The Southeastern Conference: Sole Survivors Yet Again
They are the ones who benefit from chaos. They are the ones who always somehow stay in the hunt. And they are always the last ones standing. For seven seasons now, the SEC has sent a team to college football‘s national championship game. The last six seasons the SEC has come out of that game with the title, and last year’s title game was an all-SEC affair. This year isn’t much of a change with an SEC powerhouse taking on the newest team to try and stop this college football juggernaut.
This year it is the Alabama Crimson Tide who came out of the SEC with the conference and a spot in the title game. But let it be known that the Georgia Bulldogs were right next to the Crimson Tide in the polls at the end of the regular season and were just seconds from winning the SEC themselves. The Bulldogs did prove that they belonged in a game with a team that was deemed above them. That game also had one of the best halves of college football all season.
Then you have the Florida Gators. Their only stumble this year was in Jacksonville against the Bulldogs in a very close, defense-based game. The Gators dominated the LSU Tigers and Florida St. Seminoles in major regular season games. They had a little luck against the UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, but otherwise were a consistent team on offense while playing a physical and productive kind of defense that is befitting for the SEC. They have ended up in the Sugar Bowl as a BCS at-large team.
Then there are the two teams from the SEC that had good BCS credentials, but because of the two-team rule had no chance of getting that at-large spot: the Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks had numerous injury problems on offense with quarterback Connor Shaw missing a few games and running back Marcus Lattimore’s season ending early for the second year in a row thanks to a gruesome knee injury again. The Gamecocks still went 10-2 and put on particularly great defensive performances against the Bulldogs and later against Tajh Boyd & the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers also went 10-2, and their offensive issue throughout the year was quarterback Zach Mettenberger never fully getting into high gear, though he finally did late in the season.
And of course, there’s the Texas A&M Aggies. In their first year in the SEC, not much was expected out of them. Enter Johnny Manziel, or “Johnny Football” as he is now known to the country. Just a freshman, Manziel took the offensive approach that is more typical in the Big 12, brought it to the SEC, and ended up being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. His numbers were huge, but the one really big game against a really big team that Manziel had this season was handing the Crimson Tide their only loss of the season. The Aggies finished 10-2 and will be playing in the Cotton Bowl.
And there you have it: six out of the 14 teams finished with ten or more wins and all six are in the current BCS top ten. This is the best conference in college football. Period. End of story. End of discussion. End of debate. Some may whine about favoritism with the rankings, and that may be true. However, you simply can’t deny the fact that this conference produces quality football teams practically in the old-school mold. And they win year after year after year. It’s a slap in the face to people who want to believe that defense and rushing are dead in college football, and I like that.
But the SEC’s continued success is further proof of a simple reality in college football that few people want to accept: it’s not about if you lose, but when you lose. Even if you lose during the season and it’s not too bad of a loss against a good enough team, you’re not out of the title hunt. Three of the SEC’s six straight national champions have had at least one loss. Why they were able to stay in the national title hunt is simple: they lost before the stuff hit the fan. If you look through these last seven seasons you will see the SEC’s best only lose early in the season or early in November. The rest of those in the title hunt each year tend to lose late in November, on Thanksgiving weekend, or on Championship Week. In other words, these teams tend to lose in any of the final three weeks of the season, a time when the SEC team or teams still in the title hunt are back to winning every week.
It’s about consistency more than anything else for the SEC. They are consistent in how many wins the top teams accumulate and consistent with when they lose if they lose at all.