One thing raced through my mind Monday night as Alabama raced through Notre Dame in the BCS championship game.
Boy was I wrong.
Wrong about how close the game was going to be.
Wrong about the end of the Southeastern Conference’s reign being nigh.
Heck. Wrong about life decisions based on my beliefs!
After Louisville defeated Florida convincingly in the Sugar Bowl and after Northwestern upended Mississippi State and after Clemson came back to beat LSU, it was logical to wonder if we were seeing breaks in the SEC’s armor. At least I thought so.
Three teams from three down conferences had beaten an SEC team from each part of the conference’s bowl groups – the upper echelon (Florida, LSU) and the middle of the pack (Mississippi State).
Additionally, Georgia sleep-walked through a Nebraska team that had previously given up 70 points to Wisconsin and South Carolina needed a little bit of luck to get past Michigan.
But I was wrong.
It’s not about the middle of the pack. It’s not even about the upper echelon.
Few teams, if any, can match the top of the SEC.
I’ll argue that the middle and bottom of the SEC – teams No. 5 through 14 – are no better than any other conferences similar teams. Besides, you can pick and choose which games and stats count to fit your argument so we won’t go there.
But it’s inarguable these days that the No. 1 team in the SEC is the No. 1 team in the country.
For seven straight years, the SEC’s best team has bested the top team from one of the other big conferences. You can say that in some years, the SEC backed into the game, but it’d be hard to feel seriously that the conference’s heavy-weight contender shouldn’t have been there.
Yes, Oregon and Kansas State lost this year allowing Alabama to slide into the championship game. Hard to believe after Monday night that the Crimson Tide wasn’t the best team, though, even if you believe Oregon would have provided a better test.
Yes, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma all tripped over their feet in 2011 allowing the Crimson Tide to move into the championship game. You can’t argue, though, that Alabama wasn’t at least one of the top two teams in the country then and deserved a shot.
In 2010 and 2009, both Auburn and Alabama, respectively, were the best teams. We could go on and on.
What sets apart the top of the SEC from everyone else isn’t just one thing. It’s a handful. The coaching is better, especially when looking at Nick Saban. The lines are bigger and more athletic than what opponents will see on a weekly basis. And the skill players are just more skillful.
Louisville and Clemson may argue differently and so, too, might Nebraska, whose quarterback said Georgia’s defense wasn’t any better than a Big 10 school's. But those schools weren’t playing Alabama, this year’s SEC king.
So, yes, I was wrong.
And, like Notre Dame, I knew it in the first five minutes of Monday night’s game.