It’s always funny. Every year, it never fails.

Before the college football season, a few weeks in, a month or two, whenever … at some point, invariably, the talk will start to bubble to the surface about which conference is best, and how things are changing in the power structure on a national scope and blah, blah, blah.

Can we just stop it now?

Yes, the Pac-12 is potent, thanks to Oregon’s explosiveness and Southern Cal’s brand-name quality, and Oregon State is a stunning story so far – two games in. The ACC is awesome, if only for its ever-expanding and remarkable propensity to pilfer quality entities from the Big East.

But, people, c’mon, when we’re talking fall Saturdays and what circuit offers the highest level of competition, skill and ready-for-primetime performance, there is no doubt that the SEC does. Has for decades and will continue to do so.

It’s a culture. It’s a way of life. It’s just the way it is. Football, college football, at places like Tuscaloosa, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., Athens, Ga., Columbia, S.C., and Gainesville, Fla., is just different than anywhere else. Quite simply, it’s more serious. Interestingly enough, those locales also happen to inhabit five of the country’s top 11 teams in the latest poll – Alabama, Louisiana State, Georgia and South Carolina, in fact, occupy four of the first six slots.

The only reason that will change is because those squads all start to play each other now. The Gamecocks actually take on No. 5 Georgia, No. 3 LSU and No. 11 Florida in their next three games. They miss out on facing top-ranked ’Bama this fall, though.

Hmmmph, and you call that a tough schedule? …

Thing is, while it may get old for those outside the SEC’s regional parameters to hear about how great the outfit is, how it stands alone, the reality is, it does. The national champ has come from the conference the last six straight years, and seven of the last eight. ’Bama just beat LSU in a BCS title game a mere eight months ago in what served as much as the “real” SEC title game as anything else.

These are not fluke occurrences. Neither is the combined 0-3 mark for Big 12 refugees Mizzouri and Texas A&M in their first go-’round in the outfit.

Just a suggestion here, but maybe it might just be best to enjoy the upstarts that arise every season, the Cinderella stories that emerge or the solid, high-profile program that takes its proverbial “next step” every five to 10 years. Exceptions exist. Just not when it comes to which conference rules the land in college football.


Now, the funny thing about the SEC is that it doesn’t have any individual who stands above the crowd and screams, “Look at me, I’m the best player in the country.” On numbers alone, not a single one rates as the nation’s best, although’Bama QB AJ McCarron (819 yards, 10 TDs, 191.2 rating) and Georgia QB Aaron Murray (1,092, 10, 182.4) have been efficient. Fellow junior ’Dawg Jarvis Jones, a LB, is the “hot name” among defensive players, and he has 25 tackles and 4.5 sacks in three games played, missing one due to injury.

But, really, no one from the conference seems to have the inside track, or any track for that matter, to the game’s most recognized honor. The runaway leader at this point appears to be West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who has been lights out in each of his first three games of 2012, throwing for 1,072 yards, 12 TDs and no picks. Of course, none of his opposition fell under the SEC umbrella.

Keep an eye on Oregon State QB Sean Mannion and Florida State QB EJ Manuel, though. The former has sparked upset wins against back-to-back ranked foes to push the Beavers into the poll, and the latter merely posted the most impressive outing thus far on Saturday night in leading the Seminoles by fellow ACC power Clemson, 49-37. The senior, showing the skills that made him such a ballyhooed recruit coming out of high school four years ago, threw for 380 yards and ran for another 102, accounting for two scores and paving the way to five more.

No. 4 FSU looked so good under his direction, it looked like it could be a top-flight SEC team.