When Jameis Winston hit Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to play in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game to give Florida State a 34-31 win over Auburn, it ended the SEC's remarkable streak of seven straight national championships and called into question the SEC's status as the top dog in college football.
That question was answered, and the SEC's perch atop college football was re-solidified, during Round 1 of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
SEC schools produced 11 of the first 32 picks of the first round, including the first overall selection—former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney—the second overall pick—former Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson—and two former Texas A&M players in back-to-back top-10 selections—offensive tackle Jake Matthews (No. 6) and wide receiver Mike Evans (No. 7).
|SEC Players Drafted in the First Round of the 2014 NFL Draft|
|Pick||Player||Position||Former School||NFL Team|
|1||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina||Houston Texans|
|2||Greg Robinson||OT||Auburn||St. Louis Rams|
|6||Jake Matthews||OT||Texas A&M||Atlanta Falcons|
|7||Mike Evans||WR||Texas A&M||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|12||Odell Beckham, Jr.||WR||LSU||New York Giants|
|17||C.J. Mosley||LB||Alabama||Baltimore Ravens|
|19||Ja'Wuan James||OT||Tennessee||Miami Dolphins|
|21||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||S||Alabama||Green Bay Packers|
|22||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||Cleveland Browns|
|23||Dee Ford||DE||Auburn||Kansas City Chiefs|
|29||Dominique Easley||DT||Florida||New England Patriots|
Surprising? Not at all.
In fact, it's par for the course, according to SEC director of communications Chuck Dunlap.
SEC finishes with 1/3 of total NFL First Round picks. It's the 3rd time in four years SEC has produced double-digit first rounders.— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) May 9, 2014
It wasn't just the SEC that dominated the first round of the NFL draft; it was the SEC West, according to Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com.
SEC West by itself produced more first-round picks (8) than any other conference.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 9, 2014
That shouldn't be surprising either. The SEC West and the SEC East each had more players drafted than any other conference in last year's draft.
While the streak of national titles came to an end in Pasadena on January 6, the SEC extended its streak to eight straight years sending the most players to the NFL through the draft with 49 selections in the 2014 NFL draft, according to Kevin McGuire of CollegeFootballTalk.com. The ACC chimed in at the No. 2 spot with 42 draftees, followed by the Pac-12 with 34.
This isn't a new phenomenon.
According to Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star, the SEC had 630 players selected during the BCS era prior to this year's draft—127 more players than its nearest conference competitor (Big Ten at 503).
That matters from a college football perspective, and it is a big reason SEC programs routinely find themselves in the top 10 in recruiting every February. High school players want to play where they will be seen and get the proper coaching for their professional careers, and nowhere is that preparation better than the SEC, which Kerkhoff called the "King Kong" of the BCS era.
It's a vicious cycle, and it's going to take more than one close loss in a national title game to knock the SEC off its perch as the top conference in college football.
Those "S-E-C" chants may have been quiet in Southern California in January, but that was the exception, not the rule. The talent gravitates toward the SEC, and that isn't going to change anytime in the near future.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.