This was going to be the year. Football fans have had two months of elation and jubilation feeling like the citizens of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles when they received word a new sheriff was coming to save them. The SEC has collapsed and its myth-driven dominance of college football had finally come to a welcomed end. Tuesday evening arrived, the playoff rankings were released, and a fearful stunned silence surrounded the country. Ding dong the SEC isn't dead. For now, the fallacy marches on.
I am not an envious outsider nor a jealous troll. I do not debate the SEC myth because of the oath I made in a Baptist East delivery room 29 years ago to support Louisville Athletics for the rest of my life. I question the myth because of performance and fact.
The University of South Carolina was my home for a glorious four years before returning to Louisville for law school. I will always be a proud Gamecock supporter. The SEC is not a foreign concept. Knoxville, Gainesville, Oxford, Athens, Auburn, Tuscaloosa etc. are all places of familiarity. I spent four years surrounded by football crazed lunatics who pledged undying support to a school most had never attended. These are fan bases that avoid basketball like plague because many believe it was invented by communist China, and large portions of the supporters have never dared to venture north of the Mason-Dixon Line. They are great people who love their country and their teams, but football is life for them. Inside of their bubble, the SEC, and only the SEC, is football.
The SEC bias doesn't surprise me from its fans, but to think we live in an era where mass media agendas have infiltrated college athletics is troubling. The multi-billion dollar partnership between the SEC and ESPN, coupled with the creation/promotion of the SEC Network, has absolutely no impact on rankings, coverage, or perception.
If you believe that, I have some beach front property in Aleppo, Syria you can buy.
Alabama is a phenomenal football program in the midst of dynasty never before seen in college football. The Crimson Tide is not Jesus, Nick Saban isn't God, and no, the Bible wasn't written in Tuscaloosa. Does Alabama deserve the benefit of the doubt? Without question. Bama has won four of the last seven national championships, but the 13 other teams in the SEC have done nothing to earn the respect/drool constantly given.
In 2016, like clockwork for the last decade, the SEC has been given credit and benefitted from losing to one another while losses outside of the conference are wholeheartedly ignored.
LSU began the season 2-2, lost to Wisconsin on a neutral field, fired their coach, and then won three games in a row against two putrid teams and one average Ole Miss squad. Any other school's (outside of the SEC West) playoff dreams would be dashed, but here the Tigers sit as the 13th best team in the country with a chance to make the final four. Auburn has two home losses, including one against ACC frontrunner Clemson. However, a victory over LSU together with four wins against unranked programs qualifies them as the ninth best team in the country with a clear path to the playoff. Then there is fourth ranked Texas A&M. A team Louisville was clearly superior to with a then 18 year old Lamar Jackson last December. The Aggies have defeated one current top 25 team and their biggest claim to fame is losing by 19 on the road to Alabama. Lastly, we have the Florida Gators. The brightest spot on their resume is a 38 point win over Kentucky which has qualified them to be number 11.
Even though these are the first rankings of 2016, the committee has made their beliefs clear. The SEC is once again the variety candy bag from Costco containing Twix, Snickers, 100 Grand, Kit Kat, Reese's Cups, Milky Way, and Hershey's, while teams from the ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12 are to be considered Circus Peanuts.
The amount of avenues and paths provided to the SEC so that they can place two teams in the playoff is astounding and mirrors a Chutes and Ladders board game. Alabama would have to lose twice to not get in (not happening). Texas A&M is in if they win out and only have LSU left to play. LSU is in if they win out. Auburn is in if they win out. Florida is in if they win out. Like it or not, the odds are in favor of the SEC having two representatives in the College Football Playoff.
My only question is why?
The SEC East is an embarrassment to football. Tennessee is on the verge of firing another coach and has players quitting mid-season. South Carolina has spent most of 2016 ranked as the worst offensive team in the country. Vanderbilt plays the game like the forward pass was never invented. Kirby Smart is bombing at Georgia while Kentucky is having their best season of the decade and still can't sell out a nighttime SEC matchup because basketball started. When analyzing the SEC West, not one team, including Alabama, has a signature non-conference victory. Alabama aside, it has been years since a SEC team toppled a non-conference national championship contender.
The dominance of Alabama and Nick Saban does not in itself qualify every other SEC team as the best there ever was.
It is hard to admit, but in 2016 the best conference is the Big 10. The ACC is arguably the best it ever has been and the Atlantic division houses the two best quarterbacks in football, including a future Heisman winner. The Big 12 doesn't offer a championship contender, but boasts competitive teams almost top to bottom. The Pac 12 is atrocious, yet, Washington has done what is asked of them in style. None of that matters. ESPN doesn't want to hear it, the committee won't acknowledge it, and the rankings won't reflect it. Until Saban and Alabama are dethroned, the SEC fallacy marches on.
All Hail UofL !!