Is the SEC Dead? Not Hardly
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain
My Twitter feed was quite active Thursday night, just after the Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Fans of the Big 12, OU and those alike, as well as every other conference in America, reveled in the SEC’s behemoth program being cut down after winning three of the last four BCS Titles.
“I guess Bob Stoops was right – the SEC is overrated!!”
“(censored) that, you (censored) (censored)! Bow to the Big 12!”
OK, we got the point. No confirmation that the last tweet came from a Kansas Jayhawk. If it were, I think the author was just miffed that Charlie Weiss is still his coach.
Nevertheless, I get it, and I don’t blame them. No conference has taken it in the shorts more in the perception battle over the last few years than the Big 12. When time came to crow, their elation was heard loud and clear. Even my colleague here at ScoreBoard, Timm Matthews, relished the Alabama loss.
Bob Stoops said the SEC was overrated as a league last spring. No one enjoyed taking out the Tide as much as he.
To all, I say a very sincere, “good for you and congratulations.”
Then came Monday’s BCS Title Game. Would Auburn give the SEC eight consecutive national titles? They almost did. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and Florida State rallied in the final seconds to take the game and the title from the Rose Bowl, and my Twitter feed thus made Thursday look like a pop gun compared to the fireworks that Auburn’s (and the SEC’s) loss triggered.
I honestly think that every college football fan in America (other than those from Florida State) were more excited that the SEC LOST the game, rather than being happy for the Seminoles’ win. Heck, even ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote a column celebrating the SEC’s streak ending. What? A media member taking sides? What is this world coming to?
Seven years is a long time to hold pent-up frustration. Let it out; you deserve it and again, very understandable.
Even recently retired Mack Brown got into the act on Twitter: “What a great win for the ACC, Commissioner Swofford & FSU’s Jimbo Fisher breaking the SEC streak. We had a chance to do it in 09 just didn’t.”
Funny, I didn’t realize that Swofford lined up against SEC commish Mike Slive in the game. Once again, the focus was on the SEC streak instead of an FSU win.
Woo hoo! The king is dead! Surely this is the turning point in both reality and perception that the SEC is the best conference in the land, bar none.
With apologies to Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend.”
The SEC once again led all conferences in both bowl wins (7) and winning percentage (going 7-3). The final AP poll included seven SEC teams in the top 25 (most of any conference), including four programs in the top seven. And, truth be told, had the four-game playoff stated this season, the SEC would have had half of the participants (Auburn and Bama).
Yes, I know Auburn and Bama lost their respective bowl games. But the BCS Championship was a true toss-up that was decided at the wire and Bama (with all due respect and credit to OU for their win) simply did not look like they really cared (who could blame the Tide after going to the championship in three of the last four years?). Add in the extra motivation that OU was playing with (think they were tired of hearing they had no shot?), combined with excellent quarterback play, and you have the makings of a Sooners victory.
But that’s all in the past now. Looking forward, what can we expect? Has the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC caught up?
Look no further than recruiting to answer that question. It is the life-blood of every program and a true glimpse into the future.
According to ESPN, SEC schools make up seven of the top 10 recruiting classes scheduled to sign in about a month, including the top three (Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee). However, Florida State comes in at No. 4, with Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) also in the top 10. And Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, Clemson, Baylor, OU, Penn State and Oklahoma State are all in the top 25 recruiting classes for 2014. But truly the best of the best talent is still headed to the Southeastern Conference.
The good news is that teams like Florida State, OU, Clemson, UCLA, Stanford, Ohio State and others, even Texas and USC, will always be hanging around for their shot. It’s just that there will always be three or four SEC teams doing so as well.
Bottom line – the SEC isn’t going anywhere soon. It’s still the king and should remain so for a while. But the gap is not the Grand Canyon. Think of it more as a moat surrounding a castle. Hopefully the rest of the teams and conferences have the 2014 success of Florida State and Oklahoma and not Inspector Clouseau.
Former Stars General Manager Bob Gainey had a saying, “You can’t walk through the door to a championship unless you actually get to the door and knock on it first. Our goal is to knock on that door every year.”
So, live it up – celebrate those Sugar Bowl and BCS Championship Bowl wins; they truly are well deserved. But keep your ears open for that knock at the door. That’s not Dominos delivering pizza to the party.