Southeastern Conference Media Days are upon us, and with them the first hint in the humid, searing hot summer air that football is on its way.
But as the faithful are called to worship in Hoover, Alabama, a suburb that is cheek by jowl neighbors with Birmingham, once self-billed as the Football Capital of the South, something is not quite right in the kingdom.
The SEC hasn’t won a football national championship the past two years.
Last season, the SEC didn’t even play for one, as Alabama lost in the CFP semifinal in the Sugar Bowl to eventual champion Ohio State.
Yes, Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who for ages couldn’t beat an SEC team in a bowl. Once again, college football’s top dog program doesn’t have a Southern drawl (daggum it), doesn’t know how to properly season its food and doesn’t have the sense to throw beads and plastic cups at its victory parade.
Just a couple of years ago, the SEC held the reins of college athletics between its brawny knuckles. Now the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship trophy resides in Columbus, Ohio, where they say, “You guys are the champs,” not “Y’all done good!”
Just a couple of years ago, it seemed the SEC could do as it pleased. It was then SEC Commissioner Mike Slive who pushed quietly but forcefully for a football playoff, and not so quietly but just as forcefully for greater autonomy for the schools in the so-called “Power Five” conferences.
But now? Let one national title go to Florida State (the most SEC of non-SEC schools, I grant you, but nonetheless a member of the ACC) and another to Ohio State, and they forget who was boss.
Now the SEC cries foul when it comes to satellite football camps — recruiting raiding parties is what they are — and what happens? The rest of college athletics gives a Bronx cheer to the SEC and says it will do what it damn well pleases. And the SEC is welcome to follow along, unable to get the rest of the game to bend to its will but instead forced to bow down to majority rule.
There will be a lot of questions asked at SEC Media Days. Some players and coaches will be asked about specific position battles that have to be ironed out, about coaching moves made, about key issues facing the conference and the game.
But everyone will be asked, in one way or another, what the SEC has to do to get back on top. For the SEC and the people in its footprint, it’s a matter of national security.
In the South, we have a deep need for our football teams to be winners. Our manners are better, our whiskey is stiffer, but it’s winning at college football that keeps us from completely being the cast of a reality-based television show in the eyes of the rest of the country. A country that thinks everyone below the Mason-Dixon Line had to have a Confederate flag wrenched out of their crying, cursing hands this summer. (Some did, but not everyone.)
But I have news for the championship-starved SEC disciples out there: The drought could well continue in 2015. And maybe even get worse.
It’s not that the SEC doesn’t have superb talent across the board. And great coaches. And over-the-top facilities, driven to even more gleaming perfection — a gold-plated gleam, if you will — by the new infusion of media dollars from the SEC Network.
But every SEC team also has a flaw, a vulnerability, a reason to say, “They could be good, but they could also lose some games, and here’s why.” So much so it’s not a difficult case to make that every SEC team has at least a couple of losses by December. And if everyone has a couple of losses, it’s not a stretch to think the SEC champion gets shut out of the CFP four-ball tournament.
Remember when this whole CFP thing came to be, when a berth in the CFP appeared to be the SEC’s birthright? Across the SEC everyone said, “Good! We couldn’t get more than two teams in the BCS bowls because of their silly rules! Now we can have all four spots!” This was followed by hearty laughter, backslapping and cigars being lit with $100 bills.
Now the rest of college football is having a chuckle at the SEC’s expense.
It’s a much different tune from a couple of years ago, when the SEC was winning the last of its seven straight BCS titles. And it’s evil music to the ears of Boudreaux, Thibodeaux and Jim Bob out there.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.