Can someone, anyone, please take down the SEC?

Can somebody – anybody! – please stand up to that bully down

South.

The college football season hasn’t even started yet, but we

already feel like we know the outcome.

The SEC is up here.

Everyone else is down here.

Frankly, it’s getting a little boring.

Sport requires drama, suspense, some degree of uncertainty to

truly capture our attention.

In this sport, though, we’ve got the closest thing to a sure

bet. Come January, we all know there’s likely to be another

Southeastern Conference team standing in the middle of that

confetti at the Rose Bowl, collecting the league’s eighth straight

national title.

Once again, the SEC has an embarrassment of riches: the best

offensive player (Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy

winner Johnny Manziel), the best defensive player (South Carolina

end Jadeveon Clowney), the best coach (Alabama’s Nick Saban), and –

oh, yeah – the best team (Saban’s mighty Crimson Tide, winner of

three crowns in the last four years and heavily favored to claim

another).

Yawn.

For the good of college football, somebody needs to end this

reign of terror.

Sure, dynasties are a whole lot of fun for those on the right

side of history, but they’re not the best way to keep the rest of

us engaged. It is surely no coincidence that average attendance

this past season was down 1.3 percent from 2005, the last time a

team not from the SEC finished No. 1, and a more troubling 3.3

percent from its record high in 2008.

In fact, last year’s turnout of 45,440 per game was the lowest

for the NCAA’s top division since 2001. Even the folks in SEC

country seem to have become a bit bored with all this winning,

judging by a slight drop in average attendance each of the last two

seasons and a more glaring number of no-shows at some big-time

stadiums.

For now, look for more of the same.

The SEC could have as many as five teams (Alabama, Georgia,

South Carolina, Texas A&M and Florida) in the top 10 when the

first Associated Press poll of the season comes out on Saturday.

LSU is right in the mix, too.

There are those who choose to bury their head in the sand when

it comes to the SEC.

A few weeks ago, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini took offense at anyone

suggesting the SEC was head and shoulders above every other

conference. Alabama, for sure, but not the entire conference.

”I guarantee there are a lot of teams in the SEC that aren’t

Alabama that wish they were Nebraska, that wish they were Michigan,

wish they were Ohio State,” Pelini said, ”so don’t talk to me

about the SEC.”

That sort of denial isn’t going to get it done.

Not when anyone can match up to the SEC in two crucial areas:

quarterback and defense.

It starts with Manziel, the game’s most dynamic player, assuming

he isn’t sidelined by an investigation into whether he got paid for

doling out his autograph (the guess here is that Johnny Football

beats the rap). Alabama is led by AJ McCarron, who has done nothing

but win championships since taking over as the Tide’s QB. Georgia

has Aaron Murray, a fifth-year senior who surprisingly passed on a

chance to enter the NFL draft after guiding the Bulldogs to the

cusp of the national title game last season.

Clowney would surely be in the pros by now if he wasn’t required

to spend one more year in college. If anyone needs a refresher on

just how good this guy is, check in with former Michigan running

back Vincent Smith, assuming he’s finally coherent after taking the

season’s most vicious hit in the Outback Bowl, one which sent both

the ball and his helmet flying.

In a sense, Clowney is the exaggerated prototype for the kind of

player that makes SEC defenses stand apart from everyone else. In

this league, it seems, everyone is just a few pounds bigger, a

little bit stronger, a step quicker. Manti Te’o might’ve been a

stud at Notre Dame, but his performance in the national title game

– most of it spent on his back as Alabama romped to a 42-14 victory

– showed he would’ve been just another player in the SEC.

If there was any hope the Crimson Tide might back off the

throttle just a bit, Saban shot that down just minutes after his

team had finished its destruction of the Fighting Irish. He said

the celebration would last all of 24 hours, then he’d be back in

the office getting ready to win another championship.

”Even though I really appreciate what this team accomplished

and am very, very proud of what they accomplished, we need to

prepare for the challenges of the new season very quickly with the

team we have coming back,” he said.

Saban sounded totally devoid of joy, just a man on an insatiable

quest to knock down anyone in his path. He is the perfect symbol

for the SEC, which saps a little more joy from this game with each

passing season, a league on cruise control while everyone else is

struggling mightily just to get off the ground.

Please don’t put us through that again.

Can you help us out, Ohio State? The Buckeyes at least have a

coach, Urban Meyer, who knew how to win in the SEC and clearly

doesn’t mind cutting a few corners.

What about you, Louisville? The Cardinals certainly have a

championship-caliber quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, and put quite

a whippin’ on Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Oregon?

Stanford?

Somebody?

At this point, we’ll take anybody.

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press.

Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or

www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963