Alabama was dominant in the national title game a week ago. Not many around the SEC were surprised. Not only did we know Bama; the SEC has also built its current dynasty through a habit of beating the nation’s #1 team. In five of the seven years during the current streak, the SEC team that ended up winning the national title came into the game as the #2 team. That doesn’t mean all five of those teams were underdogs in the championship game, but in those five seasons the polls and computers agreed that there was a more obvious participant in the title game. In four of the seven seasons, the road to the title for the eventual champion only became clear after some improbable late-season upsets.
- 2006: Not only did Florida get caught up in Michigan/Ohio State rematch talk, but they also needed a 5-loss UCLA team to upset mighty USC in the final week of the season.
- 2007: The litany of upsets and poll manipulation that put a two-loss LSU team into the championship could fill its own post, but the Pitt upset of West Virginia is enough to illustrate the kind of year 2007 was.
- 2011: LSU was going to be in the game regardless, but their opponent didn’t even win their conference. But after Oklahoma State faltered at Ames and Boise State had a placekicking meltdown for the ages, the SEC streak lived on thanks to an unlikely rematch of a game played just two months earlier.
- 2012: Alabama’s spot for a title defense was all but booked after October, but the loss to A&M opened the door for a slew of other teams. The champs again needed intervention in order to earn the opportunity to repeat. That intervention came on a night where two top-5 title contenders fell within hours. Then Notre Dame controlled the top spot, and the SEC championship became a de facto national semifinal. It was also fortunate that Ohio State was ineligible, or we would have watched two midwestern teams fight over the SEC’s crown
I”m not trying to take anything away from Alabama and their repeat. They’ve been the best team over the body of two seasons. As the SEC has been so dominant in the title game, their spot in the game has been as fragile as an Iowa tailback. Things will change somewhat with the introduction of a playoff, but even then there will be debate. Few teams were better at the end of the season than Texas A&M, but I can’t imagine even an 8-team playoff having room for the Aggies. It’s been a little amusing then to read and listen to all of the analysis over the past week of what it will take to end the SEC’s run. There doesn’t have to be any great power rising up from the west or midwest. All it could take is a double-digit home favorite somewhere taking care of business.