I was somewhere over the Heartland trying to get home from the mother of all Rose Bowls when it suddenly hit me: For a conference that is supposed to be vastly overrated, the Southeastern Conference has done okay in the sport of college football this season:
No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama, having been placed in the College Football Playoff, proceeded to beat No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 1 Clemson respectively on Jan. 1. Thus, two teams from the same conference (SEC) will play for national championship on Monday night in Atlanta.
Now it turns out that not everybody is particularly excited about the SEC’s run of success late in the 2017.
That’s understandable but by now you would think the SEC critics would have gotten used to it.
**--For the 11th time in the past 12 years, an SEC team will be playing in the national championship game. The rundown:
2006—Florida defeated Ohio State
2007—LSU defeated Ohio State
2008—Florida defeated Oklahoma
2009—Alabama defeated Texas
2010—Auburn defeated Oregon
2011—Alabama defeated LSU
2012—Alabama defeated Notre Dame
2013—Florida State defeated Auburn
2014—No SEC team; Ohio State beat Oregon
2015—Alabama defeated Clemson
2016—Clemson defeated Alabama
2017—Georgia vs. Alabama
**--And now, for the second time in seven years two SEC teams (Georgia and Alabama) will meet for the national championship Monday night in Atlanta. Alabama beat LSU for the 2011 national championship.
**--That means for the ninth time in the past 12 years college football’s national champion will come from the SEC.
Again, not everyone is pleased.
To those folks we offer this gentle piece of advice:
Get over it.
Here are just some of the complaints I’ve received since the close of business Monday night:
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**--Alabama didn’t deserve to go to the College Football Playoff because the Crimson Tide didn’t even win its own division of the SEC. That is a fact. Alabama’s only loss was at Auburn for the SEC West title.
But it is also a fact that when the CFP Selection Committee sat down to do its final rankings on Dec. 3, there was no clear cut team for the No. 4 spot after Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia had been placed in the four-team field. The committee had to put somebody in at No. 4 and its charge is “to select the four best teams.”
I personally thought the committee would make the easy call and put Ohio State (11-2), the Big Ten champion, into the field No. 4. That would have been the least controversial decision—at least outside of the state of Alabama.
But the committee looked hard at an Ohio State team that was boat-raced at home by Oklahoma and on the road (55-24) at Iowa. And after Ohio State got shut out by Clemson (31-0) in the 2015 semifinals, the committee, IMO, did not trust an inconsistent Buckeye team.
Remember, there was a long and thorough debate when the CFP was founded. The four-team field would not be limited to conference champs only. It was going to be the best four teams as determined by the judgement and debate of the committee.
**--The committee should have put UCF (13-0), the American Athletic Conference champ, in ahead of a second team from the SEC. The Knights proved they were a solid team by beating Auburn—the team that beat Georgia on Nov. 11 and Alabama on Nov. 25)—in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
I loved everything about the Knights. They were a great story and gave the American Athletic Conference and commissioner Mike Aresco (a close friend) a huge shot of national credibility.
UCF made a helluva case AFTER beating Auburn. But you don’t get to make your case after the fact. The committee has to use the information that was in front of them on Dec. 3. And on Dec. 3 Alabama had a stronger resume.
**--We should have an eight-team playoff so teams like UCF can get in. You can do that but you would lose a lot of drama from the regular season. Another thing for the SEC critics to consider: With an eight-team playoff Auburn would have gotten in, giving the SEC three of the teams in the field. That’s just something to consider.
**--Having two SEC teams in the championship game is bad for the sport of football. Now I’ll grant you that the TV ratings on Monday night might not be off the charts because two teams that are both a short drive from Atlanta will be playing in the game. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad for the game. That’s like saying it was bad for MLB when the Yankees dominated. Nah. People watched hoping the Yankees would get beat. Same principle applies. The CFP is working on a 12-year contract with ESPN.
**--After the first three teams the SEC really wasn’t very good this season. I’ll concede a little on this point. The SEC in 2017 was not as deep with quality teams as it has been in the past. Tennessee and Vanderbilt were both 0-7 in conference play when they met on Nov. 25. Florida was a train wreck which is why Jim McElwain got fired before the calendar turned to November. Tennessee failed to make it to a bowl and Butch Jones was fired. Arkansas and Texas A&M fired their coaches. LSU lost to an average Notre Dame team in the Outback Bowl. Kentucky went to its second straight but was a disappointing 7-6.
In all, five SEC teams (Arkansas, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee) will have new coaches when the 2018 season begins. The bottom half of the league is in flux.
But the fact remains when they were at full strength, Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia could beat anybody.
Auburn didn’t know who it was on Sept. 9 when it went to Clemson and lost 14-6. But when the Tigers beat Georgia and Alabama at home in November they were the best football team in the country. Then Kerryon Johnson got hurt. It was a very tough break for Auburn.
Georgia won 20-19 at Notre Dame on Sept. 9 and that victory launched a miracle season that has the Bulldogs one win away from their first national championship since 1980. The win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl was one for the ages.
Alabama started the season at No. 1 and was scary dominant before the injuries start to set in. But when Auburn lost to Georgia in the SEC championship game and Ohio State failed to look convincing against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game the Crimson Tide got another chance. Now they are favored to win their fifth national championship since 2009. Auburn and Ohio State had bad fortune. Alabama had good fortune. That is the nature of the game.
We can—and will—argue this point until Monday’s championship game. But when all of the arguments are stripped away we are left with this: There are two teams left standing for the 2017 college football season. Those teams were chosen by the CFP Selection Committee using the rules that were voted on by the conference commissioners who run the sport. Those two teams then beat No. 1 (Clemson) and No. 2 (Oklahoma) in the national semifinals to advance to Monday’s championship game.
Those two teams just happen to be from the same conference.
Do you STILL have a problem with that?