An SEC vs. Big Ten historical comparison (with charts)

LSU & Alabama have been on a different plane the last 5 years. - Getty Images

I like spreadsheets and one that I've updated for quite a few years is of the NFL Draft. All the recent talk of the SEC dominance made me wonder how the B1G of today compares vs. that of 20-30 years ago. One unbiased judge is how the players from each of the leagues have been drafted over time. The chart below weighs every player drafted each year. The first pick is worth 250, the second 249, and so on until you get to the 250th pick, which is worth 1 point. This makes all years' weight the same as the draft has had different number of players over the years. I then added up the points by conference and divided by the number of teams. This is what I got since the AFL-NFL merger:

As you can see, the SEC and B1G for 2012 (2013 draft) had a huge disparity and the situation looks dire as the B1G was the lowest rated of all 6 power conferences. Meanwhile, the SEC is climbing to heights never seen before. It looks alarming, but take a look at 1988 and 1993. If you looked at those years, you'd might be just as concerned and the league rebounded (with the help of Penn State).

On the other hand, the SEC is trending higher than we've ever seen and I thought I'd break both leagues down by team to see if I could see a trend.

Note the 2009 number from Florida and Coach Urban Meyer. That draft class is ranked #12 since the merger.

Here's the B1G:

The Ohio State players drafted in 2003 and 2005 are the ranked #1 and #5 overall since the AFL-NFL merger.

I wasn't sure these charts were anything more than a pretty picture, so I made a spreadsheet that compares the 2 leagues in 5 year increments (93-97), (98-02), (03-07), (08-12):

I think this tells the tale and it proves the things we thought we knew.

Over the past two decades, the two leagues can be broken down into 3 tiers, and I put lines in the chart that divides the leagues.

As you can see, Ohio State has been the best over this time period, followed by the 5 top tier SEC schools. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan aren't as far behind as some media would have you believe, but they do need to improve.

The middle tier of the two leagues match up close.

The lowest tier shifts in the SEC's favor with Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota consistently having failed to produce NFL talent.

The biggest difference in the past 5 years for the B1G is likely because Ohio State and Michigan haven't been producing athletes like they did in the previous decades. I highlighted the numbers, but during the 2008-2012 time period, Ohio State put players into the NFL similar to Iowa/Illinois – which as an Ohio State fan you'd certainly have to find unacceptable. I personally think OSU's issue is a direct result of Jim Tressel letting Bill Conley go after the 2004 recruiting as he was a master at talent evaluation. As we all know (hope?), Urban Meyer now has this under control. On the flipside, as much as we like to tease Brady Hoke, he is addressing the situation at Michigan as well. Selfishly I don't want UM to get too good, but the Rich Rod years were embarrassing to everyone.

The biggest difference in the past five years for the SEC is two teams - Alabama and LSU. They have been pipelining athletes to the NFL far beyond what they've ever been able to do previously (neither had a draft rated in the top 100 until 2012). Every other team in the SEC is close to their historic averages, so that leads me to believe something is happening at those two programs. Coaching is certainly part of the answer, but there are other reasons that have been discussed on this site many times that everyone knows and probably aren't worth repeating ad infinitum.

I'm sure some will say this information is meaningless, but there does look to be a direct correlation between the NFL Draft and a spike in team wins. It is even more relevant when looking at conference strength. I think the numbers prove out that the B1G has been historically close to the SEC until the last 5 years when LSU and Alabama took recruiting to a new level. Ohio State and Michigan are answering the call, but so is the rest of the SEC, as seen by Kentucky's recent success in Ohio landing the kind of players that might have gone to Michigan State, Cincinnati, and others in past years. The question now becomes whether the rest of the B1G can/will step up.

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