Solving the mystery of the southeast

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 01:04 PM

As Nick Saban hoisted his third Coaches' Trophy in four years Monday night, football fans outside the state of Alabama allowed their minds to wander to 2015.
Two years from now, Saban may still have his fingers wrapped around that crystal relic. If he does, however, his team will bring the national title back to Tuscaloosa only after the Crimson Tide defeat a pair of challengers as a part of the NCAA's answer to the current BCS system: a four-team playoff.
For most, the idea of a playoff is sufficient to cure the ills of a committee which pitted the Notre Dame Fighting Irish against the Tide, in perhaps the most lopsided BCS National Championship game in a series of colossal beatdowns. For others, the greater issue is one of fairness.
How does the Southeastern Conference bag titles in seven of the last seven championships and still likely place four or five teams among the first 10 ranked in the AP poll next year? The answer lies within the southeast region of the country, and the solution to restoring fairness may not be as simple as unseating Alabama as champion.
North Carolina has become a part of the extended pipeline for SEC teams, which has built the success of its conference on the ability to maintain local talent while also venturing out to poach other top prospects from the region.
Tar Heel natives Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley — both freshmen — were part of a resurgence that left the University of Georgia one play away from taking Alabama's spot in the National Championship game. The pair of running backs will also be a significant reason the Bulldogs are considered among those top 10 teams vying to knock the Crimson Tide from its perch atop college football next season.
In other towns like Gainesville, Fla., rising sophomore and Shelby High School (N.C.) graduate Jonathan Bullard will likely step into a starting role in Florida's defense, which was ranked just behind the Tide's unit this season. These players are just a few of the handful of individuals who make up a conference of the largest, fastest, most athletic players in the country.
The state of college football may very well be improving, but the idea of parity seems a far-flung notion. Instead of pondering the iconic image of Saban hoisting the trophy yet again, consider the photo of Saban pictured with North Davidson defensive lineman Shy Tuttle at a recent football camp.
Even if the nation finds a way to break up an Alabama dynasty, the much tougher solution will be solving the SEC. Saban is just one man and he can't sign all the Tuttles of the world, but there are dozens just like him waiting to take their places at football factories across the southeast.
The catch-22, then, becomes solving this two-part equation: taking on one man or the entire mob, a group which composes the next wave of first-round NFL draft picks.
Solutions are sometimes simple, just not always easy.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or