The SEC Championship football game is played annually in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Photo: File
Photo: File

Leadoff: Ten SEC teams in nation’s top 20? FPI says so.

SEC fans can cite this as evidence of the league’s top-to-bottom superiority. And SEC critics can cite it as evidence the league is hopelessly over-hyped. 

However you see it, ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI) rankings, released Thursday, are dominated to an extreme by SEC teams. 

The ACC claimed the No. 1 position via defending national champion Clemson, but the SEC took three of the top five positions, five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 20. 

FPI – a complex mathematical system designed to measure team strength – has Alabama No. 2, Georgia No. 3, LSU No. 4, Florida No. 8, Auburn No. 9, Texas A&M No. 11, Tennessee No. 15, Mississippi State No. 16, South Carolina No. 19 and Missouri No. 20.  (See full rankings here.)

Based on those rankings, ESPN Analytics’ Seth Walder writes that “the 10th-best SEC team (Missouri) is better than the second-best ACC team (No. 22 Florida State) and the second-best Big 12 team (No. 26 Texas).” 

About now, someone undoubtedly is pointing out that the second-best Big 12 team defeated the second-best SEC team in the Sugar Bowl about six weeks ago. 

Walder acknowledges that the preseason Associated Press and coaches’ polls won’t be as SEC-heavy as the FPI: “One problem the polls -- and humans in general -- have is that they fail to divorce themselves from win-loss records. That's a problem when judging conferences, since the majority of every team's games are against other teams in its conference. That leads to guaranteed losses and the appearance that conferences are more similar than they actually are. Because FPI is judging teams' performances with their opponents' strength in mind, it has no problem believing that the SEC is that much better than everyone else.” 

Just don’t expect everyone else to buy it.

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> How many hot dogs, beers and terabytes of data were consumed in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday? Find out here.

> The Hawks’ John Collins will be on the big stage of the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte.  Read Chris Vivlamore’s story here.

> ICYMI: With the Braves’ pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training today, here are 10 key questions that collectively could make the difference between first place and fourth place in the NL East this season.

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