Before I begin, let me clarify that this article is not intended to be a my daddy can beat up your daddy rant. While nothing is for certain in life or college football except for the kickoff and final whistle, for the past decade the SEC has been in ascendancy.
Anyone with an IQ in excess of his shoe size knows over time the power center will move elsewhere at sometime in the future.
For example, a generation ago the power teams were in what is now the Big XII, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas. Colorado and Texas A&M spent short stints during this time on the national stage.
Although I have no empirical evidence showing a cause and effect relationship, I think there is a strong correlation between the following circumstances and events, which led to the current status-quo in college football.
1. There are only three NFL teams in the southeast compared to six the northeast and seven in the midwest. In fact there were no NFL teams in the south prior to 1966.
To make matters better for the college game, with the exception of Tampa Bay's one championship the NFL teams in the south are for the most part non-contenders. With a brief NFL tradition and only a few weak NFL teams the media and fans continued to concentrate more on the college game.
A corollary is what has happened to USC. The Trojans have been a national power for decades. Their rise to super power status over the last ten years is due in part to the departure of the Rams and Raiders.
They benefit immensley from being in the nation's second largest media market with only UCLA competing for coverage during the football season.
2. Major universities in the south began integrating in earnest during the late 60s. As a result every talented minority player, who went to Alabama was one less moving north to play for Penn State.
The net result was the quality of play in the south increased at the expense of teams in the north and northeast. It must be noted that the shift wasn't sudden. It took nearly a generation for minority kids in the south to identify with their instate institutions.
While white athletes grew up dreaming of playing for old state U, SEC coaches had to recruit minority kids as though they were out of state prospects.
3. There has been a major population shift from the northeast and midwest to the south and southwest. Fifty years ago, except for California virtually all the largest states in the union were in the northeast and midwest.
Today two of the four largest states are within the boundaries of the old Confederacy, Texas and Florida. Only New York, hardly a recruiting hotbed, is among the top four.
4. In 1984 the Supreme Court broke the NCAA monopoly on television coverage of college football. About the same time ESPN came into being. Suddenly schools, which had virtually no chance of being seen outside their stadium were getting national exposure.
Prior to 1984 non traditional powers had virtually no chance of national exposure.
During the pre-1984 era fans in the south experienced the same frustration watching the Big 10/Notre Dame game of the week that fans outside the south now feel when having to listen to the talking heads rave about how great the SEC is.
5. Although less significant, climate is a factor. As bad as two a days in 90 degree August heat is, it pales with playing in subzero snow drifts in November.
I'm sure someone(s) smarter than I can come up with valid arguments supporting or contradicting my thesis. I contend the above provides a logical explanation of the current state of relative strength in college football.