I know this will sound like blasphemy to college football fans in this area, but I'm beginning to suspect that the vaunted Southeastern Conference has been over-rated this year in football and could be on the decline, if only slightly.
Yes, it clearly retains its title as the dominant conference, given its string of national championships that might be extended by Alabama against Notre Dame on Monday, especially given that the Crimson Tide is a big favorite in the eyes of the experts. We'll see if Myrtle Beach High School product Everett Golson, starting quarterback for the Irish, can prove them all wrong.
Yes, it once again dominates the bowl season with 9 teams qualifying.
Yes, it has the largest crop of future NFL players.
But, no, it is not indestructible. Sometimes big-time success lulls people into false beliefs, that just because the SEC is on top means they are light years ahead of everyone else. I'm not so sure.
Take what has already happened this bowl season: The conference got solid victories by Georgia over Nebraska (45 to 31) and South Carolina over Michigan (33 to 28), as well as a good but not great win by Vanderbilt over N.C. State (38 to 24).
But the losses by other teams have sullied the conference's bowl season already. The supposedly all-powerful No. 7 LSU Tigers went down to the supposedly ACC paper tigers from Clemson (24 to 25), the even mightier Florida Gators got destroyed last night by a supposedly over-matched Louisville team from the dissolving Big East (23 to 33), and nerdy Northwestern won its first bowl game since the 1940s when it smacked down Mississippi State by 14 points.
The bowl season is not complete, and what are maybe the conference's top two teams have yet to play. Texas A&M can boast of the only victory over Alabama so far this season, as well a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. But Oklahoma has matched its 10-2 record. A win by the Sooners will expose the SEC even more, as would a loss by Ole Miss to Pittsburgh in a matchup of mediocre teams on Saturday.
Even if that happens, most of that reality will be ignored if Alabama beats Notre Dame as easily as the pundits and analysts believe because it would be another national championship for the league. But that should not mask something fans of ACC basketball can relate to, that while the conference has for years been the best year in and year out, it actually just maybe top heavy.
For example, ACC basketball has been dominated by Duke and North Carolina, teams that have won enough championships and appeared in so many Final Fours that the combined total of the two teams dwarfs the totals of just about every other conference. Take those two schools out of the league and it would still be solid, but far from great. (ACC basketball will be better in the coming years because basketball heavyweights Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are being added.)
Could the same thing be happening to the SEC in football? Remember, this would be Alabama's third title in four years. Florida contributed a couple more recent titles. The only other SEC school to really threaten to win titles consistently is ... none. Auburn won a title recently when other-worldly Cam Newton had the keys to the offense, but that's about it.
There was a day not too long ago when ACC basketball was head and shoulders above the rest. During those years, no one bothered to wonder if some of the other conferences might catch up. Well, some other conferences have, and have even surpassed the ACC in recent years. For several consecutive years, the ACC won the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. That has been reversed.
SEC football fans might be cocky today. But they better understand that complete dominance never lasts forever. And this bowl season could be the beginning of the end.