R-E-L-A-X. Relax. This year was the first time in nine seasons where an SEC team did not represent the country’s most dominant conference in the National Championship Game, and the second year in a row where an SEC school did not win the championship altogether. Just relax, SEC fans.
This year’s introduction of the College Football Playoff (which was phenomenal) had a lot of people thinking that the SEC could get two, maybe even three teams into the “Final Four.” And with the way the SEC West was playing at the beginning of the year, it certainly looked like those people were correct. However, the same people who were predicting two SEC teams being represented in the Final Four forget about one thing: the SEC.
Anyone who’s familiar with this conference knows that it is its own worst enemy. It doesn’t matter that an SEC team didn’t make the National Championship, or that the College Football Playoff didn’t include four SEC schools; it actually helps explain why the SEC is still the best conference in all of college football.
The gap between the elite teams in the SEC and the “good” teams in the SEC is closing, and much like the NFL, you can lose any given week. Playing teams like Alabama, LSU, or Georgia always receive a lot of attention, but imagine having to play Kentucky or Auburn the following week, and then Tennessee right after that. There’s a reason why coaches refer to marquee games as “just another week” (even though we as fans wouldn’t like to think so), and it’s because from a team’s perspective, it has to truly be just another week. Playing football in the SEC requires 100% of your attention at every point in the season, and losing focus by the slightest margin could prove to be extremely costly.
It’s hard to appreciate just how hard winning in the SEC is until you’re actually in the thick of things and game-planning for Todd Gurley or Nick Chubb this week, and then Auburn’s offense the next. Ohio State, Oregon, and Florida State are all phenomenal teams and deserved to represent their respective conferences in the playoff, but I’m not so sure they’d be there after playing an entire SEC schedule. They would absolutely compete, don’t get me wrong, but in order to make it out of the SEC unscathed, a team has to be flawless.
Sure, you can win a couple of games, but if one team exposes a weakness of yours, then it’s like the rest of the teams on your schedule are sharks and they smell blood in the water. There are enough brilliant minds and teams with plenty of talent in the SEC to pull off an upset.
Speaking of talent, per ESPN.com, 9 of the nation’s top 20 recruiting classes belong to SEC schools, with Alabama (#1), Georgia (#3), and Tennessee (#5) all claiming spots in the top 5. I know everyone around the country wants to see the SEC crash and burn, but until they stop dominating the recruiting trail, then it won’t happen. The southeast is a breeding ground for talented athletes, and while there is enough to go around; the majority of these kids are staying in the SEC.
With all of this talk about the SEC, I want it to be clear that parity in college football is what’s best for everybody. It makes matchups more interesting, games more exciting, and it will continue to boost the sport’s popularity. Give me Notre Dame vs. Georgia over Troy vs. Georgia any day of the week.