AP research shows there's no such thing as 'SEC bias' in poll

It's mid-October, which means it's time for the World Series, NBA exhibitions, the opening of the NHL regular season, the start of playoff talk in the NFL -- and screams about "SEC bias."

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Nebraska coach Bo Pelini got in on the fun Monday, saying ESPN's collaboration with the SEC in the SEC Network is a bad thing for college football because ESPN just can't be neutral about the league.

The Associated Press, which has sponsored a weekly media poll since 1936, decided to look into the perceived bias in its poll with help from the research group STATS. The research was done into polls from 2009 through this season.

The findings show that fans screaming about "SEC bias" need to scream about something else.

The average rise in poll spots of ranked teams after beating a conference opponent from 2009-2013 showed that the SEC actually is fifth among the Power Five conferences at 1.5; the ACC led the way in that category, with an average rise of two spots after a conference win. The Big Ten was next at 1.9, followed by the Big 12 at 1.8 and the Pac-12 at 1.6. In this season's polls, the SEC is second in average rise after a conference win, at 2.8. The Big 12 is first at 3.1, with the Pac-12 at 2.3, the Big Ten at 1.7 and the ACC at 0.4.

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As for the average drop after losing to a league opponent, Pac-12 and SEC teams have suffered the most this season when losing conference games, with an average drop of 7.5 spots. ACC teams have dropped just 4.3 spots, with the Big Ten second at 5.5 and the Big 12 third at 7.0. Interestingly, the Pac-12 and SEC are considered the two strongest leagues this season, yet the average drop among their league teams is the highest.

In terms of average drop in the polls after suffering a conference loss from 2009-13, the SEC had the second-lowest drop, at 5.5 spots. Pac-12 schools dropped the least, at 5.3 spots. Big Ten and Big 12 teams both dropped an average of six spots, while ACC schools dropped 6.6 spots.

One thing to remember about polls: While fans certainly get riled up about them, they mean nothing when it comes to selecting the four teams for the College Football Playoff. That still won't stop the bleating. What is also means, though, is that every selection committee member will be in for a ton of hate-filled e-mail, tweets and Facebook posts when certain teams are left out of the four-team field in December.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.