The streak of six straight BCS National Championships for the SEC is now very much in doubt, after Alabama—the only remaining undefeated SEC team—fell at home to Texas A&M, 29-24, on Saturday afternoon.
The crystal football may seem far away at this point, but that doesn't mean that the SEC is in a down year.
It's quite the opposite, in fact.
SEC teams currently occupy Nos. 4-9 in the current BCS standings, the first time in history that six teams from the same conference have been in the Top 10.
Last season, it was "Alabama, LSU and everybody else." Whether that moniker was fair or not, it's clear that the SEC is much deeper in this 2012 season than any other year in recent memory.
After it established dominance over the rest of the country, the fear in the SEC was always that the conference would cannibalize itself and prevent the best team or teams from making the BCS National Championship Game.
That is exactly what is happening this season.
The conference has enjoyed so much success over the last decade due to its defensive prowess, and this season is no different. The SEC currently boasts four of the top 13 defenses in the nation (Alabama, LSU, Florida and South Carolina) in terms of total defense, and five of the top 19 in scoring defense (the previous four teams plus Vanderbilt).
Alabama now has a loss, but the Crimson Tide still boast a stellar defense and an offense that is a model of efficiency. It may not get a chance to repeat as national champion, but even with a loss, it's clear that Alabama is still a top-flight team based on what we've seen throughout the entire season.
Georgia's 35-7 loss to South Carolina earlier in the season may be hard for voters to overlook, but after the Bulldogs got through an early-season barrage of suspensions and injuries, they started playing like a championship team. They've outscored their opposition 75-10 over the last two games and finally got the running game, passing game and defense clicking at the same time.
Is this a down year for the SEC?
When that happens, look out.
The other SEC teams in the Top 10—Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina—all play at an elite level in at least one phase of the game.
I know, I know, you can't be one-dimensional and win championships.
That's absolutely correct. But you still can be very, very good, and all four of those teams are just that.
The bottom half of the league—particularly Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas—are disasters. But that's true in most other conferences as well, and shouldn't take away from just how good the top half is in 2012.
Just because it looks like the SEC won't win a BCS National Championship this season doesn't mean that it's a down season in the SEC. The SEC is so good and deep that its strength is what's going to prevent it from hoisting the crystal football.