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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Auburn latest to wear crown for king of conferences


PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Gene Chizik talked a lot Tuesday but didn't say much.

Les Miles, a man of few words himself, made the loudest, boldest statement of his life.

You want to know why the SEC is so powerful that it is about to become a third major political party? Don't go to Auburn's buzz-kill coach who talked for a half hour Tuesday after just winning his conference's fifth consecutive national championship.

"If you look at it from 10,000 feet, it looks like this conference is a very dominating conference over some of the others," Chizik said, "But I don't know that that's necessarily true."

Dodd's Power Poll
1. Auburn
2. TCU
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. Oklahoma
6. Ohio State
7. Wisconsin
8. Boise State
9. Arkansas
10. LSU
11. Alabama
12. Oklahoma State
13. Nevada
14. Michigan State
15. Virginia Tech
16. Missouri
17. Florida State
18. Mississippi State
19. Central Florida
20. Tulsa
21. South Carolina
22. Texas A&M
23. Nebraska
24. North Carolina State
25. San Diego State

Gene, your Google Earth must be busted. If you, College Football Fan, don't feel the SEC's pimp slap by now, you're numb. Monday's tight, taut championship game turned because Auburn was just better. It plays these types of games each week in the SEC. The Tigers were faster on defense, more dynamic on offense. True freshman Michael Dyer, Auburn's best tailback, didn't start because Chizik has the luxury of bringing him in late as a change-of-pace guy. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley is the most terrifying defensive force in the league since, well, last year in the SEC when Alabama's Roland McClain had that title. Five-star No. 1 prospect Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end from South Carolina, is waiting to take Fairley's place next month after he signs, presumably, with an SEC school.

It's about brand loyalty. Right now SEC fans are addicted. A fight broke out in the BBVA Compass Bowl last week between Kentucky and Pittsburgh. Fans in Birmingham's Legion Field began chanting "SEC! SEC!" There is anecdotal evidence of the same happening on Bourbon Street during Sugar Bowl week when an altercation erupted between Ohio State and Arkansas fans. These people don't just buy souvenirs, they name their children Archie and Herschel and Bo.

LSU's coach staying true to his (adopted) school came Tuesday when Miles recommitted to the Tigers. That ended a second flirtation with his alma mater, Michigan. There isn't going to be a third. By staying in Baton Rouge, Crazy Les said it without saying it: He had switched dream jobs from Michigan to LSU.

Bo Schembechler once told Miles "go find your own Michigan." Crazy Les has, at a place that is, well, crazy. Nick Saban helped make LSU that way after the program spent decades just kind of flopping around. Miles replaced Nick seven years ago, won with Saban's players, delivered his own national championship, then kept winning. A lot. LSU is on cruise control (61 victories in Miles' six seasons), but then again so is Alabama -- and Auburn. Florida won't be down for long. Steve Spurrier got South Carolina to the SEC title game, which is kind of the birthright benchmark. The winner, by God, deserves a national championship shot because of what it just went through:

A weekly dose of shards of glass, razor blades and hot coals -- aka the SEC schedule.

"I don't know that there's a guy, a head coach or a university, that doesn't believe that if you get to Atlanta ... you don't have a shot to play for the national title," Chizik said.

Miles, a Yankee, has bought into Dixie. Until they fire him or he retires, the ultimate Michigan Man will be a committed LSU Loyalist.

The BCS bashers have had it all wrong. The cartel exists below the Mason-Dixon line. The SEC is now 7-0 in BCS title games. The conference has won more than half of those 13 BCS championship games. They ought to rename the system, BCSEC. Urban Meyer left the profession and there are still four sitting coaches who have won national championships. Auburn became the fourth different SEC school to win a title during that five-year run. That's as many schools that have won national championships in the Big Ten's history in the wire service era. (Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State since 1936).

(Disclaimer: Prior to 1936 titles were applied retroactively and/or were considered "mythical". This list includes only AP, UPI and BCS champions. Penn State won its titles as an independent.)

Even the mighty Big Ten has to understand one of the biggest reasons for the disparity. Soccer thrives in Europe. Canada produces the best hockey players. Kenya has great distance runners. The best defensive tackles are in the Southeast region. Ask any coach the hardest position to recruit. They will all tell you D-line, specifically D-tackle. LSU's Glen Dorsey had an All-American season for the Tigers' championship team in 2007. Marcell Dareus made the biggest play of last year's title game, knocking out Texas' Colt McCoy on the fifth play of the game.

Fairley was in beast mode all night Monday, skating the fine line between dirty and clean.

"I was calling him a cheater," Oregon tailback LaMichael James said, "because he kept grabbing my face mask [but] he really is a good guy. He was a competitor."

Call it a Fairley hat trick: one sack, one forced fumble and a personal foul penalty. Twitter had lit up by Tuesday with Fairley being compared to Warren Sapp, Ndamukong Suh and Dan Wilkinson. Over the top? Certainly not out of the question.

And then it was back to work for Chizik. There have been five coaches win national championships since 2000 within their first two years at their school. Chizik is the second from the SEC in that group. That meant a whole lot of nothing to the guy who had to hit the recruiting road right away. The Auburn coach will most likely have to replace Fairley and quarterback Cam Newton for starters.

"As far as days off, they are few and far between," Chizik said. "That's just kind of part of the deal."

Strangely, SEC commissioner Mike Slive laid low Monday. This was another pinnacle for his league. Maybe he didn't want to deal with the elephant in the room. Chizik answered questions Tuesday with four national championship trophies to his right. In the last year one has been returned (Football Writers' Grantland Rice Trophy), two others could symbolize vacated titles because of USC's major violations. The BCS is on record as saying it will vacate USC's title from 2004 if it loses an NCAA appeal to be heard on Jan. 22. The National Football Foundation's MacArthur Bowl could have USC's name removed because of the same issue.

It could be months, or years, before we know for sure whether Monday's championship is legit. The Newton questions won't go away even if he does, presumably, to the NFL.

No Tiger on earth, though, will believe what was won on the field isn't theirs -- and the SEC's -- forever.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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