When you’re on top, nobody can touch you. That’s the way it was for SEC football for most of the last decade. Any criticism of SEC Football could be answered by “scoreboard”. Their teams were given the benefit of the doubt in the rankings, but when they played you, they usually won. That obviously helped them when it came time for selecting teams for BCS Championsip, and kept their teams highly ranked through most of last year’s CFP selection process.
Last year fan backlash outside the SEC for the perceived media bias towards SEC Football specifically from ESPN, was as bad as I could remember. That is not good for college football. When you have human voters selecting teams, a perception that certain programs are artificially elevated can be extremely frustrating for fans of teams outside of the SEC with similar records. That said, the only way you can make a dent against SEC Football is win.
Other than the Pac 12, the rest of the Power 5 conference get plenty of opportunities to play SEC teams. You want respect, and you want perceptions change you have to win games against the SEC. You don’t have to win them all, but you have to win enough.
That’s exactly what happened last season when the ACC went 4-0 against the SEC during rivalry week. That’s exactly what happened when the “perceived” the best division in college football history the SEC West went 2-5 in bowl games. Several of the SEC’s best teams looking defensively helpless in bowl losses to Ohio State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Auburn, and Notre Dame.
Now this off-season, the national media is taking note, that things are changing college football.
Jon Solomon of CBS Sportsline wrote a piece titled “SEC’s strange, new world: Losing Big Games, hoping to regain dominance”. From that article, it isn’t any more clear than this.
But as SEC coaches complain that they are disadvantaged by graduate transfer and satellite camp rules, the league faces questions its peers once had to answer. Most notably, what’s up with losing so many big games?
The SEC built its much-deserved reputation on high-profile postseason wins, but the script has been reversed lately. The SEC is 0-5 over the past two years in BCS/College Football Playoff games, losing those contests by an average of 15.6 points.
The SEC losing big games, and their coaches complaining about an un-even playing field? Times have changed…
Dan Wolken of USA Today goes even further in his article “SEC football coaches must get used to view of new landscape”.
The big, bad Southeastern Conference — which used to flaunt its seven consecutive national titles and dare the rest of the country to catch up — is suddenly on the run.
Still, the SEC should be above whining and complaining about level playing fields. This is the conference with the most passionate fans, the best facilities, the top recruits, the highest coaching salaries and now the best media platform with its 1-year old television network.
The SEC is getting no sympathy from some in the national media on or off the field. At the end of the day, this is all good for college football. No one is suggesting the SEC Football empire is crumbling. There will be more top 10 teams, and more national titles. They will remain at or near the top college football for the foreseeable future, but most importantly the level playing field the SEC Coaches are complaining about? It’s here.
Want to be on a dedicated conference network? The Big 10 and Pac 12 have one too. The ACC probably will have their’s in 2-3 years. Do you want to go the NFL? Led by Florida State’s record setting numbers, the ACC is putting nearly as many players into the NFL as the SEC. Want to win a national title? Teams from the Big 10 (Ohio State) and the ACC (Florida State) have won the last two. Want to play in the country’s best football conference? The Pac 12 can legitimately make that claim. Big 12 teams (TCU, Oklahoma) have won their last 2 Big 6 bowl games against the SEC squads (Ole Miss, Alabama) 87-34.
There will always be rules that differentiate schools, and conferences, but the playing field overall in college football is as even as it as been in recent years. The SEC doesn’t stand heads and shoulders above the rest of the country in football anymore, and that makes college football more intriguing across the country.