By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
It may go down as the most amazing end to a College Football game in history and it may also signify the end to SEC dominance. Auburn beat Alabama on the last second of the game in the most improbably way, a missed field goal returned 100 yards for a touchdown. It will probably end Alabama’s chances for a third straight National Title and also end the SEC run of National Championships at seven. It could also mean the rise of the PAC-12.
The SEC has had a lot going for it. It has some of the best coaches in the country, some of the best players and generally speaking the most money. Like all dynasties it has to end sometime. If the beginning of the end is on the horizon its first significant step wasn’t Saturday but when the then PAC-10 hired Larry Scott to be it’s commissioner.
Since his hiring the conference has increased to 12 schools, signed new TV deals with ESPN & FOX (totaling some $3 billion) and created it’s own network.
The network is the key part. It’s 100% owned by the conference unlike the Big Ten Network (51% Big Ten and 49% FOX) or the SEC (wholly owned by ESPN). When you own 100% of the network you take on 100% of the problems but also get 100% of the revenue.
The PAC-12 title game is still in it’s infancy. It is not yet the spectacle that the SEC Title game is. Partially because the location changes every year to the best conference record. That means you don’t know where it is going to be, officially, until the week before. Once the league decides on a place to put the game on the regular basis then the event level status should be raised.
To those who claim the SEC is still better. You’re right but the PAC-12 plays nine conference games a year vs the eight played by the SEC. A point that even Nick Saban has pointed out at this past years SEC Spring Meeting. This creates more meaningful games vs the non conference cupcakes most schools schedule.
The tide is also shifting in the quality of its teams. Three notable SEC schools are home this bowl season (Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas). Call it coaching or injuries or what not but those teams with all of their money and all of their fans are at home this postseason. That’s a shot to the belly for the SEC.
Georgia didn’t live up to expectations and Florida’s collapse has been nothing short of spectacular. While Auburn and Missouri’s turnarounds have been nothing short of amazing the turnarounds at USC, Arizona State, and Washington State are not something to laugh at.
The SEC will not go quietly into the night nor would anyone expect them to. However, the level of play in the PAC-12, the number of NFL prospects in the next three drafts and their TV deal could spell a whole lot of trouble for the folks down south.
Simply put, the SEC can not stay on top forever. The country is too big and other conferences have too much going for them.