The SEC owns college football – and has owned it for seven years.
This is the popular narrative in the wake of Alabama’s brutal 42-14 beat down of the #1 ranked Fighting Irish in last night’s BCS Title Game.
So…what’s this have to do with the SEC?
Actually not a whole lot, beyond the obvious.
But if you spent even five minutes on Facebook or Twitter last night, you were probably informed otherwise.
Alabama’s dominance was clear to anyone with two eyes who sat in front of the television screen.
Their overall team speed was as good as advertised.
On the few occasions that Everett Golson tucked the ball and tried to run, Notre Dame fans saw something that they hadn’t seen against any team all year: he wasn’t able to escape. Alabama’s skill players ran laps around Notre Dame’s hapless secondary, forcing AJ McCarron to make exactly two difficult throws the entire game – both out routes which were easily completed.
Alabama controlled the game with size and strength. Notre Dame’s front seven, a group that many thought was the best in the nation, simply got manhandled. The Irish couldn’t even stop the rush after pulling an extra safety up into the box, and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o looked like he forgot how to tackle.
The Tide rolled from start to finish. The game was never in doubt, and Alabama deservedly hoisted their third trophy in four years.
I’ll ask again: what’s this have to do with the SEC?
Because apparently it has everything to do with the SEC.
Viewers of last night’s game actually watched as the crowd in Miami started chanting, “SEC! SEC! SEC!”
Notre Dame fans were accosted by Tigers, Gamecocks, Bulldogs, and Aggies.
The SEC was celebrated, the Irish were ridiculed, and the entire night turned into a celebration of an entire region of the country – no matter how much the different parts of that region allegedly hate each other.
This is what’s so odd about SEC fans. And being from the Midwest, I will probably never understand it.
Do Rivalries Even Matter in the SEC?
I am very well acquainted with a lot of Michigan and Ohio State fans. The South mocks their rivalry and claims that “nobody down here even realizes that y’all play each other.”
Maybe they’re right, but this is what I know: if Ohio State was to play Oregon in the National Championship next season, not a single Michigan fan would peruse the internet looking to troll Ducks fans because of the ensuing “Big Ten victory.”
In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Michigan fan would be pulling hard AGAINST the Buckeyes and might even buy an Oregon shirt for the night.
You see, in the Midwest, rivalries mean something. A Michigan fan could never pull himself to root for Ohio State – under any circumstances.
The idea that Buckeyes fans would start chanting, “Big Ten! Big Ten! Big Ten!” in the waning minutes of a title game is simply preposterous.
Last night should have been a celebration of Nick Saban – a coach who has pulled off the greatest achievement in the modern era of coaching.
At this point, giving Nick Saban a month to prepare for a game should be outlawed. Just last year, the Crimson Tide demolished a team that had just submitted the greatest regular season in the history of college football. Last season’s national championship was not much closer than this year’s.
The only difference is that this year we were greeted with agonized cries from SEC fans for a playoff because Notre Dame was “so overrated” and “didn’t belong.”
Maybe this all stems from 2004 – when Auburn actually went undefeated in the SEC and didn’t even get invited to play in the national championship.
If you will recall, the entire South raised a hissy fit (by the way, they were right in their assessment) that a team could win the SEC and finish outside of the Top 2. Ever since then, the SEC and its fans have had a chip on their shoulders. From that point on, SEC fans have felt that it was them against the world. They have crusaded, advocated, and postulated that simply being a member of the SEC automatically necessitates your respect.
In a way, being a member of the SEC has become a sort of liability insurance for its members – if you go through the season unscathed, there is no doubt you are the best team in the land…and if you are terrible, it’s simply because you belong to the SEC.
As a friend of mine so aptly put it: “The very idea of Florida or Auburn winning a national championship should make a Georgia fan break out in hives…but typically, he doesn’t see it that way.”
The Problems With SEC Over-Pride
The problem with this entire philosophy is two-fold.
First of all, there is no need to fight for respect any longer.
I don’t know a single college football fan who would argue against the SEC being the best conference in the nation. The SEC is given so much respect that a team that didn’t even play in its own conference championship game last season easily marched into the National Championship games.
At this point, SEC fans fighting for respect are akin to Michael Jordan feeling slighted about the Leroy Smith incident. It may make a person feel better, but it is completely unnecessary and childish.
The second problem is that if you take out Alabama, the SEC simply isn’t that dominant. It’s not just that Alabama has won three of the four national championships for the SEC, but that the rest of the SEC simply hasn’t performed that well against non-conference opponents. If you take out Alabama, the SEC is a surprisingly mediocre 14-12 in bowl games since 2010. The most dominant conference in college football is barely above .500.
Just this year, the SEC went 4-3 in Bowl games, with losses to Northwestern, Clemson, and Louisville – all members of conferences that SEC fans mock. It might be even more fair to classify them as 3-3, since Texas A&M is still practically a Big 12 team, having just entered the SEC this season.
Two other wins came against a 6-7 Pitt team and a last second victory over Michigan – a team whose offense was completely manhandled by Alabama earlier this season.
The Georgia Bulldogs handily beat Nebraska, and from the looks of it, are probably the second best team in the country.
But what about Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky, and Missouri? SEC fans would have you believe that those teams would win the Big Ten outright…but that’s simply untrue.
Alabama is a dynasty. Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. Alabama fans should celebrate and enjoy their victory.
But Tigers, Bulldogs, Volunteers, and Gamecocks fans should probably look inside themselves. Why are you so happy? If cheering vicariously through your rival really makes you feel that much better and more vindicated, more power to you. But stop pretending like your rivalries actually mean something.
Stop fooling yourselves. The rest of the country isn’t jealous of you. We’re just sick of the hypocrisy.