Two years ago, Florida State broke the string of seven successive SEC national championships, and last year Ohio State continued the dismantling of what was once the most dominant conference in the country when it defeated Alabama in the semi-final and then Oregon in the national title game.
A look at the CFP (College Football Poll) would seem to substantiate that trend. Only one team from the SEC, Alabama, is currently listed in the top ten, while there are three teams from the ACC, (Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State) and another three from the Big Ten (Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State.) Oklahoma, Stanford and Notre Dame round out the top ten teams.
It is a given that the Southeastern section of the country is where many colleges look for high school talent. That was one of the reasons Notre Dame agreed to play five ACC teams each year, but not be a part of their conference standings nor eligible for their championship game. The Irish wanted a higher recruiting presence in that part of the country and the ACC, aware of Notre Dame’s drawing ability nationally, was happy to make the deal. The Notre Dame- Clemson game early this season proved to be a good example of that when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney finally announced through the press, “Tell people to stop asking me! I couldn’t get Jesus tickets!”
It may well be that Alabama wins out and returns the national championship to the SEC. They are still quite good. But the total dominance of the Crimson Tide, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, et. al, seems on the wane. Indeed, frustration at Georgia’s inability to win a national championship caused the firing of long time successful coach Mark Richt who boasts a fifteen-year SEC winning percentage of .739. He was barely out of Athens when Miami asked the former Hurricane quarterback to come back to his alma mater and coach. That’s more good news for ACC fans. Look what happened when alum Bear Bryant finally arrived back at his beloved Alabama.
The return of Urban Meyer to Ohio State and the Big Ten seems to have begun a resurgence throughout the conference. Jim Harbaugh went 9-3 in his first year back at Michigan and six Big Ten teams were part of the most recent poll of the AP top 25 teams.
The four teams chosen for the College Football Playoff are Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma, in that order. The Spartans surprisingly jumped both Iowa, whom they beat for the Big Ten Championship, and Oklahoma, who was idle. Pundits have accused the committee of setting up a potential Alabama-Oklahoma final for better television ratings. If true, it would be a further indictment of college athletics again allowing off-field money to dictate on-field policy.
Interesting bowl matchup has Ohio State, a last second field goal loser to Michigan State, versus Notre Dame, who dropped two games on final plays against Clemson and Stanford, respectively. History was made in this age old rivalry with the first meeting in 1935 ending with a last second touchdown pass thrown by William Shakespeare in a 18-13 Irish win. No, not “that” William Shakespeare. This was a kid from Staten Island, New York, who was forever dubbed “The Merchant of Menace” by bitter Ohio State fans for his heroics.
For football purists, a final eighty-five yard, twenty-two-play drive, covering eight-minutes-and-change gave Michigan State a hard fought 16-13 win over Iowa. It was indeed one for the ages. Neither team gave in, Iowa digging in play after play against the ground game of the Spartans who threw but one pass during the drive, and relentless Michigan State, who twice converted fourth down situations. These teams both have class coaches and players and it made me proud to see my conference, the Big Ten, so well represented.