Facts are facts. And the fact is that based on rankings, reputation and expectations, the SEC did not have a good bowl season.
Yes, the SEC won seven bowl games, which ties the conference’s NCAA record. But the 2-5 record of the SEC West, which included losses by No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Mississippi State and No. 9 Ole Miss is a fact.
With four teams (Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama) in the top six of the first College Football Playoff rankings, the SEC West was being hailed as the best division in college football this season and maybe the best ever.
Based on the way the season played out, it was not. That’s a fact. It can’t be debated.
What can be debated, however, are the conclusions that people are drawing.
My good friend Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes that this bowl season marks the end of the SEC’s reign as the dominant conference in college football. http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/dennis-dodd/24935270/end-of-an-era-looks-like-cfp-does-what-bcs-couldnt-end-sec-dominance
I’ve heard others say the SEC’s perceived dominance (seven of eight national championships between 2006 and 2013) was never real. It was simply the product of a media machine that intentionally overhyped the SEC to the exclusion of others. That hype made sure the conference got the benefit of the doubt when it came time to pick the teams in the BCS Championship game. Apparently those 200 voters in the Coaches and Harris polls were in on the conspiracy as well.
I’ve heard still others who are convinced that the absence of an SEC team in the national championship game is “good” for college football. They believe that SEC fatigue was real. In their minds the SEC was always overrated and last week’s results only prove that.
Ohio State dominated Alabama on Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes earned their way into Monday night’s national championship game with Oregon. It was the best coaching job I’ve ever seen Urban Meyer do and I’ve seen a lot of his games.
And if the standard for defining dominance moving forward is going to be wining seven out of eight national championships, then the SEC’s dominance “is” over. Since teams now have to win two games instead of one to hold up the trophy, then the basic math tells you that no conference will ever be that dominant again. That’s only logical.
But if you think that a tough stretch of bowl games over three days signals the end of the SEC as we have known it, then you haven’t been paying attention or you’re engaging in wishful thinking.
Nick Saban and Alabama aren’t going away. Auburn will fix its defense under Will Muschamp and again be a force. Texas A&M found their defensive coordinator in John Chavis. Nobody wants to play Arkansas right now. That great Ole Miss recruiting class of 2013 becomes juniors next season. If Dak Prescott comes back as expected Mississippi State will be a factor again. The much-maligned SEC East went 5-0 in bowl games.
Signing day is still a month away but right now three of the top five (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee) and seven of the top 14 schools in the 247Sports recruiting rankings are from the SEC. I’m not big on recruiting rankings but that has to mean something.
In the foreseeable future there are going to be four teams each year in the college football playoffs. Given the quality of the programs, the high level of coaching and the financial and recruiting resources the teams enjoy, is it not reasonable to believe that the SEC champion will be in playoff contention, indeed title contention, almost every year?