The “S-E-C!” chant reached a new level of insufferable during Saturday’s game between Alabama and Michigan that didn’t previously seem possible.
At just under five minutes to go in the second quarter, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw an ill-advised pass in the shadow of his own end zone to Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley. In fairness to Robinson, Mosley was wide open. But it didn’t matter, Moseley ran 16 yards with the ball for a touchdown. It was the tail end of a 31-point run by Alabama that, when clocked continuously, lasted just over a quarter’s worth of game time.
Just like that, the game felt over. It wasn’t, of course. Eighth-ranked Michigan would mount a couple of scoring drives before eventually falling to No. 2 Alabama 41-14, but the impression was set early.
That’s when the chant started booming through Cowboys Stadium, right after a PAT put Alabama up 31-0.
“S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!”
I’d like to think that this game between two storied programs was just a game between two storied programs. I’d like to think that Alabama is just a top-notch program that can plug in any player at any position and have success against whatever competition it faces. I’d like to think that Nick Saban is just one of the best coaches in college football because of his ability to take away what other teams do well.
Individually, those are all true statements, but collectively they’re not reality. Michigan-Alabama was more than just a game. It was an opportunity to dethrone the SEC by knocking off the defending BCS champion in prime time on national TV — even if it was solely to show that, yes, football’s elite can be beaten one time out of 100, a la “Little Giants.” This country has SEC fatigue, and why wouldn’t it? Six straight BCS championships is a lot to have shoved in your face all the time.
Take No. 14 Clemson’s 26-19 win tonight over Auburn in Atlanta for example. Aubie may be the fourth or fifth-best team in the SEC West, but that’s not what people were talking about. Clemson beat an SEC team, so it’s labeled as a statement win. No other conference has that kind of rapport.
So when a crowd of crimson starts chanting “S-E-C!”, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it because no team’s shown it can on the field when it matters most.
Michigan tried, but the irony is that it was Alabama’s physicality, not necessarily speed, that was the separating factor. The Wolverines have speed too. Robinson had some signature open field runs on a couple of occasions, and Michigan’s receivers got behind coverage from time to time. But Robinson can’t throw the ball well enough to keep most opponents on their heels consistently and no one’s going to run sideline to sideline against Alabama successfully.
There’s nothing too complicated about it: Alabama was the better team with a favorable matchup. It doesn’t guarantee that one’s going to be more successful than the other going forward, but the storyline of the Big Ten vs. SEC is always a compelling one, so that’s what it was about tonight.
And the SEC won. Again.
Eventually, an SEC team will lose a Cowboys Classic or championship game. It has to happen. When that day comes, it’ll feel like a national holiday to everyone outside that part of the country.
Until then, all any of us can do is shrug our shoulders when the chant starts up again.