January 8, 2022

Column: Who can stop the SEC from swallowing college football?

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FILE – Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) stops Auburn wide receiver Elijah Canion (17) during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 27, 2021, in Auburn, Alabama. Georgia will face Alabama in a National Southeastern Conference College Football Playoff Championship on Monday, January 10, 2022. (AP Photo / Vasha Hunt, File)

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As another season ends in the frozen heart of Big Ten country, there is no doubt who rules college football.

The Southeastern Conference is the beast that has eaten everyone up.

College Football Playoff should be abbreviated SEC, not CFP.

For those who suffer from SEC fatigue, who want someone – anyone! – could add some variety to an increasingly outdated game, well, the outlook is not good.

There is little hope that this one-conference rule will go away as Alabama prepares to face Georgia – yes, a pair of SEC members who already played a few weeks ago – in the game of national championship in Indianapolis.

“You want to be in a place where you have no obstacle to success,” said Todd Monken, Georgia offensive coordinator. “You want to be a place where you tick all the boxes. “

Check, verify and more checks.

On the contrary, the proposed extension of the playoffs from four teams to a dozen would only strengthen the SEC’s rock-solid hold on the game.

Alabama and Georgia are clearly the best programs in the country, and most of their most achievable challengers – those with tradition and recruiting basics and financial clout – are also members of a soon-to-be 16 school conference. .

The SEC already has LSU, who won it all just two seasons ago and have now lured Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame to be their coach.

And Texas A&M, which quickly became a forerunner in the name, image and likeness era auction wars.

And Florida, which continues to hit coaches but has done everything in its power to regain its place among the national elite.

With the poaching of quadruple playoff contender Oklahoma, and the simmering power of Texas of the Big 12, it’s easy to envision an expanded playoff series made up of five or six SEC schools on an annual basis.

No wonder Commissioner Greg Sankey is very supportive of the 12-team playoffs, but has no problem staying at four if other leagues – namely the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference – continue to fall behind the most. large format unless there are automatic qualifications. for each Power Five league.

“If we are to move away from the four-team format, the proposed 12-team model works well and compared to others works better,” Sankey said in an appearance this week on Paul Finebaum’s SEC Network. “We will see if others are ready to act.

And the current format?

“75% of the time we win the championship in the current format,” boasted Sankey. “We are comfortable continuing in this mode.”

A quick math check reveals that Sankey is much better at hosting an unbeatable lecture than he is at math, as whoever wins Monday night will give the SEC five champions in the eight-year history of the playoffs (which my phone shows calculator is 62.5%.

Maybe Sankey was referring to a larger body of work. If the last eight years of the Bowl Championship Series (which brought together the top two teams) are combined with the eight-year history of the CFP, the SEC will have 12 of the last 16 titles very soon.

Of the four championships he failed to win during that time frame, three were claimed by schools within the SEC footprint, which only adds to the perception that college football is in. largely a southern game. (Clemson twice beat Alabama for the title, while deposed power Florida State won the last BCS title in the 2013 season).

No reason to think adding eight teams to the playoff mix is ​​going to make much of a difference.

The most distressing truth about the current state of affairs is the absence of serious challengers to SEC dominance beyond Clemson and Ohio State, the latter being the only non-Southern team to win a title in the over the past 16 years.

Notre Dame had a few bites at the playoff apple, only to blow herself up both times. This was undoubtedly factored into Kelly’s shocking decision to ditch the Fighting Irish in favor of the Bayou Bengals (with enough money to buy a whole bunch of donuts).

Michigan State’s only playoff appearance resulted in a 38-0 loss to Alabama. Michigan did it for the first time this year – and was punched in the face by Georgia 34-11. After becoming the first non-Power Five team to win a playoff berth, Cincinnati was one and made with a 27-6 loss to the Crimson Tide.

After losing all of its four CFP appearances as a member of the Big 12 – including three at SEC schools – Oklahoma has decided if you can’t beat them, join them.

We’ll soon find out if the Sooners were better off as a big fish in a smaller pond than they’d try to make waves in a 16-team SEC. Regardless, their astonishing decision to bolt the Big 12, along with Texas, was the surest sign yet that others have grown tired of trying to keep up.

On a related note, there is frequent speculation that Clemson may be considering an ACC move, which further solidifies the SEC’s dominance.

Even now, there are only a few possible challengers outside of the Deep South.

Start with the state of Ohio, of course. The Buckeyes are pretty much the only school that has been able to keep up from a recruiting and financial standpoint, winning four CFP appearances, two trips to the title game and a national title in the first season of the playoffs. playoffs. We will withhold our judgment on Michigan, another traditional Big Ten powerhouse that ultimately toppled Ohio state this season; Wolverines need to show some stamina.

The other school to watch is Southern Cal.

Trojans have all the makings to compete for the championships – big donors, a long tradition, an attractive market for NIL dollars – but have struggled to find the right coach since Pete Carroll left for the NFL afterwards. a decade of domination.

USC apparently solved that gaping hole with the hiring of Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, another coaching move that appeared to be influenced by the SEC.

While a gigantic contract was surely the biggest lure, Riley is believed to have wanted to get away from the Sooners before they moved to their new conference house. He certainly thinks he has a better chance of qualifying for the playoffs at USC than he would at the SEC.

Even so, he’ll likely have to beat an SEC team at some point to celebrate a national title.

Good luck with that.

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Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for the Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry (at) ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and check out his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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