Just to give you an idea of how competitive the SEC was last year, I took a look at a stat that Steele tracks in his conference summaries – net yards per game in conference play. As you can guess, typically there’s a correlation between conference records and that statistic in that teams with winning records tend to have positive net yardage numbers (although Tennessee proved the exception to that in ’07, finishing tied for first in the East despite having the fourth worst mark in net ypg).
And as a general rule of thumb, every conference has an elite team or teams that will exceed +100 net ypg (the ’05 Southern Cal team was an incredible +274.5 in net conference ypg) and bad teams that do worse than -100 ypg.
How general a rule is it? Well, Steele tracks the stat for every BCS conference in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The only exception to the rule in that period was last year’s SEC, where the best mark was turned in by national champ LSU (+81.0 net ypg) and the worst number was turned in by 8-5 Mississippi State (-73.4 net ypg).
Georgia, which went 6-2 in the SEC last year and finished #2 in the AP, was fifth in conference net ypg. That’s competitive.