Tom Planchet / Eyewitness News
OPINION: There’s one thing that stood out in the rubble of BCS title game won by Alabama in a rout and that was just how lucky the Tide was – to face Notre Dame for the title.
Total confession: I’m a Notre Dame fan and that colored my view going into the game. For the past two years I’ve argued that the SEC is far and away the top conference in college football – just bigger, faster and stronger than any other conference – but I guess I just wanted to believe that Notre Dame had a shot, after all I witnessed them beat Pittsburgh when the Panthers missed a gimme field goal and I watched them win countless close games against less-than SEC caliber opponents (yes, that includes Stanford).
But, just like the misguided fans of years past from Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas, I thought, in a one-game situation, the Irish had a chance. There hasn’t been this big of a mismatch since Drago fought Apollo Creed in Rocky IV.
Back to the Alabama being lucky part. Bama is lucky that Oregon blew a home game against Stanford. They were lucky that Kansas State lost to an RGIII-less Baylor and that Ohio State was on probation. If any of those things don’t happen, then the best team in college football doesn’t even get the chance to prove it. Can you imagine the miscarriage of justice if that Tide team HADN’T played for the national title? It's the second year in a row that Bama survived a late season loss with a fortunate string of higher-ranked teams losing games.
They also got lucky that the BCS folks and the pollsters haven’t recognized or have refused to acknowledge the overwhelming dominance of the SEC. Bama would have been better served having their greatness confirmed against Texas A&M, LSU or Georgia, all teams that gave them a real match.
Is Alabama the best team? Unquestionably. In fact, whatever team survives the rigors of the SEC to win its side of the conference and then to beat the other side’s best team needs to be in the BCS title game. Some SEC chest thumpers have even circulated that the BCS Final Four – when they go to that in two years – needs to be the top four SEC teams. Really, who can argue?
Notre Dame? Remember, I’m a fan, but all the breaks went their way this year and they are more likely a 9-3, 18th- ranked team that should have been celebrating a win in the Insight.com Bowl and pointing to next year’s top-ranked recruiting class.
After seven straight titles the SEC is unquestionably the king of college football and Alabama is the king of kings. It shouldn’t get much tougher next year as the Tide faces Tennessee and Kentucky from the East while LSU takes on Florida and Georgia, though Alabama does open the season in Atlanta against Virginia Tech.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being in the SEC. One advantage is that you can lose a game and still be considered to play for the national title (Heck, LSU played for a title in 2007 with two SEC losses). The disadvantage is that it is so easy to lose a game in the SEC.
But any complaint about Bama is a quibble. I’m old enough to remember the UCLA basketball dynasty. UCLA had the best players (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton, etc…), they had the best coach (John Wooden) and to make matters even worse, they had the easiest road to the championships. At that time the NCAA tournament was regional and the West really was the West and only one team from a conference could get in, meaning there were a lot of UCLA vs. Montana matchups.
Now back to the SEC. The conference is so dominant that is there any wonder why schools like Missouri and A&M are rushing to get there? They want to be a part of that rising Tide (pun intended) that lifts all boats. “Come play for us now. Come play against the best.”
Think that doesn’t work? ESPN has a list of the top 40 projected recruiting classes for 2013. On that list are 12 of the 14 SEC schools. Yes, even Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are in the top 25! Five of the top 10; nine of the top 21 – all SEC. The only schools missing are Kentucky (a basketball school) and Arkansas (their problems are duly noted).
Last year, Rivals.com had eight of its 20 top classes from the SEC.
The rich get richer – and Alabama is the richest of the rich. The SEC is the two percent, Alabama is Bill Gates. The Tide may not win a national title next year or the year after, but, if they don’t, it will be an SEC team that will knock them off.
Bama’s biggest threat won’t come in a national title game against an Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio State or Florida State. No, its biggest test will come in its second game when it travels to A&M or later in the season when it hosts LSU. Those games will be the Crimson Tide’s only two real challenges of the season, unless they make the SEC Championship. If they win that, they’ll win another national title – with the possible exception of meeting another SEC team.