After Alabama trucked Notre Dame for the national title, it took only a matter of hours for some of the national CFB pundits to downshift from “OMG Alabama is incredible” to “SHUT UP REST OF THE SEC THIS DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU.” One of those folks is a favorite writer of mine and stand-up guy Pat Forde, who said this:

Alabama is in full-on dynasty mode, winning its third title in four years. Florida, LSU and Auburn have all contributed to the SEC’s crystal football haul as well.

(You fans of Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas? Shut your mouths. Your teams have contributed nothing to this historic run. Stop bragging on other teams’ work.)

Forde repeated a similar sentiment a couple days later on Twitter. Look, I get it: The conference solidarity thing can be a little much. It’s even getting to be a little much for me as an SEC alum; lord knows it’s got to be like nails on a blackboard for fans of any of the other nine FBS leagues. Full disclosure, I was fully prepared to put aside SEC loyalty and not give a crap who won the national title game until Notre Dame started in with the same tired-ass redneck-baiting we have to deal with the other 11 months of the year. That type of shit will get me yelling “Roll Tide” in a hurry.

And no, Georgia doesn’t get to put an asterisk beside Alabama’s national championship because we played the Tide closer than Notre Dame could’ve dreamed of doing, and Texas A&M doesn’t get one either for beating Alabama in the regular season. Stipulated: The 2012 title is Bama’s and Bama’s alone.

But give the rest of us some credit. Georgia, by Nick Saban’s own admission, was five yards away from knocking off Alabama on a neutral field; LSU led Bama for much of the game and lost by only four; Texas A&M beat Bama in Bryant-Denny; even Ole Miss had a lead on Alabama at one point — and yet Notre Dame, the top-ranked team in the country, the last remaining undefeated, couldn’t hang with them for even five minutes. Doesn’t that say something about the level of competition in the SEC? Like maybe we’ve had a point all along about how deep this league is?

It wasn’t just this past season, either. Consider:

  • 2010: Auburn gives up 27 points to South Carolina, 34 to Kentucky, 43 to Arkansas and 31 to Georgia in the regular season — but in the national title game, they hold Oregon, the nation’s No. 1 offense, to only 19.
     
  • 2009: Alabama beats South Carolina by 14 points, LSU by 9, Auburn by only 5, Tennessee by only 2 — yet beats undefeated, No. 2 Texas by 16 in the Rose Bowl.
     
  • 2007: LSU ekes out wins over Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee by a touchdown or less and loses to Kentucky and Arkansas in triple-overtime — but beats No. 1 Ohio State by two TDs (and it would’ve been three if not for a cosmetic Buckeye touchdown with 73 seconds left in the game).
     
  • 2006: A Florida team still struggling to adapt to Urban Meyer’s spread offense beats Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina by 15 points combined, and loses to Auburn on the road — but annihilates No. 1 Ohio State in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game. (This after having to hear for a solid month how Ohio State and Michigan were clearly the two best teams in the nation and the BCSNCG should’ve been a Buckeyes-Wolverines rematch. Ohio State rolled up 503 yards and 42 points on Michigan; they managed 82 total yards and 14 points.)

It’s practically become an annual tradition: SEC teams beat each other up in the regular season, the pundits grouse about how a single dominant team really hasn’t emerged from the fray and maybe the conference just isn’t that good this year … and then the SEC champion advances to the national championship game, faces an opponent everyone thought was respectable, and makes them look like they don’t even belong on the same field. Again, I can understand the rest of the country getting tired of this, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie.

And then there’s this (h/t Get the Picture):

Think about it.  Saban has won a BCS crown in four of his last eight seasons as a college coach.  He and Alabama have now won back-to-back national titles.  But they haven’t repeated as SEC champs during that run.  No one has since Tennessee won the league in consecutive years in 1997 and 1998.

Again, think about that.  It’s literally easier to win the BCS championship than it is the SEC championship. 

So no, rest of the world, as a Georgia fan I don’t demand a share of Alabama’s title just because my team actually gave the Tide a game and Notre Dame couldn’t. But I think my guys are deserving of some respect just the same — as are LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and all the other SEC teams who at least bothered to show up against Alabama and play them more competitively than the so-called No. 1 team in the nation could manage. You may not want to admit it, but maybe the SEC really is that much better than the rest of the country, and maybe that’s why a team like Alabama (or LSU, or Florida) can face a grueling schedule week in and week out in the regular season and then blow through their national-championship opponent like it was a JV scrimmage.

Yeah, it hurts that there’s a crystal-football-sized empty space in Georgia’s trophy case right now. But we’re certainly closer to filling it than anyone outside the Southeast is. And as long as we have to earn our stripes against the toughest competition in the country, I expect that’ll continue to be the case.