Remember when you heard that the College Football Playoff would keep a “Conference A vs. Conference A” national title game from happening again? I hope you haven’t strained your rib cage from hysterical laughter as you reminisce now that we’re here again just six years later and in Year 4 of the Playoff.
The part that amuses me the most is the sky-is-falling narrative in regard to yet another SEC vs. SEC title matchup from the likes of those like Joel Klatt and Danny Kannell.
Maybe it’s time we delve into a lesson that I learned a few years back in what I like to call college football’s building of brand equity. Let’s face it, a well-built brand with a lot of equity will give you the benefit of the doubt.
I’ll be the first to say that top to bottom, the SEC as a whole wasn’t as good as it has been in year’s past. Georgia was spectacular, but in the East, Tennessee was still terrible and Florida became just as bad. To the West, with the exception of Alabama, Auburn, and maybe LSU, the division didn’t live up to great expectations either.
However, the conference has built great brand equity over the years having won 10 national championships in football since 2003 while the ACC has two and the Big Ten, Pac-12 (though it’s now vacated), and Big XII each have one.
To get a flipside understanding of brand equity, let’s go back to 2004, where the Auburn Tigers (beginning the season unranked), we’re left on the outside looking in on the BCS in favor of USC-Oklahoma. We can talk about metrics and mathematical formulas all day, but let’s be honest. Between Oklahoma and Auburn at that time, who had built the most equity in recent years? The answer was Oklahoma.
The Sooners won a National Championship in 2000 and lost to LSU in 2003. For Auburn, two SEC West titles were nice and all, but not as sexy as conference championships and national title game appearances. And not only did the Sooners build better brand equity than Auburn in the previous five years, The Big XII’s brand equity at the time was similar, if not better than the SEC.
Let’s move up to today, Just in this decade alone, the SEC is going have five national titles in college football at the end of this season. The ACC and Big Ten can claim one each. From 2000-2009, the conference won five titles, and most of them in the second half of that timeframe. That’s impressive whether you love the SEC or hate it. The brand equity in the SEC is unmatched in comparison to other conferences right now.
Let’s go a little further into our equity lesson with the debate that took Twitter by storm last month and is being pumped out by media analysts still dealing with the five stages of grief: The debate whether Alabama or Ohio State should have got in the Playoff.
This is another great example of equity. Just one year ago, a one-loss Ohio State sneaked into the College Football playoff over Penn State. Some would say based on resume, but the Buckeyes’ equity was built better than Penn State’s in recent years.
Fast forward to this year, in comparison, the equity built by Alabama outweighed Ohio State’s. Before this year, Alabama will have played for a national title four times in seven years and won five SEC titles in the last eight. Where Ohio State has won three of the last eight conference titles after dominating the Big Ten in the previous decade and playing only in one national title game.
That’s something to add on the fact the Buckeyes (not only getting blown out by Iowa), only scored 16 points against Oklahoma while Georgia thrashed the Sooners for 54 points and churned over 300 yards on the ground.
The fact that we have an SEC vs. SEC title game is not a farce as some would like to tell you it is. Other teams outside their conference had their opportunity to play for a title and build their equity brand. Their problem is, they didn’t win the games when it mattered the most.
Talk about the SEC’s 5-6 bowl record, which is only the third time the conference has been under .500 in bowls since 2001.
The SEC has built the equity over the years to give the committee the benefit of the doubt. And with Alabama getting that benefit on brand equity built over the years, it proved it belonged in the Playoff with what it did to Clemson. Oklahoma had an opportunity to get the Big XII back to respectable reputation and build on its brand, only problem was its defense was unable to stop one of the best ground games in the country.
The haters will continue to hate, but in the previous two decades, hate doesn’t win that many games or championships and does nothing to build on brand equity.