Notre Dame Football: SEC-reign-120111
January, 11, 2012
By Matt Fortuna | ESPN.com
Alabama beat LSU for the national title, and both will likely enter 2012 as preseason top-five teams.
Not far behind them will be Arkansas, which has a legitimate argument as the nation's third-best team this season following an 11-2 campaign that featured losses to only the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.
Throw in the fact the Razorbacks get both finalists at home next season, and we may once again be looking at three top-five SEC West teams, meaning, at the very least, one will be in the BCS title game and give the conference a chance at a seventh straight national title.
When will this reign of dominance end? Probably not soon, as seven of ESPNU's current top 15 recruiting classes for 2012 belong to SEC schools. Notre Dame is there as well, at No. 13, but it would be unreasonable to expect the Irish to jump into national title contention, at least next season, with an unfavorable schedule and a big question mark at quarterback.
The best guess here is change atop the college football ranks won't come until change comes to the BCS as we know it, and even that does nothing more than provide a sliver of opportunity for everyone else.
Oklahoma State is in the title game this season if not for a double-overtime loss at Iowa State that came one day after the Cowboys' women's basketball coach and three others were killed in a plane crash. Whether the Cowboys would have beaten LSU is another matter entirely. And they're only in the conversation now because of a Fiesta Bowl that Stanford could not close out when given the chance in the waning seconds.
Things could have been different. In 2008, former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe helped reject a proposed "plus one" that was being supported by the ACC and SEC. Yup, Mike Slive gave everyone a chance, and he got turned down. As they say, who's laughing now?
But change may be coming. Every conference better hope it is.
Six straight national titles by the SEC -- culminating with two of its schools in the title game Monday night -- gives the conference the benefit of the doubt. That means a one-loss Alabama team that already lost to LSU gets a rematch instead of a one-loss Oklahoma State team waiting for its shot, regardless of each's body of work this season. It's a no-win situation for champions of other conferences. It's the SEC champion and the next-best thing, which, this year, meant another SEC team. History favors it, and the Tide's performance Monday left little room for argument.
Which leads us to whatever changes come in 2014, when the next BCS contract will begin. Answers remain unclear, but if any semblance of a playo ... (er, "plus one") comes to fruition, schools from all over will have the chance to make their cases on the field.
That's all it is -- a chance. But in the same way an Iowa State can knock off an Oklahoma State, that chance may be all anyone tired of the SEC can hope for in trying to slow the dominance of college football's best conference.