Nick Saban is now a legend and Alabama is back to being its dynastic self. Both are piling up BCS crystal footballs like they’re auditioning for “Hoarders.” Yet there’s one thing Saban hasn’t done. There’s one thing Alabama hasn’t done.
That’s win back-to-back Southeastern Conference titles.
Think about it. Saban has won a BCS crown in four of his last eight seasons as a college coach. He and Alabama have now won back-to-back national titles. But they haven’t repeated as SEC champs during that run. No one has since Tennessee won the league in consecutive years in 1997 and 1998.
Again, think about that. It’s literally easier to win the BCS championship than it is the SEC championship.
If you need further proof of the SEC’s overall strength, here are exhibits A through H:
* In the last 25 drafts, NFL teams have selected more players from the SEC than any other league.
* The SEC has now won seven BCS titles in a row.
* The SEC has won nine of the 15 BCS titles handed out all-time. That’s 60% of all national crowns since 1998. (What if undefeated Auburn had gotten a BCS invite in 2004 rather than Southern Cal, a team that has since been stripped of its title?)
* The SEC is 9-1 in the BCS Championship Game and the only defeat came at the hands of another SEC foe (Alabama’s win over LSU last year). To beat an SEC team in the BCS title bout you have to invite another SEC team.
* The average margin of victory when an SEC team faces a team from another conference in the BCS title game is a whopping 14 points. And during the league’s 2006-2012 run, the average margin of victory when the SEC faces another league in the title game has been 17 points.
* In BCS title games the SEC has beaten the ACC, the Pac-12, the Big Ten twice, the Big XII three times, and an independent.
* In the BCS era the SEC has dominated not only the title game, but all bowl games. The SEC’s overall postseason winning percentage during that span is 59%. No other major conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, or Pac-12 — has a winning record for that period.
* On a hyper-local level, this website launched in 2008 and there has never been a day in this site’s history that an SEC program was not the defending national champion in football.
But what about the doubters?
On November 21st, CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote that the SEC “is overrated” in 2012. “It’s a Ponzi scheme, this 2012 SEC fraud, built upon layers of air. Georgia is great because it has beaten Florida. Florida is great because it has beaten Texas A&M. Texas A&M is great because it has beaten Alabama. And Alabama is great because it has beaten… um, who has Alabama beaten, anyway?”
Apparently that 42-14 win by Alabama over Notre Dame last night served as smelling salts for Doyel:
“… the rest of us should be quiet, if we’re inclined to question the SEC’s dominance. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s not scheduling or officiating. It’s not a conspiracy by the TV networks.
The gap between the SEC and everyone else isn’t getting ridiculous; it is ridiculous. The SEC is so clearly superior to the rest of college football that the SEC’s conference title game in Atlanta deserves to be one of the two national semifinals in 2014 when college football does away with the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban — and ushers in the four-team playoff.”
Doyel goes on to torch his November 21st column which really takes the ammo out of our gun as that’s what we’d planned to do today.
So let’s take aim at Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde instead. Just five days ago he wrote a piece headlined: “SEC’s vulnerability should give Notre Dame added confidence against Alabama.” After stating that everyone had heard the theory that the Fighting Irish couldn’t stand up to the battle-tested SEC team from Tuscaloosa, Forde took aim at the theory. “There’s just one problem with that theory: The SEC hasn’t been so superior this bowl season. After Florida’s flop in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night, the League of Extraordinary Football — and Extraordinary Arrogance — is a measly 3-3, with three bowl games left… This has not been the customary Southern muscle flex at bowl time.”
Forde was not alone in barking about the SEC’s 3-3 bowl record at that point, which is why we went back and showed everyone that the league had won about 60% of its postseason games over the last 15 years. That number doesn’t seem too dominant until you compare that mark to the records of other conferences in bowl games during that same span (as we have in the piece linked to above).
So now that the SEC has finished the bowl season at 6-3 with another BCS championship (with one of those defeats being a last-second loss by the SEC’s #6 team to the ACC’s #2 team), what’s Forde have to say?
