Buckeyes blanket, still sporting their Maurice Clarett jersey, we can move forward and dissect the nation's second-best conference. (Spoiler alert: It's the Pac-12).
Six teams from the Pac-12 entered the 2014 season ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. That comes on the heels of a postseason that saw the conference send nine teams to bowl games, garnering a 6-3 record. Only the SEC-eight teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25-had more ranked teams to kick off the season. And, again, only the SEC had a better postseason bowl record-7-3-than the Pac-12.
Nobody puts up points like the Left Coast, and that's a fact. They've been doing it for years -- from Reggie Bush to DeAnthony Thomas to Andrew Luck. Nine Pac-12 teams reached the benchmark of 400 points last season, two of those teams being relatively new additions, in Colorado and Utah. The SEC was closest to matching the Pac-12's offensive output, finishing the season with seven teams above 400 points.
But gone are the days when one explosive player represents the entire conference. Now, it seems as though each team has a player that could reasonably land a Heisman trophy.
Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly and Sean Mannion have caught the eyes of rest of the country, traversing the country and tumbling onto America's television sets. Each of the four quarterbacks has two things in common: they have thrown for over 6,000 career yards at their respective school and they originally hail from the land west of the Mississippi River.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion figures to be a safe bet to beat former Beaver Derek Anderson's career passing yard mark of 11,249 after beginning the season with 10,436 yards.
The Sun Devils also have a pretty good signal caller in Kelly, who enters the 2014 season after back-to-back 3,000-seasons. Kelly's quarterback play is partially the reason Arizona State was able to go 10-4 last season, keeping the team in shootouts where the defense routinely allowed 20-plus points.
UCLA's Hundley capturing the Heisman trophy would surprise few people after he led the Bruins in passing and rushing a season ago. The junior from Chandler, Ariz. burst onto the scene his freshman year-the team's first year under the leadership of head coach Jim Mora Jr.-passing for 3,745 yards and leading UCLA to its first winning season since 2009.
David Roberts is a fourth-year English major at the University of South Carolina. He was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but relocated to the land below the Mason-Dixon line in grade school, citing earthquakes and Raiders fans as minor nuisances. David is a die-hard Cubs fan and still breaks down when thinking about the 2003 NLCS. Follow him on Twitter: @davidjayroberts