Exposed & Exploited: RIP The SEC

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The dust has settled and the once deemed “best division in college football history” fell flat on its face, with the SEC West limping into 2015 with a 2-5 bowl game record while the much ridiculed SEC East held up its end of the bargain going 5-0 to save the conference from complete and utter embarrassment. The simple fact is that once again, the SEC came into bowl season wildly overrated and once again was exposed. The fall of the SEC began last year with Oklahoma throttling an “uninterested” Alabama team 45-31, and the fall concluded this season with Bama as they saw a Big Ten school with its third string quarterback hammer them into submission with 281 yards rushing and a 42-35 upset. Fans across the nation were stunned with the outcome, but the writing was on the wall and the fact that Alabama would get exposed again on the big stage was as clear as day to me.

Before I begin on Alabama’s demise, let’s start at the beginning. Texas A&M and Arkansas kicked off bowl season for the West going 2-0 and seemingly were just getting things started for another dominating SEC performance. However, the proverbial doo-doo hit the fan when LSU, who beat Ole Miss by three, and lost to Alabama in overtime, got beat by a Notre Dame team who lost four straight and had to bench its senior quarterback. Just one bad 31-28 loss for the SEC, no big deal right? Time for the best of the West to flex its muscle and prove it’s the top conference in football in the New Year’s Six. The vaunted Land Shark defense of the Ole Miss Rebels was ready to pound TCU who got snubbed from the final four, but things went awry as TCU embarrassed Ole Miss 42-3. That would be just the beginning of the writings on the wall starting to show through.

The Orange Bowl featured the ACC, the SEC’s little brother who swept the SEC during rivalry week. Time for some payback right? The Jackets ran the ball right down the Bulldogs’ throat, (sound familiar?) racking up 452 yards rushing and a blowout 49-34 victory, thus raising red flag number two. Maybe the SEC wasn’t that good? Maybe all of Alabama’s “signature” wins were just those over teams that were overhyped. But don’t fret, 2015 rolled in and Auburn had a date with the measly Big Ten and Wisconsin. Once again though, it was an SEC defense getting trounced on the ground. Melvin Gordon ran roughshod through the Tigers defense and racked up 251 yards, three touchdowns and a 34-31 win. Strike three for the SEC. Now all of Alabama’s big wins looked like nothing heading into the final four, not necessarily a settling thought for SEC enthusiasts.

By the time the Sugar Bowl rolled around, there was no reason to think this would be a sure-thing anymore for Alabama. The Tide did get off to a hot start, leading the Buckeyes 21-6, but Urban Meyer was able to cement himself as possibly the best coach in the nation by opening up the playbook and throwing in some razzle-dazzle en route to a 42-35 shocking victory. So what is there to take away from all this, besides the fact that the SEC’s top teams couldn’t matchup with other conferences’ top teams?  My take away is that the run of dominance is completely finished for the SEC. The gap has been completely closed and now that there is a four team playoff, teams who wouldn’t have gotten a shot otherwise now will be able to enter the picture. Without a playoff this year, it would have been Alabama vs Florida State for the title.

I heard some of the most blasphemous excuses this past week. “Bowl games don’t matter” or “they aren’t interested in playing if it’s not for the title”. My favorite one is SEC fans reciting the history of their success like a child with an old blanket they can always hold onto when they feel scared or exposed to the world, but hey, guess what? What does you winning a title two years ago have to do with what is happening on the field today? Does that 2012 title automatically roll into the next two seasons and seemingly should be able to make all other conferences fall to their knees and bow to the almighty SEC? Just like ESPN said, lets just have the SEC play its own national title because they are so much better than everyone else? Or maybe is it that they aren’t good enough to beat anyone else anymore? The cannibalization narrative was great for the SEC, but what happens when a bigger, hungry dog or in this case conference wants to come to the dinner table to feed? They pushed the little SEC to the side and did what they wanted to them. So to all the historians, that’s great that you guys USED to be untouchable but not anymore, and if you still think the SEC is the greatest without a doubt, no how, no way; to that, all I have to say is ignorance is bliss. The SEC got rocked and the SEC Network will have a lot of empty air space to fill after the debacle. The SEC Bias was fun while it lasted, with Skip Bayless picking Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss for the final four playoff, but now it’s time to face the facts and face a brave new college football world.