FORT LAUDERDALE–The defining moments seem to come in 10-year increments in the Southeastern Conference.
Take that time in 1992 when Alabama, having been taken to the max by Florida in a 28-21 victory in the first ever SEC title game, appeared to have nothing left in the tank when it faced No. 1 Miami in the national championship game.
Then Alabama coach Gene Stallings groused about the difficulty of playing a tough SEC schedule, and then having to prove it over again in an SEC title game, told a reporter that the title game format doomed the SEC into “never winning a national championship” again.
A month later, Alabama stunned many people by upsetting No. 1 Miami 34-13 to win another national title for the Tide and the SEC.
Fast forward the time line to 2004 when Auburn, coming out of the ranks of contenders, finishes a 12-0 regular season, but finds itself tucked into a No. 3 spot behind USC and Oklahoma and is shut out of a title game opportunity.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive is fuming, vowing never to ever have an unbeaten SEC champion locked out of a national title game opportunity. The league will get bigger and better.
It takes a year, but starting in January of 2007 when No. 2 Florida rolls over No. 1 Ohio State starts winning bowl games and national championships.
Following Monday night’s 42-14 win by No. 2 Alabama over No. 1 Notre Dame, the championship run count is 7. And there is no end in sight since the Tide, which has created a dynasty within a dynasty by winning three national titles in the last four seasons and back to back titles, will be the pre-season favorite in 2013 to three-peat.
Just how does the SEC and Alabama and Tide coach Nick Saban, who now has four national titles (3 at Alabama and 1 at LSU), accomplish this, sometimes making it look easy?
Part of the reason may be the toughness of the SEC itself.
I don’t think there’s any question about it,” said Saban on Tuesday in a morning after press conference following the rout of ND. “” We had some really tough games with‑‑ I think, weren’t there six teams in the top ten at the end of the season, five maybe? I don’t know, I thought there were six when we played the SEC Championship game.
So if you’re playing those teams, and we didn’t play all five of them or six of them or however many there were, but we played a couple, three of them, those kinds of games, that kind of competition, playing against sort of the best, obviously helps you play another good team when you play in a game like this. And I don’t even think it’s just those teams, I think it’s the fact that there’s a lot of teams in our division that we had very difficult games with. So it’s almost every game that you play in the SEC is a game that you could lose, and you have to be very well prepared for and you have to sort of play with a consistency.””
Now it is 2013 and the SEC is the monster in the room of college football that EVERYONE is talking about.
How could it be any other way? SEC teams are bigger, better, faster, with better facilities in many cases than most of their brethren. It has television appeal, and a large rabid fan base. Mostly, however, it has a success ratio that is off even off the boards in the most complicated charts, monitoring significant wins and losses.
Alabama’s win over ND, upped the SEC’s record in BCS type of championship games over the past 20 years to 9-0.
There is more than chatter in SEC circles that the winner of the SEC title game in Atlanta each year needs generally has a tougher time in Atlanta than they do after the game. t
Listen to Saban talk about the Tide’s SEC title game victory over Georgia. “The process is ongoing,” said Saban, who has taken Alabama to back-to-back national titles, something no one has accomplished in the BCS era. “And if you don’t pay attention to that, you’re not going to stay up. We got here (national championship) by five yards. Georgia was five yards away from scoring. So it’s a pretty tough league that we play in and we’re going to have to improve as a program to have an opportunity to win the SEC championship or National championship ever again because of the competition in our league.”
Alabama, under Saban, seems to do that better anyone else. He has four national championships. He makes in excess of $5 million a year. He has security and success. Will he allow himself time to enjoy the moment?
Saban said he is giving himself 24 hours and then the clock will resume ticking. “We are 0-0,” he said, referring to the record Bama will have when it begins playing games next season.
But right now that 0-0 still is better than anyone else’s–even in the ever-so-tough SEC.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.