It has been more than 150 years since the War of Northern Aggression as some folks South of the Mason-Dixon line label the Civil War, the War Between the States, or the War of Southern Aggression.
But in the deep South--where Southeastern Conference college football lives, there are signs that the battle for supremacy is now in question.
Oh, not to the point where anyone is disputing who is the best program, with the best team, with the best coach and arguably the best barbecue (Original Dreamland). That would be Alabama and Nick Saban, of course.
The defending national champions will close the first part of their season on Saturday when they face Florida in the SEC title game in Atlanta. The Tide is a 23 point favorite, which prompted talk that Alabama can lose to the Gators and might still stay at No. 1 and would certainly not drop out of the Final Four playoff picture.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
That sentiment irritated St. Nick so much that he went on a rant about how all championships are important and it was the media's fault for down playing the importance of the game in the big picture world of college football.
The problem this season is that if you move past Alabama, the mighty SEC, which won the national championship for seven straight seasons (2006-2012) and which has won 8 of the last 10 national championships, is having its WORST season in a generation.
Alabama is the only SEC team to win 9 or more games thus far and is the only SEC ranked team in the Top 15. The last time that happened was in 1979 when Alabama was again the only SEC team with nine victories at the end of the regular season.
Such a decline is bad enough, but when the challenge for supremacy is not coming from another Southern school such as Clemson or Florida State, but from the Big Ten, well....you have reason for that "northern aggression'' chatter.
Consider the Big Ten which has four teams--Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State--in the Top 10.
Consider the Big Ten, which if there are upsets this weekend with Colorado beating Washington and Virginia Tech beating Clemson, could conceivably have 3 of the Final Four teams, with Ohio State, the Big Ten championship game winner between Wisconsin and Penn State AND Michigan ALL making it into the playoffs. And if only Colorado pulls off an upset the Big Ten could have two of the Final Four teams.
Consider that the one Northern interloper in the past 10 years, Ohio State, is coached by a Yankee named Urban Meyer, who came South for a few years to win a pair of national championships at Florida and then returned to his native Ohio roots.
Consider that even Saban, who came from the Midwest and has also won a national championship at LSU, also has a Northern heritage.
There are, of course, signs that this fall from grace is only a one-year aberration, although the SEC must do something to balance its two divisions, which is again tilted westward.
If recruiting is indeed the magic formula to fix most football problems, all you have to do is check out the latest Rivals rankings which are as follows:
1 Alabama (SEC)
2. Ohio State (Big Ten)
3 Oklahoma (Big 12)
4. Georgia (SEC)
5. Texas A&M (SEC)
6. LSU (SEC)
7. Clemson (ACC)
7. Tennessee (SEC)
That is 5 of the top 8 teams from the SEC and if you throw Clemson into the mix, that is 6 of 8 from the Southern portion of the college football map.
Those are future dreams, however.
For now, the SEC must endure the northern visitors, hope that Alabama can carry the flag for the entire South and pray that this weekend's conference championship games do not produce an Armageddon moment that vaults three teams from that league up North into the Final Four.
Our good friend, Tony Barnhart, Mr. College Football, Mr. SEC and a true Georgia Bulldog, has generally followed the philosophy that football in the South was not a life and death matter because it was more important than that.
And there is little question that the South and the SEC will rise again, but, it could take awhile.[/membership]