Is SEC Dominance Over In College Football?
For the first time since the 1999-2000 bowl season, the Southeastern Conference lost both of its BCS games this year.
The last time that happened was when Alabama lost to Michigan, 35-34, in the Orange Bowl and Tennessee lost to Nebraska, 31-21, in the Fiesta Bowl. This year, Alabama lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl and Auburn fell to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.
Overall, the 2013 season was a low point for the SEC. Teams such as Florida, Georgia and LSU played below expectations, while others like Missouri, Auburn and South Carolina rose to the top.
With college football moving to a four-team playoff next season, can we ever expect another seven-year run of national titles by the SEC?
The State Of College Football
The SEC pits some of the best teams in the country against one another. Every week, they have to bring their "A" game to conference play or risk a loss.
The same cannot be said for most other conferences. While a team in the Big Ten like Ohio State did receive a challenge from Michigan and even lost to Michigan State in the conference title game this season, the fact remains that Illinois and Indiana usually do not put up much of a fight for the Buckeyes.
This past season, we watched Florida State run through its schedule easily, with Clemson presenting the only real challenge before the BCS National Championship Game. Though Duke finished as a Top 25 team and gave Texas A&M all it could handle in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the fact that Blue Devils represented the ACC's Coastal Division in the conference championship game says something about the ACC's overall depth.
With next season's four-team playoff format, the likelihood of two SEC teams being among those four playoff teams is slim to none, especially if there are teams from the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 with no losses or one loss. Conference champions likely will get the nod over a second-place team from another conference, thus hurting the SEC's chances of placing two teams in the mini-tournament.
However, there will be something to give SEC fans hope.
SEC schools are among the top recruiters in the country, generally ranking several teams in the Top 10 when it comes to landing premier players.
While winning national titles takes more than recruiting, having the top players in the country can go a long way. Just ask Nick Saban of Alabama.
Two years ago, Rivals.com ranked Alabama first, Florida third and Auburn 10th in recruiting classes. Except for Florida, we saw Alabama's and Auburn's impressive performance this season, although both came up short in their BCS games. Three years ago, Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Auburn were ranked No. 1, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 respectively, in recruiting classes according to Rivals.com. Those schools have since gone on to annually be in the national title hunt, with the exception of an off year by a few.
The bottom line: As long as SEC schools continue to recruit well, they can increase their standing.
There's no question that several SEC teams will compete for the national title every year, considering their ability to recruit, along with the toughness of the conference.
However, another seven-year run by the SEC like we saw near the end of the BCS era simply is unthinkable.
As we saw in this year's BCS title game, all it takes is one loss to dash a team's national title dreams. Next season, SEC teams will have to win the conference title game and a College Football Playoff semifinal before getting a chance to play for the national title.
It was a great ride for the SEC, but with the new playoff system — which will someday grow again — other conferences will get back in on the action as well.