If perception is reality, then the SEC is the strongest conference in college football.
That isn't merely a subjective observation. For proof, one needs to look no further than how each conference is faring in the bowl season daily lines. Then look at the chart below:
The chart shows the number of bowl games each conference is participating in and how many games it is a point-spread favorite in, which is also displayed as a percentage. (The BCS title game, which has two SEC participants, is counted twice in the number of bowl games for the SEC). It illustrates that the SEC is the clear leader among the betting public. It also indicates that the Big Ten is not perceived to be in anywhere near the same class as the SEC, as its 30 percent favorite rate ranks next to last.
At some level, this isn't a surprise given the Big Ten's recent bowl history. It hasn't won the Bowl Challenge Cup since 2002 and finished tied for last in win percentage among BCS qualifying conferences in the 2011 Bowl Challenge Cup.
But that line of thinking also shows why perception should not be equated to reality in every case. The Big Ten might have been much weaker than the SEC last season, but a closer look at a variety of areas shows why the Big Ten will win more bowl games this season than its more highly touted southern rival.