New Year's Day was liberation day for college football programs all across the country. For years we have been treated to an unremitting media blitz trumpeting the absolute primacy of the SEC. Headlines dominated college football coverage:
The Best Conference In The History of Football
The Best Athletes Anywhere
If They Didn’t Have To Play Each Other, They Would All Go Undefeated
The Big Ten has been consistently denigrated, and the Pac-12 was considered irrelevant. Real football is only played in the Southeast. And then came this year’s bowl season where teams had to actually settle things on the field.
The reputation for football excellence by the SEC and the Southern region of the country was well earned. Alabama won the national championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Nick Saban is an outstanding coach. Florida won that title in 2006 and 2008. LSU won in 2003 and 2007 and Auburn in 2010. ACC champ Florida State won the championship in 1999 and 2013 and went undefeated for two seasons. That collective record is remarkable. The number of athletes drafted from that region in the NFL in recent years is staggering.
Now, however, the championship is settled on the field -- not by coaches, or media, or a computer. The argument that the SEC teams are so superior to the rest of the country and their win/loss records penalize them because they have to play each other has been shattered. Look at some of the cupcake teams that Alabama, Mississippi and Mississippi State played out of conference -- I couldn't identify a few of the opponents.
There was controversy about the inclusion of Ohio State in the playoffs, yet the Buckeyes played a third-string quarterback in the Sugar Bowl and handily defeated Alabama. Oregon decimated Florida State. Notre Dame beat LSU. TCU beat Ole Miss and Georgia Tech pounded Mississippi State. Wisconsin squeaked out a win over Auburn. Evidently they do play some quality football in the Midwest. The Pac-12 as of this writing has the best conference record in bowl games.
Remember in the first rankings released by the playoff selection committee, three of the four teams were from the SEC. This bias needs some balance. The SEC does play excellent football, but recent results show that other conferences and teams play better. Fans in the Midwest, Pacific Coast and the rest of the country are cheering today, college football has regained its balance.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.