As we look forward to another exciting college football season, it’s only natural to reflect on what we witnessed this past year. What we witnessed, of course, was the emergence of Jameis Winston and the re-emergence of Florida State, which snapped the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national championships.
Was that the first domino of the SEC dynasty falling, or was Florida State’s national title merely a blip on the radar before the SEC resumes its stranglehold on college football?
“I think it’s more of a blip on the radar, but I think there are several programs that are SEC-like; they just aren’t in the SEC,” Out Kick the Coverage and Fox Sports 1 college football analyst Clay Travis said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “Florida State is effectively an SEC school. They’re in the same geographic region, they recruit (the same players) and their fans are basically the same as SEC fans. Clemson would be another good example in the ACC. I think Oklahoma and Texas are effectively SEC schools in the Big 12. They just play in an inferior (conference). Schools like Ohio State and Michigan and maybe Penn State are SEC-like in many respects.”
“The difference,” Travis continued, “is these other conferences have a couple of programs – USC, Oregon, UCLA maybe – that rise to an SEC level, but they don’t have the depth top to bottom. They don’t have the rotating success levels where one year USC may be good, but Arizona is never going to be a national championship contender. Well, every year in the SEC, at least half the conference – probably more – (enters the season thinking) that their school could be contending for a national championship. That’s unique to the SEC. I think there are seven or eight major programs in the SEC and then I think there are 10 in the rest of college football that, on a year-to-year basis, would be on those same levels as those seven or eight top programs in the SEC.”
Those programs – both in and out of the SEC – hope to qualify for the inaugural four-team playoff this season. But whatever happens, it’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Yes, the NFL might be the most popular sport in America, but college football has taken on a life all of its own – in part because of colorful characters, passionate fan bases and a game-day atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else in the country.
“There are so many different teams to keep up with, and the cast of characters are constantly changing,” Travis said. “If you look at the SEC over the past several years, you’ve had a lot of really big celebrity quarterbacks. Tim Tebow is there four years. Everybody gets to know him. And then you get Cam Newton – a meteor shooting across the sky. And then you get Johnny Manziel for two years.”
And yet, they’re all gone so fast. That’s the nature of being a college student. While an entire generation can grow up watching Peyton Manning, college superstars are here one day and gone the next.
“The only guys who endure are the coaches,” Travis said. “Then you have players who cycle through and are extremely famous for a few years and then they graduate.”