Ask any college football fan to point on a map where the best college football is played and they’ll likely point to the Southeastern corner of the country. And they’d be right — if they have the Atlantic Coast Conference, not the Southeastern Conference, in mind.
Yes, the SEC is home to the last three national champions. But when it comes to the conference that produces the most first-round talent in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators, it’s the league most associated with college basketball — the ACC — that actually rules the football landscape.
This is one time where perception truly is deception.
Last year, the ACC produced more first-round selections (seven) than any other conference (the SEC had six). And to prove this isn’t strictly a numbers game, the 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Matt Ryan, came from Boston College, a proud ACC institution.
In fact, over the last three drafts, the ACC has more selections (25) in the first round than any other conference, including 12 in 2006. The SEC was second over that same span with 21 (11 in 2007).
The numbers could shift in the SEC’s favor a bit in 2009, with between six and eight players expected to go in the first round. The ACC should have as many as six. The No. 1 pick holds extra intrigue in this unofficial competition — the two favorites for the spot are Georgia QB Matthew Stafford from the SEC and Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry from the ACC.
However, the question remains: How does a conference that had six teams win 10 or more games in a single season since 2006 produce more NFL talent than a league that had 10 teams with 10 or more victories over the same span?
Believe it or not, the answer is the BCS. The millions of dollars of revenue have balanced the powers-that-be in college football. Universities know the rewards are there if they’re willing to spend the money.
And NFL teams know where to spend their first-round selections, too.
First-round picks by conference since 2006:
ACC — 25
SEC — 21
Big Ten — 18
Big 12 — 8
Big East — 4
Conference USA — 2
— Keenan Singleton