The year that was in college football

Mike Slive stood at the 35-yard line engulfed by the red and white confetti that rained down from the skies onto the field at Sun Life Stadium.

Moments earlier, Alabama put the finishing touches on its second consecutive BCS national championship — its third in four seasons — with an impressive 42-14 victory over No. 1 Notre Dame.

It was the seventh straight season that a team from the Southeastern Conference captured the national title, an impressive streak that wasn't lost on Slive, who is wrapping up his 10th season as the SEC commissioner.

"It's an extraordinary record and everybody talks about how records are made to be broken, but I really can't conceive of anyone doing this again," Slive said.


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He's right.

Once again the SEC showed its dominance on the national stage, putting an exclamation point on another spectacular college football season.

While some — me included — believed the league's incredible run of success had to end soon, that was the furthest thing from the truth.

Even the league's expansion paid off huge dividends as Texas A&M quickly earned national attention thanks to the play of quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the third winner in the past four seasons from the SEC.

Hard to imagine the year started with the precipice of creating a new postseason model looming over college football. Slive and his fellow commissioners gathered together and created what would eventually become a four-team playoff system which would replace the expiring BCS model in 2014-15.

With billions of dollars in possible revenue from this new system, the landscape continued to shift and change as conference realignment took on a fevered pitch with schools looking to score bigger paydays and better national standing.

Rivalries and fan bases were thrown aside as several schools jumped from conference to conference in college football's own version of "Lord of the Flies"

Take the Big East, for instance, which started the year with 16 members and grew to as many as 21 future additions and now looks to wind up with 10 members. You need a scorecard just to keep up.

While attentions were focused on the future of the sport, it was the past that drew our focus this summer when Penn State was hit with massive sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Despite an exodus of talented players, the Nittany Lions were able to win eight games under first-year head coach Bill O'Brien.

Back on the gridiron, programs like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida saw a rebirth, of sorts, in 2012.

For the first time since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Notre Dame football was relevant again thanks to the inspirational play of linebacker Manti Te'o and a little Irish luck.

Ohio State fans were left playing the "what if" card when looking back at an undefeated season under first-year coach Urban Meyer. Too bad the Buckeyes were saddled with a postseason ban by the NCAA.

Meyer's former team, the Florida Gators, went from a disappointing 7-6 season in 2011 to an 11-win mark in 2012, earning them a spot in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl.

Through it all, fans were treated to another spectacular season of college football. It's just too bad we have to wait 225-plus days until next season.

mmurschel@tribune.com

Looking ahead to 2013

 

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