Thirteen seconds. Three points. One play. That’s all that separated the Southeastern Conference from sweeping the last eight BCS titles ever contested.
One late, great Florida State drive snatched the crystal football away from Auburn and the SEC’s greedy hands in a 34-31 thriller at the Rose Bowl.
Let the record show the Seminoles looked more like an SEC team than Jimmy Graham looks like a wide receiver, an ACC team in name only. But technically the unprecedented run of national championships by the SEC — those outside the conference’s footprint (and the Florida panhandle) just might be tempted to refer to the league as a nexus of evil — is no more.
Don’t weep for the SEC, though. Winning all those BCS titles was getting a little stale, anyway. If you want, you can visit the SEC’s reign (of terror) in a display case in the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. A word of caution, though: Children from the Pac-12 or Big Ten are not admitted without parent.
Thanks to the new College Football Playoff, there are new worlds for the SEC to oppress. The CFP will offer up virgin territories for the SEC’s feudal warlords to divide and conquer.
Set aside the seven straight BCS championships for a moment and consider how hard it was just to get into the ultimate game in the BCS system eight straight years. And this with nine teams total, throwing in LSU’s loss to Alabama in January 2012. (Yes, we had to bring it up.)
Now, ALL you’ve got to do is be one of the top four teams to get into one of the two CFP semifinals.
The top four? That’s it? Please. For the conference that had the top three teams in the BCS standings near the end of the 2011 regular season — LSU, Alabama and Arkansas — that doesn’t sound like splitting the atom.
More like splitting the check at dinner. Yet another champions dinner.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, the SEC’s Minister of Snark, once offered this estimation of the SEC’s chances to get teams — that is, multiple teams — into the CFP semifinals: “All of us in the SEC, if we can win our division, win the (SEC Championship) game in Atlanta, we will probably be in that final four.”
As they say in SEC country, See Rock City. No, sorry, wrong phrase. Here it is: It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up. And the SEC has shown it has one helluva backup band.
Remember Alabama’s beatdown of Notre Dame in the BCS championship game in 2013? Florida’s beatdown of Ohio State in the BCS championship game in 2007? LSU beating down Ohio State, again, in 2008?
In any of those years, were the above the only SEC teams that could have disfigured their opponents beyond recognition?
Hardly. They would have been lining up three-wide, NASCAR-style.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know we don’t usually truck with conspiracy theories here, except for the theory that the SEC office in location and scheduling deeds is entirely too Alabama-centric.
That is a fact. Like the firmness of the earth. But moving on.
But there are indications, troubling indications, that the CFP selection committee will lean toward inviting four conference champions to the inaugural playoff party.
Nothing ensures the SEC champion will be one of those four teams, but who are we kidding? The SEC champion will be one of those teams.
But maybe the only SEC team.
“We have our three or four bullet points,” said CFP committee member Oliver Luck, athletic director at West Virginia. “Strength of schedule. We are to reward conference championships no matter how they come about, whether it’s a conference championship game or in the Big 12 — that counts for something to win your conference. There are those standards, which are pretty straightforward.”
Straightforward as in, “Straight-up, we don’t want more than one SEC team in the semifinals?”
Nah. Come on. Seriously, no.
As the five-ringed circus (print interview room, two TV rooms, internet and networks) known as SEC football media days cranks to life this week — as you read this, Alabama fans are pitching tents in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham, waiting for the chance to touch the hem of Nick Saban’s garment — no doubt the CFP and what it means to the SEC will be a hot topic.
The SEC coaches and players who will gather in Hoover still know that, just by being in the conference, the chance for at least one of them to play for the national championship remains as viable as ever. There will be big challenges: Eight teams including LSU and Bama break in new starting quarterbacks, never a good thing in a conference that eats its young.
But come December, someone, or someones, will be deserving of being in the final four.
Time to start a new streak.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.