The BCS has now been in existence for 15 seasons. In those 15 seasons the SEC has claimed nine BCS championships, including the last seven. The dominance over the college football landscape by the SEC during the last several years is something never before seen in college football.
This past season Alabama suffered one blemish on their season, a loss to fellow SEC school Texas A&M. They captured the SEC championship with a win over Georgia and then went on to face Notre Dame in the BCS Championship. The game was hyped for a month. You could find people that thought Notre Dame had no chance and people that thought the SEC was overrated. Unless you’re living on an island with Manti Te’o's ex girlfriend, you know that Notre Dame absolutely was in over their heads. Alabama dominated from the outset, and embarrassed Notre Dame 42-14.
And yet this isn’t even the best example of SEC domination in recent years.
Now there’s a good chance if you’re reading this that you’re a Tennessee Volunteers fan, of course there’s an equally good chance you’re not, but before I go any further please indulge me. Since this is a Tennessee site, I need to mention, for my fellow Vols, that Tennessee won the inaugural BCS championship. I only mention that because my next, and best, example of the SEC’s takeover of college football involves another Alabama championship. Maybe this will be a little easier to read now, with that on your mind.
The 2011 season is the definitive example of the SEC’s rise to the top of the college football landscape. Alabama lost one game in 2011, a 9-6 OT loss to LSU. The Tigers, on the other hand, went undefeated during the regular season, and won the SEC west, via their win over Alabama, and played in the SEC championship game. Now had LSU lost to Georgia in the SEC championship, it’s very possible that they would’ve been held out of the championship game in favor of Oklahoma State. But as it was LSU easily defeated Georgia and set up a rematch in the BCS title game against Alabama. Prior to the SEC title game it was a given that Alabama would be playing in the championship, even though they weren’t in the conference championship. They basically benefited from an early season loss.
There is no other conference outside of the SEC, in which you could lose a game in November, miss your conference championship, and be all but guaranteed a spot in the national championship .
So with LSU beating Georgia, it set up, for the first time in the BCS era, a conference matchup in the championship game. Alabama of course won the rematch, and claimed their second title in three years, while being on their way to a third this year. There really was no way around the rematch, in fact even if LSU had lost to Georgia, you could argue that they still belonged in the championship game.
Oklahoma State would’ve been the next logical option but they had lost to an unranked Iowa State team. The next choice, Stanford, had a “better loss” on their resume, to the 6th ranked Oregon Ducks, but they had failed to win the PAC-12. Oh, and the team that won the PAC-12, Oregon? Well they had two losses, one of them to LSU.
It’s a good thing a playoff system is coming, it gets confusing quick.
My point is the fact that Alabama and LSU didn’t necessarily have to win a game the first weekend in December, to lock down their spots in the championship game. It’s almost absurd. Yes they were both deserving teams, but it definitely removes the drama from the equation.
If you’re outside of the SEC, you’re almost starting the season off with one loss. Coming through the SEC with one loss is like Oregon coming out of the PAC-12 undefeated, chances are it’s going to get you to the championship game. If you’re a coach it’s hard to explain to your team that they aren’t getting respected because they lost one game, and they play in the PAC-12. It’s not the SEC’s fault that the level of play is so high in the conference. It’s also not the SEC’s fault that they get more respect, in a way they deserve it, but on the other hand every school deserves a shot.
It hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t that long ago that an undefeated SEC team was shut out of the BCS championship game. In 2004 Auburn went undefeated, but so did USC and Oklahoma. Sure, folks thought it was a shame that Auburn didn’t get a chance, but no one seemed to argue that USC and Oklahoma were the two easy choices that year. USC destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and Auburn edged Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn did everything they were asked to do, they went 13-0, and they got a bowl win, that’s all. No shot at USC, no chance to play for the championship. Just an unblemished record and a Sugar Bowl trophy (not that winning the Sugar Bowl isn’t a big accomplishment, it is, but they deserved a chance)
That seems like years ago now, because all you hear is the bias towards the SEC. It’s hard to call it a bias, when they consistently back it up, but yes it can be unfair to other teams.
The dominance of the SEC doesn’t show any signs of letting up. The conference has 11 teams ranked in the top 25 in 2013 recruiting according to 247Sports. Every team in the SEC is ranked in the top 40.
SEC football is a way of life, it always has been. This isn’t anything new. Chances are when you go on a vacation, you can remember the SEC fans you meet. You know pretty quickly if they’re Alabama fans, Tennessee fans, Georgia fans etc. In the SEC it’s how you’re defined. If you live in Knoxville, you’re not a banker that’s a Tennessee fan, no you’re a Tennessee fan that’s a banker. The same goes in Tuscaloosa, Athens and Gainsville.
Like I said this isn’t anything new, it’s always been this way, the SEC has always recruited well, there’s always been tremendous pride for these schools. The truth is these things can change quickly. Had Ohio State not been on probation, they could have easily been playing Alabama for the title. If Notre Dame would’ve lost that game to Pittsburgh, then Oregon would’ve been right there, and who knows what the outcome would’ve been.
These trends go in cycles. There’s a number of teams outside of the SEC that can be considered threats next season. Ohio State being the main one.
The SEC’s run of championships isn’t bad for college football. The only thing bad for college football is the soon to be defunct BCS. That’s what the problem has been all along, and we’ve all known it for quite sometime. With a playoff system it won’t be out of a team’s hands anymore. It will give us an answer to those countless “what if” arguments that are made every Saturday night in living rooms, bars, and backyards.
Unfortunately it’s something that should’ve happened a long time ago.
Better late then never I suppose.
Follow along on Twitter @allfortennessee @captainzach1