A Decade of College Football: The Dominant SEC
By Matt Reynoldson
“The Southeastern Conference’s trophy case might as well just keep one, because that’s where they all go.” “Once the four-team playoff rolls around, it won’t matter because it’ll just be an SEC playoff.” “They don’t even need 16 teams. The SEC is the present definition of a ‘super conference’.”
It seems like everyone is in consensus – the Southeastern Conference is the most dominant in college football, and maybe all of sports. But it wasn’t always this way. How did it come to this, and, as everyone seems to be asking, who will take them down? 2012 features plenty of teams that are up to the task, and this might just be the year.
To look at it in perspective, the last time a non-SEC team won a national championship was the year Vince Young led Texas on a game winning drive to beat Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Southern Cal at the Rose Bowl in January of 2006. It’s been two years since a non-SEC team was even in a national championship game. In the BCS era, the SEC has an 8-1 record in national championship games, with their only loss coming last year when LSU lost to Alabama, meaning another tally in the win column as well. Conspirators believe in fixed games to annually make sure there is an undefeated team on top of the SEC. How can any team even challenge, let alone take down this unstoppable dynasty? For the answer, we must look beyond recent memory to the days before SEC dominance.
The seven national champions immediately following the turn of the century were Florida State in 2000, Oklahoma in 2001, Miami in 2002, Ohio State in 2003, LSU in 2004, Southern Cal (vacated) in 2005, and Texas in 2006. Only one of these teams was from the SEC. Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Miami dominated the era, with a combined nine national championship appearances and a national title won by each. College football ran its course through the decades, with Notre Dame owning the 1970s, Miami (famously known as “The U”) dominating the 1980s, and Nebraska shining in the 1990s. But this type of dominance is unprecedented, save for Princeton and Yale in the nineteenth century, when college football was new. Bottom line, we’re long overdue for the beginning of a new era. There are ten programs that may be promising bets to take down the mighty SEC, and they might break through as soon as this year.
Southern Cal: After dominating the early and mid-2000s, the Trojans could be back as soon as this year with a loaded roster.
Florida State: The defense is back to its traditional power and head coach Jimbo Fisher has the team on the right track.
Oklahoma: It’s a strong program year in and year out, and the team may find themselves back on top in the next few years.
Michigan: It won’t happen this season, but the winningest program in college football is almost back.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer’s coaching and recruiting tactics will have the Buckeyes back in the BCS soon.
Notre Dame: It seems like a long shot, but maybe one year Lou Holtz’s national champion prediction will be accurate.
Nebraska: The program that dominated the 1990s has legendary coach Tom Osborne as the AD, which could mean big things.
Clemson: The traditionally strong program could flourish by continuing to recruit speed.
Kansas State: Unless Bill Snyder retires again, he could have the Wildcats back on top sooner than many expect.
VirginiaTech: Frank Beamer is still there, and the Hokies are another Michael Vick away from a national title.
The stars are aligned for something big to happen this college football season. Whether that means the end of the SEC dynasty or a continuation of the dominance, we may not know until January. Will the power shift, or will parity take shape in the 2010s? Only time will tell. One thing is certain: college football will continue to surprise us, thrill us, and give us excuses not to do yard work on chilly autumn Saturdays. The teams will change, the conferences may realign yearly, and playoffs may change college football as we know it, but in the greatest amateur game in America, national champions will always emerge.