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National Columnist

There's no conspiracy here, the SEC is just better when it matters

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- One of these days, we'll learn. Or then again, maybe we won't. I mean, if we hadn't utterly surrendered to the idea of SEC domination by now, what's it going to take? Maybe this -- Alabama's 42-14 demolition of Notre Dame on Monday night in the BCS title game, which ought to drop Discover as its title sponsor and get right to the heart of the matter by calling it what it is:

The SEC BCS national championship, brought to you by Nick Saban.

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"Whether I look like it or not," Saban said afterward, "I'm happy as hell."

As he should be. And the rest of us should be quiet, if we're inclined to question the SEC's dominance. It's not smoke and mirrors. It's not scheduling or officiating. It's not a conspiracy by the TV networks.

The gap between the SEC and everyone else isn't getting ridiculous; it is ridiculous. The SEC is so clearly superior to the rest of college football that the SEC's conference title game in Atlanta deserves to be one of the two national semifinals in 2014 when college football does away with the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban -- and ushers in the four-team playoff.

Most years two of those playoff teams will be from the SEC. Some years, three. You think not? Only if you're as dumb as I was on Nov. 21, when I outsmarted myself by studying schedules, breaking down the nuances of who SEC teams had and had not beaten this season, and deduced that the SEC is overrated.

God help me, I wish that's all I'd written. But it's not. I also wrote, and I quote, "It's a Ponzi scheme, this 2012 SEC fraud, built upon layers of air."

Oops?

This is the seventh consecutive national championship for the SEC, and it was the most lopsided of them all. And I've seen pretty much all of them. I was there in January 2007 when Florida demolished Ohio State 41-14, which was heretofore the worst beatdown yet in the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban Urban Meyer.

And as I recall, Ohio State actually led that game early.

Notre Dame never led this game. After one possession by Alabama, the Tide led 7-0. After two possessions, it was 14-0. After three? You know what it was after three possessions. Alabama led 21-0, and eventually it was 35-0 -- and it could've been worse; Alabama punted twice before scoring that fifth TD.

This isn't just what Alabama does in the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban. This is what every SEC team does every year in this game, unless one of them has the misfortune, as LSU did a year ago, of being matched up with another SEC team. Only one carnivore gets to eat, and last year Alabama devoured LSU 21-0. Throw out that game, and in the other six SEC BCS title games (brought to you by Nick Saban), the average score has been this:

Carnivore 34, Appetizer 17.

Notre Dame has a defensive front said to be one of the two best in the country -- second to Alabama's defensive front, honestly -- and it has the most decorated linebacker in the country in Manti Te'o. And they got manhandled. This was men against boys. Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, merely the latest monster Alabama running back to play in the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban, ran for 140 yards and would've had more if he hadn't had to split carries with T.J. Yeldon, who ran for 108. Between the two of them, they humiliated that Notre Dame defensive front and they vaporized Heisman runner-up linebacker Manti Te'o.

Lacy was named the game's outstanding offensive player, but that was a matter of convenience. It's a lot easier to bring one guy to the podium than to bring up the real stars of this game, the five offensive linemen for Alabama who destroyed the Notre Dame defensive front.

"Eddie makes a guy miss, and he gets 20 yards downfield -- and they're beating their chest about how they're blocking 'em," Saban said. "It's the best offensive line we've ever had or been associated with."

Started early, too. On the first touchdown of the game, Lacy got a handoff at the Notre Dame 20 and burst into the end zone. He's not slow, but Lacy isn't fast. And still nobody from Notre Dame was close enough to touch him.

Alabama's offensive line was opening holes all over, but the area of choice was the real estate nearest mountainous left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. Lacy and Yeldon ran behind Kouandjio all night, getting momentum and using that to run over, or around, the first Notre Dame defender. And sometimes the second. On one play Yeldon ran over two Notre Dame defenders in 6 yards, first obliterating 182-pound cornerback KeiVarae Russell and then bowling over 240-pound linebacker Dan Fox. Fox got credit for the "tackle," tripping up Yeldon as he flailed over onto his back.

And Notre Dame was playing hard, Irish coach Brian Kelly insisted afterward. He mentioned bright spots, see, and someone in the media had to know what he was talking about. Bright spots? Please explain. So Kelly elaborated.

"The way our guys compete," he said. "I love the way our guys kept fighting and kept competing."

Notre Dame was fighting, and competing, and trying, and Notre Dame had no chance. Midway through the second quarter, it was clear the Irish were going to finish second.

"Second definitely sucks," Te'o said.

But it's inevitable, second place, for whatever non-SEC team finds itself in the SEC BCS national championship brought to you by Nick Saban. Hell, there's no longer any mystery about what's going to happen in this game. The real mystery, the only mystery worth solving in college football these last few years, is the identity of the SEC team that's going to win this game.

Nick Saban knows it, too. When he thinks big, he doesn't think about winning the national championship. He thinks about winning the SEC championship.

Because it's the same thing.

"We got here by 5 yards -- Georgia was 5 yards from scoring [the winning touchdown in the SEC title game]," Saban said. "It's a pretty tough league we play in. We're going to have to improve as a program to have the opportunity to play for a national championship again, because of the quality of our league."

It's not hype. It's not myth. The SEC is real -- and it's spectacular.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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