| FTBL 247 Sports -- 9 reasons why the SEC is college football's best in 2019


If you listen closely, you can already hear the battle cries emanating from college cities around the South.

Or maybe that's Paul Finebaum yammering about Alabama and Georgia's reign in each respective division entering the 2019 season.

Will the SEC ever not lead the summer discussion as the kings of college football?

Clemson's rapid rise to prominence has shifted some of the focus away from Nick Saban's shiny dynasty and the monster building in Athens, but the road to the College Football Playoff and national title buzz still goes through the Mason-Dixon every fall and that's not changing as long as SEC signs premiere talent annually.

Here are nine reasons why the SEC deserves the title of 'college football's best league' this fall:

Prior to Urban Meyer's retirement at Ohio State, the Big Ten had an argument for college football's top dogs in coaching, but heading into the 2019 season, it's hard to question the SEC's wealth on the sideline. Only five active head coaches have won national championships and two of them currently lead SEC programs, including Nick Saban, who is one title away from most all-time. According to USA Today, there were 15 Saban disciples working as NFL or FBS head coaches last season, which speaks to his eye for quality instruction. Texas A&M invested $75 million into Jimbo Fisher over the next decade while Georgia got rid of Mark Richt in favor of Kirby Smart because 10 wins a year wasn't good enough. This league demands excellence at the highest level.

The NFL is extremely thankful for the SEC. The league produced a record-setting 64 draft picks in April, eclipsing its own previous high. For the 13th consecutive year, SEC led college football in total selections with nine coming in the opening round. The nearest conference during the 2019 draft was the Big Ten with 40 picks. In terms of most selections by school, Alabama (10), Georgia (7), Texas A&M (7) and Auburn (6) were each included in the Top 7. Alabama's nation-leading 10 selections marked the third consecutive year that the Crimson Tide were college football's torch-bearers during draft week. Alabama’s 87 draftees over the last 11 years are the most by any program in college football in that span. LSU is second with 75 players drafted.

Six SEC teams finished inside the final Associated Press Top 25 rankings, all coming inside the Top 20. At any given time during the regular season, you'll often to five — sometimes six — schools nationally-ranked, a testament to the league's distribution of talent and quality of coaches. Four different programs have won national titles since the turn of the century and the league has produced five Heisman winners during that stretch. Everyone talks about the SEC's "meat-grinder" of a regular season and it's hard to argue that point when many of the nation's toughest schedules resides in the South. Week in and week out, trying to win in a line of scrimmage league like the SEC will make you pull your hair out.

An area of increasing annual decline, college football programs have hit an attendance crossroads nationally, but those ramifications haven't caused SEC programs to hit the panic button just yet. Judging by average percentage of capacity numbers during the 2018 season, four SEC programs exceeded 97 percent or better — the most in college football within a Power 5 Conference. And they show up for spring scrimmages, too. Sure, it's subjective, but read any tailgating list and SEC schools are everywhere. Saturdays are a party in the South and the level of passion within the SEC at the bluebloods is felt like no other.

SEC schools make up seven of the nation's 12 most valuable football programs in 2019, led by Alabama's estimated giant topping $1 billion. That figure includes $140 million in revenue, second only to Texas. The league pay its coaches handsomely, features several of the nation's annual attendance leaders and benefits from television deals that led to an average of $43.7 million being distributed to 13 member schools that received full shares during the 2018 fiscal (Ole Miss only received a partial share due to the NCAA bowl ban). This is one area however where the Big Ten closed the gap in each of the past three years and finally passed the SEC in 2018, according to revenue numbers. The introduction of the College Football Playoff pushed the SEC from superpower to supernova financially and expanded TV rights were an immediate home run for the Big Ten.


In terms of facilities, the SEC laps the competition at the top with eight schools ranked inside the Top 15 of our most recent list. Even the lesser-known programs from a national standpoint are sparing no expense when it comes to creating lavish training environments for players. South Carolina opened its 110,000-square foot, $50 million Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center earlier this year as the new front porch for Gamecocks Football. The main entrance opens into a two-story lobby with a 20-foot high "Block C" logo, interactive video board and other state-of-the-art features.
Kentucky might be considered a basketball school, but the Wildcats’ $45 million upgrade to its football training facility in 2016 totaled 100,000 square feet and proves the administration believed in Mark Stoops and his steps toward the future. It paid off in 2018 as the Wildcats won nine games and earned a New Year's Day bowl berth — and then beat Penn State. Every player’s locker is ventilated and features a cell phone charger, lock box and cup holders. For a cool price tag of $120 million, renovated Commonwealth Stadium saw its first fans in 2017 and initial reviews have been extremely positive.

Depending on your facilities preference, the Top 3 programs nationally are interchangeable, beginning with Texas A&M. The Aggies' football-only cathedral represents the very best of the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC. Texas A&M's recently-renovated Bright Football Complex located in the south end zone at Kyle Field is nothing short of spectacular. Debuting in 2014, the $20.8 million renovation is one of college football's most lavish palaces.
Take Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson's word for it after he visited College State prior to a bowl matchup with the Aggies.
"I didn't know if I was at a football facility or a five-star resort," said.

Location certainly ties into recruiting and most SEC programs are smack dab in the middle of talent hotbeds. Ranking the most elite talent-producing football states nationally for the 2019 cycle, the SEC has teams in six of the Top 10. Georgia is a considerably smaller than prospect-rich states Florida, Texas and California — both geographically and population-wise — yet produced near the same number of Top 150 players (per the 247Sports Composite this cycle).
And if you want to hyper-localize based on region, Florida's IMG Academy (Bradenton) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) are two of the nation's most respected in the Sunshine State, known for operating football factories annually. In the 2019 cycle alone, IMG Academy produced 10 of the Florida's Top 50 prospects in the 247Sports Composite — 1/5 of the premiere-level talent down south. Orlando, Lakeland, Jacksonville and Miami are other high-volume areas for premium players where the SEC footprint is quite large.

Our own investigative 5-year study earlier this spring revealed the SEC's vice grip on the rest of college football when it comes to player development, notably turning top-level prospects into eventual NFL draft picks. Per 247Sports national analyst Chris Hummer, seven of the nine available national championships since 2010 have been claimed by teams within the top four of 247Sports’ Development Rating. Alabama, which dominates five-star development, sits at No. 2, while Clemson and Ohio State follow at third and fourth. The big surprise? Florida is No. 1. In all five of the nation's Top 10 talent developers reside in the SEC including LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Recruiting is the lifeblood at any college football program and no league owns the competition on the trail better than the SEC. Alabama signed the nation's top-ranked class for the eighth time in nine years in February and guess which school had the other top class? Georgia. In the 2019 cycle, the SEC produced 11 of the country's Top 25 classes, per the 247Sports Composite. The league landed 20 247Sports Composite five-star prospects collectively and ran away from surrounding conferences in terms of sheer four-star signees. The SEC devotes more time and money to recruiting than any other Power 5 nationally as a whole and rarely lets the elite programs from rival league encroach on its fertile recruiting grounds.

So why all the confusion about when dynasties are over? When in doubt, take 5 minutes out of your busy schedule and read why certain teams and conferences are so dominating. Until these criteria change, consider SEC/Alabama football business as usual.
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