SEC haters likely couldn’t help but cringe when multiple media outlets began the “what if” debate on had the College Football Playoff began in 2013.
Even those most blindly filled with rage probably guessed SEC champion Auburn would have made the four-team tournament.
But then those same fans optimistic the new playoff—which launches in 2014—would bring change saw the projected No. 3 team.
Any illusion the College Football Playoff would be for conference champions alone was shattered before the committee showcased its first poll.
Make no mistake: The SEC might have gone 0-2 in BCS bowl games this season, but it will take more than one season to lose the benefit of the doubt.
The SEC’s reign of BCS supremacy might be over, but its opportunities to win national championships might well double in the new format.
That sound you just heard? It’s the collective dry heaving of Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC fans everywhere.
Teams from those conferences will make the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated. They will still have a chance with one loss, though Baylor and Ohio State might well have been left in the cold.
If league champs lose two or more?
Well, those teams had better hope Alabama, LSU and Florida don’t have comparable or better records.
Brian Leigh projected what four-team playoffs might have looked like since the start of the BCS era. In five of the last eight seasons, Leigh projected two SEC teams from the league would have made the playoff.
Perhaps worse, SEC teams could have met in the final in three of those seasons.
Any hope the anti-SEC segment of the college football world has of limiting leagues to one bid lies with the College Football Playoff committee.
Fans might have cheered upon news that conference championships would be weighed heavily.
Those same fans likely cringed when met with the realization such league titles wouldn’t be a prerequisite.
The 13-member committee is tasked with considering conference championships as one of the criteria, but not necessarily with any more weight than strength of schedule or results against common opponents.
What the committee could potentially do is hold at-large candidates to higher standards.
For instance, if a team fails to win its conference and played three bad out-of-conference games, perhaps it wouldn’t get the nod because it chose not to challenge itself.
College Football Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long, who is also the athletic director at Arkansas, seemingly erased that idea, though.
“Our charge is simple,” Long said during his introductory press conference, per the College Football Playoff site. “Determine the best teams in college football and seed them to play each other.”
In other words, the “eye test” might be just as important as the “who I play” test.
The BCS era taught fans to interpret Long’s comment as a precursor to the SEC taking what it wants.
SEC coaches—more than those (not named Bob Stoops) from any other league—love sticking out their chests and talking about fighting through the gauntlet that is conference play.
They point to seven national championships in the past eight seasons.
Recently, at least, media members and fans, alike, have bought in to the idea.
As long as the pro-SEC team can continue selling that narrative, those suffering from SEC fatigue will come to dread College Football Playoff selection shows.