To properly determine if there is such a thing, the first thing to do is to define what is meant by “bias.” In this case, bias shown towards teams in the Southeastern Conference would manifest itself in the form of ranking teams from the SEC too high with no solid reasoning. Therefore, I started by looking at the preseason rankings. Of course, preseason rankings are dependent on performance in the previous season. If a team finishes one season ranked, unless they lose key players or a lot of starters, they can reasonably expect to end up ranked around where they finish the previous season. So I went back and looked at preseason rankings compared to final rankings, and in every single season since 2007, the SEC has had more teams ranked at the beginning of the season than at the end of the season, suggesting that voters continue to think SEC teams are better than they end up turning out. What’s more is that since 2007, in every season but 2012, the SEC has had more teams ranked in the preseason poll than they did in the final poll of the previous season.
Now anyone would be silly to try and argue with the statement that over the past ten years, the SEC has been the best conference in college football. But even the best conferences can still be overrated. Before the eight year run of dominance the SEC had, the previous seven seasons before that (1999-2005), they only had a team in the title game once. Now looking back at the graph, the overall shape can be deceiving. Although there is a definite peak in 2010, in pretty much every single season, between two and four ranked SEC team won bowl games and between two and four ranked SEC teams lost bowl games. All that changed was the margin of victory. In essence, SEC teams were performing just as well for all eight years. What does change, however, is the rank differential.
So, the evidence does seem to suggest that SEC teams get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rankings, and that voters are slightly biased towards what has been the most dominant conference in college football over the past decade. It’s hard to blame them. Ultimately, in a sport where the number of intraconference games greatly outweighs the number of interconference games each season, it is very hard to truly judge just how good a team is.