It has been a tough decade to be a college football fan rooting for a team located outside the South.
Between Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn and Florida State, they have won nine national championships in this century. That is an amazing accomplishment for a small region of the country and deserves to be memorialized and valued. The presumption it spawned–that the SEC (apart from Florida State) was so qualitatively superior to other conferences that the true quality of college football was exclusively located there—was shattered in the Bowl season, culminating in New Year’s Day.
Over and over again, national media pundits mythologized the SEC to the detriment of every other conference. The Big 10 was thrown on the trash heap of football history in assessment after assessment. To watch television and read commentary, one would think that the West Coast (with USC rebuilding) was irrelevant to any national discussion. After all, those games are on late at night (in the Eastern time zone) and Oregon only wins because they line up so quickly after every play.
They do play outstanding football in the South. It is the No. 1 choice for high school athletes in that region. They do send a disproportionate number of players to the pros. They have a football-friendly culture and great fans. A coach like Nick Saban at Alabama might be the best college football coach in history. But guess what, the rest of the country has caught up.
This year, it was not a computer that decided matchups. Nor was it coaches or media voters.
A committee did an excellent job of providing outstanding contests. It was arguably the best collective group of Bowl games in a long time. There was controversy about whether Ohio State deserved to be included. And then they played the games. Arkansas (SEC) beat up on a Texas team with a losing record. South Carolina (SEC) lost. Notre Dame beat LSU (SEC). TCU beat Ole Miss (SEC). Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State. (SEC). Two other SEC teams won, and then came New Year’s Day.
Big Ten Wisconsin beat Auburn. Pac-12 Oregon beat Florida State. Big 10 Michigan State beat Baylor. Theoretically, there was no way Ohio State would beat Alabama. They were a latecomer to Selection Committee recognition. They had a third-string quarterback starting in his second game. Saban, the best game-plan coach ever, had weeks to prepare for them.
And the rest is history.
It is a new day in college football. In head-to-head competition on the field, the SEC West was beaten decisively by teams from other conferences. The SEC will always be strong. It is well time to recognize the achievements of coaches and players from other conferences.