Bill Shanks

SEC finishes out mediocre season

Head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide enter Saturday’s SEC Championship with an unbeaten record.
Head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide enter Saturday’s SEC Championship with an unbeaten record. AP

For years, we have believed the SEC was the dominant, best conference in college football. With the regular season now over, the facts paint a far different picture.

Usually, the discussion of which conference is best is a waste of time. All conferences normally have a few really good teams, some mediocre teams and a handful of bad teams.

The best team in the sport is not up for debate. Alabama was dominant, with a perfect 12-0 season. The Crimson Tide beat its eight SEC opponents by an average of 23.25 points. But after Alabama, there was a huge gap to the next-best team.

No other SEC team had more than eight wins. Perhaps if Hurricane Matthew had not rescheduled Florida’s game with LSU, the Gators might have won their ninth game of the season. Facts, however, are facts. You had Alabama with 12 wins, and no one else was even close.

You can usually count on at least one dominant team (Alabama) and then at least a couple of teams that will be at 10 wins, followed by a few with nine wins. But that’s how mediocre the SEC was this season, not even having another team with nine or more wins.

And it’s not that the SEC teams just beat up on each other. The 14 SEC teams played in 14 games against opponents from four of the other so-called Power-5 conferences. Their combined record was 4-10.

The other 13 teams in the SEC have all had Alabama as the standard-bearer. And yet, look how badly they are all falling short. Alabama’s dominance is almost historic, but the fact so many other SEC schools are failing at trying to emulate the Crimson Tide is shocking.

There is one dominant team, and then it’s just everybody else.

The ACC is top-heavy with 11-1 Clemson, but at least it has three teams (Louisville, Florida State and Virginia Tech) with 9-3 records this season. You can call a 9-3 mark as a good season, while 8-4 is as mediocre as it gets.

The Big Ten has four of its 12 teams with at least 10 wins. Ohio State is 11-1, with Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin all 10-2. That’s likely the best conference in college football this season.

The Big 12, which for some reason has no conference championship and actually has one more week of the regular season left, has three teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia) at 9-2.

And the Pac-12 has Washington (11-1) and Colorado (10-2) with double-digit victories, but half of its members had losing records this season.

Someone in the SEC needs to step up. Florida has won the East two years in a row, and if Jim McElwain can find a good quarterback and other offensive skill players they’ll be first in line. It also should give Georgia fans hope, with Kirby Smart finishing his first year as head coach. Now is a perfect time for Smart to build a program that can be right behind Alabama.

Since 2006, a team from the SEC has won the national championship eight times. Alabama has won it four times, Florida twice and Auburn and LSU each won once. Alabama might win it again this year, but it’ll say more about their dominance than what’s going on in the SEC right now.

The other 13 SEC teams still have a lot of work to do, to not just try and become another Alabama, but to simply become good again.

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