Make no mistake, I’m a big fan of SEC football. There’s just something special about football in the south. To me, special was always tuning in to CBS every Saturday afternoon at 2:30 to see Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson call the day’s biggest game. The kick-six from the 2013 Iron Bowl probably stands out the most, but there’s plenty other memories and more to be made every Saturday.
From the tailgates hours before kickoff to the fight songs played in victory or defeat afterwards, the Southeastern Conference is unmatched in many ways. When factoring in talent and dominance on the national championship stage, there’s really no doubt that the SEC is this nation’s top football conference.
Are its teams invincible though? Are they immune to criticism? No and no.
Last week in New Orleans, the Texas Longhorns finished year two of the Tom Herman era on a high note by beating the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. Led by quarterback Sam Ehlinger, the Longhorns built a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter and were able to hold on for a 28-21 win in the Superdome. Score one for the much-maligned Big 12 Conference.
Unsurprisingly, though, many Bulldog fans were quick to make excuses for the loss afterwards. In their minds, Georgia should’ve made the College Football Playoff, but instead they were sent to a bowl game they were less than enthused to play in and it showed. That was their reasoning for the defeat, and not how well Texas played.
Taking it to an even larger scale, CBS Sports writer Tom Fornelli tweeted after the game that the SEC “hasn’t lost a bowl game it wanted to win in 40 years”.
I’ve heard my fair share of hot takes, but that….that’s just pathetic.
It’s all fun and games when the conference succeeds when the lights are brightest. To be fair, that happens a lot. Going back to 2006, the SEC has won 9 of the last 12 national championships. Alabama is of course most responsible for that impressive stretch. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have won five of those nine. Take them out of the conference, and we’re probably not having this conversation. Still, even they’re not invincible.
Remember 2017? Deshaun Watson led Clemson (ACC) to a thrilling, 35-31 win over Alabama in the national championship game. Remember 2014? Ohio State (Big 10) won the first-ever College Football Playoff, knocking off Alabama in the semifinals and Oregon in the title match.
So, did the Crimson Tide make it all the way to the postseason and just decide collectively as a team that they were mailing it in? By Fornelli’s logic, yes, but common sense says no.
Believe it or not, football is played and played very well outside our neck of the woods. In fact, many of the top teams from this century and beyond do not belong to the SEC. Like the 2005 Vince Young-led Texas Longhorns, regarded as the best team of the past 20 years by ESPN. Or the 2013 Jameis Winston-led Florida State Seminoles, who beat SEC power Auburn at the Rose Bowl.
The SEC garners a lot of justifiable attention by the games they win, but you come off as a sore loser by making stupid excuses when the conference falters. Here’s a legitimate excuse for you: The better team won. When your SEC team wins, celebrate. But when they inevitably lose, tip your hat to your opponent regardless of their conference affiliation.