Across the South: With Expansion Looming, SEC Title Game Stakes Drop

(Photo via Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire)

Every Wednesday right here you can read Across the South, where we’ll get into a different topic on the SEC, break down the biggest matchups of the previous week, preview the coming week’s slate, and talk about where things stand in the best conference in the land!

In this week’s edition, we just had the most consequential SEC Championship of the College Football Playoff era, and the biggest since Alabama and Georgia faced off in 2012 for a spot in the BCS National Championship against Notre Dame. But with playoff expansion looming, will we ever see an SEC title game with that much importance again?

The expansion of the College Football Playoff always felt like a very complicated argument with a lot of angles to it. Anyone who tried to make it black and white and saying it’s only good or only bad was doing college football a disservice. There are very clear pros and cons.

On the pro side, we will likely never again see a situation where such a decision has to be made where an undefeated power-five champion has to be denied a chance to compete for a national championship game. Sure, whoever the 13 and beyond seeds are will find a way to complain, but you will never see a national debate like you saw this weekend with regards to selection and a team being denied a spot again.

That being said, an undeniable con is the fact that the very fabric of what makes college football so special is being worn away with expansion. Alabama vs. Georgia this weekend was essentially a playoff game. Heck, it may have even been the de facto national championship game.

In no other sport is every game so critical where if you lose one, your season is on the brink, and if you lose two, your season is almost certainly over. Sure, some don’t like it (and that’s ultimately why expansion has arrived), but in the current format, you can look at every game as a “playoff” game.

And I don’t know what the solution or the right answer is. Maybe there isn’t one. No system will be perfect, each come with its own set of flaws and challenges.

But a leap from four teams where just about every game is an absolute must-win right to 12-teams feels like a pretty massive change for a sport that just had a very exciting and drama-filled weekend.

Then again, massive change is just the name of the game in college football in 2023.