Recently released results from the Department of Duh (DOD) census, required each decade by Article 1 of the BCS Constitution, confirm there...

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Recently released results from the Department of Duh (DOD) census, required each decade by Article 1 of the BCS Constitution, confirm there to be five major college football conferences, five categorized as “non-Automatic Qualifiers” and the sensational, stand-alone Southeastern.

It is OK to rank BCS conferences any way you want this year, as long as the SEC is the Ferrari out front.

Here is my pecking order.

1. SEC

2. Big 12

3. Pac-10

4. Atlantic Coast

5. Big Ten

6. Big East

SEC media days in Alabama this summer reminded of Roman rulers and numerals, a decadent time when conquerors convened to brag and gorge.

Caesar-Commissioner Mike Slive stood up and addressed the masses.

“We are witness to one of the conference’s most successful competitive periods in its long and distinguished history, a period that someday may be called the SEC’s Golden Age,” Slive said.

And everyone ate grapes.

What’s to argue? The SEC has won four national titles since 2003, two each by Florida and Louisiana State.

The challenge for all other conferences is to not allow the SEC to consume every available airtime minute and advertising dollar.

No conference does a better job marketing itself than the SEC. Its coaches are the conference’s top salesmen as they pitch their league 365 days a year. When the league is on top, as it is now, it makes it easier to overlook the SEC’s less-than-challenging nonconference schedule.

The SEC theory: Win our league and there is nothing else you have to prove.

Occasionally, this philosophy can backfire. In 2004, when the SEC was not quite as good, Auburn was outraged when it finished undefeated but was edged out of the BCS title game by undefeated USC and Oklahoma.

Overlooked by some was Auburn’s nonconference schedule: Louisiana Monroe, Citadel and Louisiana Tech.

First-year Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was among the many who believed what he read about the gap between the SEC and the mortal conferences. Scott said he was surprised when he looked at the numbers.

“The perception seems to be off with the reality, from what I can tell,” Scott said.

The Pac-10, for example, is 10-7 against the SEC since 2000 and has a 9-2 record in BCS bowls. Last season, the Pac-10 was the only conference to go undefeated in bowls, 5-0, and boasts a winning record against every major conference.

Why wasn’t anyone talking about this?

The general perception prevails that the Pac-10 is USC and nine sad siblings.

The night before last week’s Pac-10 media day in Los Angeles, Scott took his coaches out to dinner and talked about ways to promote the conference.

Hours later, at media day, USC coach Pete Carroll said of the Pac-10: “I think it’s the best conference in the country.”

It was a good start, even if few in the room believed it.

Carroll’s point: USC has lost six regular-season games since 2003 and all were to Pac-10 opponents.

What is so tough about the SEC? In Carroll’s reign, he has defeated Auburn and Arkansas twice by the cumulative score of 167-48.

USC was ripped last year for its only loss at Oregon State, as if it was comparable to Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State.

Oregon State has gone 28-12 over the last three seasons.

“People ought to look into the reality before they really believe in that perception of our conference,” Beavers coach Mike Riley said. “Head-to-head, in bowl games, our league stands out pretty well.”

What the Pac-10 and other conferences can’t match is the depth of SEC’s passion bucket and its record on the big stage. Those five BCS national titles since 1998 do all the talking.

Rock-star SEC coaches include Florida’s Urban Meyer, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, LSU’s Les Miles and Alabama’s Nick Saban.

At a time when other sports are feeling the pain of a deep recession, the SEC reached a 15-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and CBS, a testament to the conference’s humongous earning potential.