Back in August when the temperatures soared and the hopes of college football fans soared even higher, we explored the SEC's domination of the sport.
SECopoly, we termed it in our football preview.
How the SEC took over college football, and what OU, OSU and the Big 12 can do about it.
Beat the SEC.
Now, four months after that preview section landed in your driveway, the topic is more relevant than ever. Our locals are headed to bowls where SEC heavyweights loom. Oklahoma will face Alabama, the current king of college football, in the Sugar Bowl. The next night, Oklahoma State will go toe to toe with Missouri, an old Big 12 foe that has found new SEC success, in the Cotton Bowl.
It's SEC vs. Big 12 times two.
Especially with what's on the horizon. Next season ushers in the start of the four-team playoff, and don't look now, but the SEC is positioning itself to unofficially have two of those four spots reserved.
That would fall in line with the status that the SEC has achieved in the minds of BCS voters. Because of the conference's run of national titles — seven and counting — SEC teams are given the benefit of the doubt.
Look at this season. One-loss Auburn made the championship game opposite undefeated Florida State, and by all accounts the Tigers are a superb team. But they have one loss just like a host of other teams. Michigan State is one of those other teams.
Michigan State lost to Notre Dame early in the season but beat Ohio State for its marquee victory.
Auburn lost to LSU early, then got its marquee win against Alabama.
Who's to say that Auburn's loss to LSU is better than Michigan State's loss to Notre Dame?
Who's to say that Auburn's win over Alabama is better than Michigan State's win over Ohio State?
Well, everyone says that, but aren't we just really going on the perception that everything is better in the SEC? I mean, maybe LSU is better than Notre Dame and Alabama is better than Ohio State, but there's no way to know that for certain. We believe that because we believe the SEC is superior.
That thinking is human nature after watching the SEC's ongoing domination of college football.
That thinking is also sure to continue next season when the playoff committee meets to pick four teams that will play for a title.
Want to change that? Want to put doubt in people's minds that the SEC is superior?
Obviously, OU and OSU can't do anything about whether the SEC runs its streak of national titles to eight, unless praying for a Florida State victory counts.
(That's an interesting position for the Cowboys, isn't it? Do you want the SEC's title run to stop, or do you want to play the defending national champ in your season opener next August in Arlington?)
Still, the Sooners and the Cowboys can make a dent in the SEC's armor by winning their bowl games. Beating Alabama and Missouri wouldn't erase the SEC's dominance that has spanned the better part of a decade, but still, those losses would be a black mark on the SEC's otherwise stellar record.
And in the process, the Sooners and Cowboys would give the Big 12 a much-needed boost.
During the SEC's run of national championships, that league has been .500 or better in bowl games each of those seven seasons. And five of those years, the league was a whopping three games or more above .500.
Overall record: 42-22.
The Big 12, by contrast, is a combined 29-27 in bowl games over the same period. In only four of seven years has the league finished bowl season with a record of .500 or better.
Included in those struggles are national title game losses to the SEC — OU to Florida in 2008 and Texas to Alabama in 2009 — as well as SEC supremacy over the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl, an annual matchup of the two conferences. SEC teams have won nine of the last 10 Cotton Bowls, including Texas A&M's 41-13 trouncing of OU last season.
The Big 12's stature has slipped in recent years — losing two of three regular-season games to SEC opponents this year didn't help — and a strong showing in bowls would go a long ways to rehabilitating the Big 12's image.
Trouble is, league schools are favored in only two of their six bowls. Among the underdogs are OU and OSU.
Imagine the shot in the arm if the Sooners and the Cowboys, two of the league's best, were to score upsets.
It'd be big.
Sooner coach Bob Stoops doesn't buy the idea that his team or any other team is carrying the banner for the Big 12.
“There's always a lot of talk because newspapers have to be filled and airtime has to be filled,” he said. “You have to talk about something.
“We don't concern ourselves with it, really.”
Perhaps they should.
Perception is part of the game in college football, and it's going to be an even bigger part with the four-team playoff. Computers have no part in the new selection process. Teams will be picked entirely by humans. Yes, those humans will be well-informed. Yes, those humans will be armed with every bit of data that their hearts desire.
But at the end of the process, they will pick four teams for the playoff based on who they think is best.
Who among us doesn't believe SEC teams will get the benefit of the doubt, will win any ties, will dominate the process like they've dominated the sport?
When does it stop?
When teams bow up and beat them.
OU and OSU have an opportunity to do just that. They might not be able to bust up the SECopoly on their own, but they could sure deliver a couple of mighty blows.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.