“Notre Dame? Beat it. You can join Ohio State and any other cold-weather northern team in playing some lesser bowl, against some lesser opponent from outside the league where they pick their teeth with the splintered bones of Yankee intruders.
That would be the Southeastern Conference, which has won seven crystal footballs in a row and clearly is never going to lose again in a title game.
Alabama is in full-on dynasty mode, winning its third title in four years. Florida, LSU and Auburn have all contributed to the SEC’s crystal football haul as well.
(You fans of Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas? Shut your mouths. Your teams have contributed nothing to this historic run. Stop bragging on other teams’ work.)”
Well, at least Forde seems to realize that the SEC wasn’t really “vulnerable.”
As for his assertion that all the other schools in the league haven’t contributed to the SEC’s run, Saban said differently last night:
“We got here by five yards. Georgia was five yards from scoring (a last-second touchdown in the SEC Championship Game). It’s a pretty tough league we play in. We’re going to have to improve as a program to have the opportunity to play for a national championship again, because of the quality of our league.”
From one end of the SEC footprint to the other, the league’s teams pour millions upon millions of dollars into football, football recruiting, football coaches, football assistant coaches, etc, etc. Win, lose, or draw, the majority of SEC programs — even those that haven’t won a BCS crown since 2006 — have the talent and facilities to compete with anyone in America over a long period of time. And whether it was Georgia pushing Alabama in the SEC title game, LSU challenging them in Baton Rouge, or Texas A&M upsetting them at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide was indeed battle-tested by its SEC schedule.
You can say the same for every single one of the SEC’s recent national champions.
Alabama lost to LSU during the 2011 regular season. Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and Kentucky all played Auburn to within a touchdown in 2010. In 2009, Alabama needed a last-second field goal block against Tennessee and a five-point Iron Bowl win to secure its spot in the BCS title game. In 2008, Florida lost on its home field to Ole Miss, leading to Tim Tebow’s promise and an eventual BCS championship. The 2007 LSU team beat Florida by four, beat Auburn by six, beat Tennessee by seven, and lost to Kentucky and Arkansas… before coasting by Ohio State in the BCS title game. And going all the way back to 2006, Florida escaped Tennessee with a one-point win, topped LSU by a field goal, lost to Auburn, beat Georgia by a touchdown, beat Vanderbilt by six points, and edged past South Carolina by a point before torching Ohio State by 27 points in national championship game.
Forde needs to realize that winning between 50-60% of your bowl games is dominant when compared to the lack of postseason success for the other major conferences. He also needs to accept the fact that SEC teams are battle-tested when they arrive on college football’s ultimate stage and its programs like those he mocked that provide the battles.
Eventually, the Southeastern Conference will lose a BCS Championship Game. When that happens, writers and fans suffering from SEC fatigue will woof that the league has finally been exposed as some sort of fraud. That’s what happens whenever a dominant champ falls. But a single loss isn’t likely to signal the end of SEC dominance.
The programs in Mike Slive’s league have a talent advantage that looks to only get deeper as more people move from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt. They have a coaching advantage as SEC schools continue to throw big money at name coaches. (A year ago, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema said he didn’t want the Big Ten to be anything like the SEC… now he’s coaching at Arkansas.) SEC schools also have a money advantage as nine of the league’s athletic departments ranked among the top 19 schools nationally for athletic spending in 2011-12.
The thought of the SEC losing a BCS title game brings the movie “Ben Hur” to mind. “I tell you the day Rome falls there will be a shout of freedom such as the world has never heard,” Charlton Heston barks at Stephen Boyd. Yes, there will be shouting and rejoicing all over the sporting world when some team finally outduels an SEC squad in a title game. Scribes fed up with Slive’s dynasty will declare that the great king is finally dead. But talent, coaches, and money will render those claims moot.
In short, the SEC is everything it’s been made out to be — deep, talented, dominant, and battle-tested. Even the doubters got another dose of that reality last night in the form of a 42-14 syringe to the backside. So enjoy it, SEC fans.
And, yes, you all have a reason to smile today.