SEC still king of the hill and will again figure prominently in national title race
It was once sacrilege to even consider such a scenario, but the haters are always gonna hate.
The SEC has been the most dominant college football conference in the land in recent years, producing seven consecutive BCS national champions from 2006-2012, a national runner-up in 2013 (Auburn) and one of the four teams (Alabama) in last year’s inaugural College Football Playoff.
And guess what? The SEC is again going to be in the mix for the national title again this year, despite all the premature calls of the conference’s slip from the top. In fact, the four-team playoff may include more than one SEC team.
The SEC’s dominion over the rest of college football had become so complete over the last decade that it had almost become a given that the road to the national title began and ended in places like Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge or Gainesville.
It had become the unquestioned home of most of the nation’s top players and coaches, and the gold standard by which everybody else was judged.
The conference’s unparalleled success and constant media attention quickly became the envy of the rest of the country, and the growing groundswell against the conference became readily apparent in recent years.
So when it appeared at the end of last season, and through the start of this one, that the conference was no longer the untouchable giant it once was, critics were quick to pounce and proclaim the SEC as overrated with its best days behind it.
It became a growing narrative, even if inaccurate.
There was even some wild talk earlier in the season about a scenario in which a two-loss SEC champion would be the odd-man out among the Power 5 conferences vying for a spot in the four-team playoff.
That discourse grew even louder following Alabama’s 43-37 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19 and highly touted Georgia’s stunning collapse with consecutive losses to the Crimson Tide and Tennessee.
However, the reality is that such surprises are par for the course for the rugged SEC, which often cannibalizes itself each week as conference play begins and the league’s bevy of talented teams face one another.
The league currently boasts five teams in the Associated Press Top 25, but had as many as 10 ranked teams earlier this season. Undefeated LSU (7-0) currently comes in at No. 4 to pace all SEC teams. Alabama (7-1), which might be playing as well as anybody in the nation right now, can be found a few spots down at No. 7.
The two SEC West giants will collide in a much-ballyhooed showdown in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7 for the right to head to Atlanta and play for the outright SEC Championship, and essentially an automatic berth in the playoff.
But recent events from elsewhere around the college football world means that whoever loses the Alabama/LSU game could ultimately join them there as well, assuming they bounce back and win out the rest of the way. Utah’s loss to USC last weekend might have ended any realistic chance the Pac-12 had of placing any team in the playoff, and there’s no guarantee an underachieving Ohio State team will get by either Michigan or Michigan State next month. Florida State’s shocking loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday further boosted the SEC’s chances of placing two teams in the field as well, especially if the Seminoles bounce back and win at Clemson on Nov. 7.
All that collectively means the SEC remains the undisputed king of the hill in college football.
And all the haters had best get over it.