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SEC is consistently better, with a little bit of luck

Reporting from New Orleans — The malaise plaguing a football-viewing nation outside the four upcoming quarters near the French Quarter has been diagnosed as “SEC fatigue.”

The Southeastern Conference on Monday is guaranteed its sixth straight national title, and to lose its first, because the league is hoarding both spots of this year’s Bowl Championship Series game.

No.1 Louisiana State seeks its third BCS crown since 2002 against a No. 2 Alabama squad that hasn’t won it all since, um, 2009.

This is such an inside job that Nick Saban, coaching Alabama now, led LSU to the BCS title in 2003.

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The SEC will win its eighth title of the 14-year BCS era. The SEC has had five different school champions: LSU, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn.

“What makes our league very, very good is that there’s a lot of good teams and a lot of good competition,” Saban said Sunday at his final pregame news conference.

The SEC has been, inarguably, college football’s best conference for a long time.

Why?

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“We do more to be good than other teams,” LSU center P.J. Longeran offered.

Has the SEC produced any of the greatest teams of the modern era?

Well, no.

You could not reasonably rank the best BCS champion from the SEC ahead of Miami of 2001, USC of 2004 or Florida State of 1999.

Alabama’s title team of 2009, arguably the best SEC team of the era, might not rank ahead of Texas’ 2005 team.

This year’s LSU squad, if it wins, would be in the conversation based on its top-tier performance and a killer non-conference schedule.

“The only team I’ve told them not to schedule was the Green Bay Packers,” LSU Coach Les Miles quipped.

Mostly, though, the SEC has just been consistently better than everyone else.

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Part of it is caring more and paying more.

“The high school football is at a higher level,” Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. “Coaches are paid more. So the more you pay the coaches, the better quality players you get, the better quality programs you get.”

Consider the caliber of SEC coaches who have won national titles: Steve Spurrier (pre-BCS), Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles. Think of the coach who has averaged 10 wins a year, Georgia’s Mark Richt, but hasn’t won.

“I feel like our coaches have a little bit more edge than other conferences,” Alabama middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “I feel like the players are a little more versatile and athletic.”

No argument there. Monday’s game will be chock-full of future NFL talent.

And while the SEC might not have produced a truly dominant team, the league as a collective is always positioned to pounce on the missteps of others.

Alabama wouldn’t be in this game had Stanford, Oklahoma State and Boise State not dropped the ball with eliminating defeats.

Then, when the SEC gets in the title game, it doesn’t lose. The league’s first BCS defeat will come at its own hands.

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The SEC, dare we say, also has been lucky.

Tennessee would not have advanced to the 1998 inaugural game had Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner not fumbled without being touched.

Remember that one?

Because of a five-alarm BCS fiasco in 2003, LSU didn’t even have to play the No.1 team in the nation. USC was first in both polls entering the postseason but finished third to Oklahoma and LSU in the final BCS standings. LSU should have played USC that year, not Oklahoma, coming off an embarrassing Big 12 title-game loss to Kansas State.

The SEC began its string of six straight BCS titles in 2006, the year Florida successfully campaigned against an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in the title game.

Hypocritically, this year, the SEC campaigned for a rematch between LSU and Alabama.

Florida, in 2006, sneaked ahead of Michigan in the final BCS standings and defeated Ohio State for the championship.

In 2007, two-loss LSU took advantage of a wild sequence of final weekend upsets and jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 in a span of 24 hours to earn the right to beat Ohio State for the BCS title.

In 2008, Florida recovered from a home loss to Mississippi, which inspired the now-famous Tim Tebow “never again” postgame speech. The Gators went on to beat Oklahoma for the title.

In 2009, Alabama narrowly escaped a road loss at Tennessee and caught a huge break in the title game when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game early with an arm injury.

Last season, Auburn survived several near misses, including a Clemson player dropping the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Auburn defeated Oregon in the title game, 22-19, on a last-second field goal.

Most conferences would rather be lucky than good -- the SEC has been both.

It will continue to dominate until somebody stops it.

The SEC’s elite teams play better defense, build from an inside-out foundation and probably spend more time thinking about football.

After all the crazy Alamo bowls scores settled, we get a rematch of teams that combined for five field goals in November.

Monday’s final tally won’t be 67-56. The winning team, unlike in the Orange Bowl, won’t score 70.

This is the SEC’s block (and tackle) party.

“I’d expect it to be big-boy football,” Miles said.

If you don’t like it, well, tough.

This was an SEC invitation only, and you weren’t invited.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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