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Brad Edwards: It’s the SEC’s world, and college football is just living in it
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has led the Bulldogs to their third national championship game in the last six seasons. (Credit: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Edwards: It’s the SEC’s world, and college football is just living in it

(BVM) — Georgia certainly got all it could handle from Ohio State. It would be fair to say the Bulldogs simply survived their national semifinal on New Year’s Eve.

But regardless of how you categorize it, UGA — and the Southeastern Conference — are back in college football’s national championship game. For the Dawgs, it’s their third appearance in the final over the last six seasons. For the SEC, it marks 20 appearances in the last 20 seasons.

In those two decades, there have been only three national title games without an SEC representative: 2005, 2006 and 2015 (the 2004, 2005 and 2014 seasons). And there have been three championship games during that span played between SEC rivals: 2012, 2018 and 2022.

A couple of years ago, when folks in the South would talk about their conference’s dominance, it was popular to respond by saying, “It’s not the SEC. It’s Alabama.”

And now, with UGA on the verge of its second straight title, the intellectually dishonest could just switch gears and say, “It’s not the SEC. It’s Georgia.”

Many such retorts are aimed at Southern fans that like to brag on their conference and share in its glory. To be sure, several programs in the league have played little to no part in the lengthy stranglehold the SEC has had on college football.

But if you think this domination is mostly a product of one or two teams, you haven’t been paying attention. Five different SEC programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida and Auburn – have won the national championship over the last 20 seasons, and all of them have been in at least two title games during that span.

If we go back five more years to the establishment of the BCS and the first official national championship game, then add Tennessee to make it six different SEC teams that have won the title in this era. By comparison, the ACC has had two teams win it all (Clemson and Florida State), the Big 12 has also had a pair (Oklahoma and Texas), the Big Ten claims just one champ (Ohio State), and the Pac-12 has only USC.

Or if we take a more arbitrary starting point such as the 2006 season, the SEC claims 19 of the last 34 teams to reach the national championship game. In that span, there has been only one title-deciding contest without Southeastern Conference representation (Ohio State vs Oregon in the first College Football Playoff).

When will it end?

In recent years, many people anxiously awaiting the end of the Alabama dynasty have taken consolation in Nick Saban’s age probably making it unlikely he’ll coach another 10 seasons. The same, however, can’t be said for Kirby Smart, who hasn’t yet turned 50.

And the SEC will continue to attract great coaches who want to compete for championships, such as Brian Kelly, who took the LSU job after having led Notre Dame to a couple of playoff appearances.

On top of that, the conference’s recent expansion into Texas places three of the country’s top four states for high school football talent within the SEC footprint (Florida, Georgia and Texas). That means the league’s recruiting dominance should continue, as well.

Then there’s the College Football Playoff, which will expand to 12 teams after next season. As much as many people will make a big deal over the new format guaranteeing inclusion for the Pac-12 and one of the so-called “Group of 5” conferences, the biggest impact of expansion is likely to be an increase in semifinal appearances by the SEC.

The four-team model has mostly prevented the SEC from getting more than one team into the playoff, but in both instances when the league got two teams onto the bracket, they ended up playing each other for the national championship. Now the league’s three best teams are likely to get a shot each season.

And if the selection committee adjusts its seedings to avoid regular-season rematches prior to the semifinals, there should be an even greater chance of continued SEC playoff success. Entering Monday’s championship game, it has a 13-3 record against all other conferences in the College Football Playoff.

Like Ohio State and Clemson in the last decade, a couple of teams from other leagues will probably step up and win a title every now and then. But when we look at where the sport has been for the last 20 years and where it seems to be going, there’s no logical reason to think we’ll see an end to the SEC’s dominance anytime soon.

In the playoff environment, school is out. The academic and (most of the) social distractions that exist during the regular season are eliminated. Players are able to place more focus on football, and that makes major upsets much less likely.
That’s why teams like Georgia and Alabama are even tougher to beat in the playoff. Only a team close to their level of talent has much of a chance against them. That made Ohio State a threat to UGA. Unfortunately for fans of the sport, TCU is not in that category.

This may be the greatest talent disparity in a national championship game since Bama steamrolled Notre Dame 10 years ago. It’s a foregone conclusion. It’s the SEC’s world, and TCU — like everyone else — just happens to be living in it.

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