The SEC tends to divide the college football world into two separate groups: those who strut around confidently boasting about their supremacy and those who tend to accuse every positive word ever said or written about the conference as media spin or overblown hype.
...Which is exactly why the sport needs a team from the conference in the national title game.
Like it or not, the results over the past seven seasons have proven the South has the best teams in college football, and any counter-argument doesn't really hold up. By our count, the SEC has won seven straight titles, and four different teams have held up the crystal trophy.
But let's not waste any more space gushing on teams like Alabama and LSU, because, believe it or not, there's some really good football being played in other states.
Florida State, led by quarterback Jameis Winston, is one of the most dominant teams we've seen in years. The Seminoles haven't played a very difficult schedule, but they own a 37-point road win over Clemson, a team currently sitting at No. 6 in the latest BCS rankings. No other team has come within 14 points of Jimbo Fisher's squad.
Then there's Ohio State, which has been a little more up and down than the 'Noles in 2013, but is nonetheless undefeated and on the verge of making it through a second straight season undefeated. Quarterback Braxton Miller is one of the best all-around playmakers in the country, and when Urban Meyer has his team ready to go, it knows how to put on a show.
But back to the SEC, which seems to have a stranglehold on the national title. Fans can debate all they want about the depth of the conference or the lack of quality scheduling (see three games versus FCS opponents this past Saturday), but big-game wins and crystal footballs tend to make the loudest noise. After that, all other chatter becomes muted.
"So why does the sport need an SEC team in the title game?" you might ask while groaning over the thought of sitting through another offseason having to listen about the strength of the conference.
This needs to happen for two reasons, both of which revolve around the health of the sport as a whole.
The first reason is that having an SEC team in the title game will immediately divide the country and turn everyone into a fan of one of the teams. If Alabama, Auburn or Missouri make it to Pasadena, the fans of the respective SEC team will immediately know who to root for come game time.
For everyone else, it would be time to cheer for the opposition, whether that be FSU, OSU or another team.
More viewers will create bigger buzz leading into the game, and it will bring about passion and emotion from fans everywhere. College football remains the best sport in the country because in no other league (sans college basketball for a few weeks in March) do people's lives completely revolve around their teams year-round.
That's not to say that much of the country wouldn't be thrilled to see an SEC team fail to reach Pasadena, but there's much more excitement in wondering if this will finally be the year that the conference gets knocked off its perch.
If Florida State and Ohio State square off, most fans will tune in because it would probably be a decent game. But if you replace Alabama with one of those teams, everyone will tune in because the college football world wants to find out if the Crimson Tide's reign will come to an end.
...Which brings us to the second reason an SEC team needs to be in the title game: It's the most fitting way to close out the BCS era and the only real way this current streak of championships can come to an end.
Don't mistake this as advocating for an SEC team to be in the game no matter what. If Alabama loses, you can't possibly justify putting in a one-loss team from the conference just because.
In that instance, the likely matchup will pit together the 'Noles and the Buckeyes, and the streak will come to an end. It wouldn't be unfair, and the champion will have earned its title.
However, the rest of the country is going to have to put up with grumbling from SEC fans about how it shouldn't count or how it isn't a real title. They might also talk about how we don't really know who the best team is since Florida State or Ohio State didn't have to play an Alabama or an Auburn.
That's bogus, of course, but there will be zero debate if an SEC team loses in the title game. That will end the streak without any complaints from either side, and it would send the BCS era out in style.
One might also be looking forward to a title game featuring an SEC team because the last couple years have failed to deliver much excitement.
After Notre Dame skated by a handful of teams en route to an undefeated season in 2012, many figured it was a lamb headed into the slaughterhouse going up against Alabama. With a 28-0 halftime score and 42-14 final, that's exactly what it turned out to be.
The year before, we saw LSU and Alabama square off in a rematch from the regular season. Sorry, but that wasn't very exciting for everyone else who sat through a 9-6 snoozer in their first meeting.
You have to go back to the 2011 title game which saw Auburn and Oregon square off to find a truly exciting matchup featuring a dominant SEC team go up against a quality opponent from outside the conference. The final in that one was the Tigers by a score of 22-19, but it was a great game from start to finish and left most people feeling satisfied having watched an SEC team receive a fair fight.
If you're someone who can't stand the SEC for whatever reason, you're not alone. You're probably sick of hearing about how great the conference is, how great its defenses are and how much better it is than everyone else. And yes, we've noticed games like the 49-42 Alabama victory over Texas A&M and the 43-38 Auburn win vs. Georgia. The conference isn't perfect, and not every team was constructed in heaven and sent down in a pigskin-made chariot ready to take over college football.
But again, the number seven speaks the loudest, and it's precisely why college football needs an SEC team in the title game. It'll force you to pick a side, and it'll mean that much more when the clock hits :00, regardless of who you're rooting for.
If nobody from the conference earns a place in Pasadena, then so be it. No number of consecutive titles merits a free ticket to the title game given to the best team in the conference as an act of charity.
But college football will benefit if the rest of the season follows a script and we see Florida State play Alabama, because it means we'll get a matchup that intrigues everybody.
You'll either root for the 'Noles to end the streak or cheer for the Tide to make it three in a row and eight straight for the SEC, but we know you'll be watching.
All stats via ESPN
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