Photo: Courtesy of Tribune New Service

Column: Extension of Alabama dynasty in South Carolina's best interest

South Carolina fans watching the CFP have a choice. They can root for their eternal rival, or they can root for a program that has a complete stranglehold over their entire conference. Both are overwhelmingly enticing options. Don't curb your enthusiasm.

For the majority of the population of college football fans, there are very few strings of words that can be uttered more cringe-worthy than "Roll Tide!"

Like the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and other profoundly disliked teams outside of their immediate fan bases, the annoyance expressed toward the Tide is rooted in their continuous level of success.

At the same time, there will undoubtedly be some fans who claim a small share of Alabama's potential title under the umbrella of SEC pride. Don't be one of those fans.

But moving forward, what kind of silver lining could be found in yet another championship for Nick Saban and Alabama? For years, fans and pundits have bemoaned the gap between the SEC East and the superior competition in the SEC West. But if anything has become clear during the Tide's 26-game winning streak, it is that the gap simply exists between Alabama and the SEC — period.

The narrative of a lack of a No. 2 team behind Alabama was persistent all season. No other SEC team qualified for a New Year's Six bowl, and no one was really even in the conversation to do so.

Almost counterintuitively, Alabama's invincibility could potentially work to South Carolina's favor. Based on geography and pedigree, the Gamecocks rarely go head-to-head with Alabama in the recruiting ring. But Alabama often does compete for recruits on the same stage as other teams in the SEC East like Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. It is definitely in South Carolina's best interest for those teams that appear annually on their schedule to have less talent on their roster.

To a certain extent, the Gamecocks have already enjoyed the fruits of Alabama's domination. The fact that South Carolina retained a sliver of hope of competing for an SEC East title for as long as they did should be attributed to the depleted talent in their division more than it should be to their midseason winning streak.

It can be hard to admit for South Carolina fans at times, but Clemson has already arrived as one of the premier programs in the country, and Dabo Sweeney has earned his reputation as one of its elite coaches. Regardless of the outcome of this game, that doesn't really change. But if the Tigers defeat Goliath? Well then they will firmly establish their position along with Alabama at the top the college football world. And Clemson does compete with South Carolina for recruits. Quite often, actually.

But you probably didn't need another reason to root against a team you were trained to hate from the moment you walked on campus.



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