Debate: Is it better for SEC if Alabama loses once?
Facts are so annoying. Nothing destroys a narrative quicker.
The narrative is — and has been — that Alabama is holding up the SEC. Never mind that three other SEC teams have won national championships this decade. Or that another SEC team played for the national championship just three seasons ago. Or that just two ACC and Big 12 programs reached the championship game in the past decade, which is one more program than the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
No. In the SEC, it’s Alabama and the 13 dwarfs. That’s the noise.
Ignoring facts — for just a few minutes, anyway — we spent the week debating whether the SEC’s reputation would be better if somebody beat Alabama this season.
Answer: We all know the SEC is down this year compared to years past, and a team taking down Alabama wouldn’t look necessarily good. With conferences like the Big Ten and the ACC on the rise, it’s better for the SEC to have one dominant team than none at all.
While it’s down this year, there are better days ahead. Yes, Alabama will remain dominant as long as Nick Saban is there, but other teams with better quarterback play will help lead a conference resurgence in a few years.
However, the only way this Alabama team loses is if it beats itself.
— Jon Cooper, director of operations
Answer: Unless the SEC wants to become a one-trick pony, the answer is “yes.”
We’re three years removed from the “Kick Six” and Auburn’s BCS title game run. We’re five seasons removed from LSU’s last BCS title game appearance (a loss to Alabama) and seven years from the last time an SEC East team was a championship factor (Florida, back in the Urban Meyer days). That means Alabama is the only SEC team to factor into the college football playoffs so far.
Back then, the SEC was great because you didn’t know where it was going to come from — Florida? Alabama? LSU? Auburn? Is this the year Mark Richt’s Georgia team breaks through? — and that depth was what made it a great conference.
That perception is slowly changing and detractors are starting to treat it like it’s Alabama and a bunch of little brothers. Contrast that with the Big Ten, which has a national title in the playoff era with Ohio State and a second participant in Michigan State last year. There’s a realistic chance Michigan can be the third Big Ten school in as many years to get to the playoffs.
So the best thing that can happen to the SEC this year is for somebody — Texas A&M, maybe LSU — to knock off Alabama and join the national championship picture and carry the banner. And, to take that a step further, how about we have somebody from the East prove to be the equal of the best of the West (that ship might have sailed this year, thanks to Tennessee’s 0-2 run against Alabama and Texas A&M)? The other part of the SEC’s eroding reputation is the perception that it’s a one-division league.
— Gary Laney, LSU beat reporter
Answer: If the SEC cares about having another national champion, and we all know that it does, then no.
My eyes tell me two things: No. 1, Alabama is light years better than every other program in the conference; No. 2, the Crimson Tide are the only team capable of winning the College Football Playoff.
‘Bama and Texas A&M are the lone undefeated clubs left in the league, and that will change Saturday since they face each other. We’ve heard what Las Vegas thinks. Oddsmakers have made the Tide a 16.5-point favorite. The Aggies are pleasant surprises, but they’re not ready for this.
While at least one loss for Alabama — be it A&M another foe — makes the divisional race more interesting, it simply delays the inevitable. Nick Saban and Co. are just on a different level than the rest.
Truthfully, I think the question is a moot point. This version of the Crimson Tide can only beat itself.
— John Crist, senior writer
Answer: People knock LeBron James, too. That’s what happens when you’re the King. Everybody breaks out the binoculars, looking for a scratch on the crown.
If the SEC were going 6-6 in bowl games, I’d be a bit more concerned. Clearly it’s not.
Fact is, Alabama is the best team in the SEC, just like it would be the best team in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12.
Michigan State is not getting to the playoff last year if it has to go through Alabama in a conference title game. Neither is Clemson or Oklahoma.
So much of this is perception. Texas A&M is undefeated, ranked No. 6 in the country. It’s an 18.5-point underdog this weekend at Alabama. Do you really think the Aggies would even be a double-digit underdog at Ohio State? At Michigan? At Nebraska?
Texas A&M would win the Big 12 or Pac-12. It’s more explosive than anything in the Big Ten — Michigan scored, what? 14 points against the only ranked team it has faced this season. And the Wolverines won’t face another ranked team until the finale against Ohio State. Nebraska’s signature victory as a three-point home win over a team that’s now 2-4.
Sorry if I’m not a B1G believer. Facts. They sure are pesky.
This is about Alabama, not the SEC. The SEC is fine — just as eight teams in the Top 25 would imply.
Alabama would be doing the exact same thing in every other conference in America, probably in even more dominant fashion.
It would be more interesting if A&M, LSU or Auburn knocked off Alabama, but that wouldn’t change opinions about the SEC.
Instead, the outside narrative would become: Alabama wasn’t as good as we thought.
— Chris Wright, executive editor
Chris Wright is Executive Editor at SaturdayDownSouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @FilmRoomEditor.