Once, there was a team this fierce. It had a brutal attack, and an impenetrable defense, and its fans were bloodthirsty.
Perhaps you read it about it.
It was called "the Roman Empire." It dominated the polls, too.
Once, there was a leader this demanding. He had the best recruits, and the best game plans, and he did not believe in surrender.
Perhaps you heard about him.
He was named "Attila." He looked a little like Nick Saban.
These days, that's what the Southeastern Conference has become. It is the most ruthless, most unforgiving dynasty on the planet. It rules college football, and really, no one else is second.
And, to be honest, that drives a lot of college football fans nuts. After all, the SEC also leads the nation in obnoxious fans yelling about how terrific the SEC is.
Perhaps you understand. It has become a sport of its own, attempting to debunk the historic run of the SEC. It isn't hard to find the articles that suggest that, from a certain point of view, the SEC isn't that tough. And, honestly, Mount Everest isn't that high or the Pacific Ocean that deep and Mars isn't that far.
The truth is that the SEC — at least, the top half of it — is that good. Year in, year out, there are more teams capable of winning the national championship than anywhere else. And there are more coaches who have won it.
A conference has never owned college football the way the SEC does, not in the '90s and not in the '70s and not in the '50s. The latest BCS standings remind us of that. According to the rankings, the SEC has the top two teams in the country, and four of the top seven, and six of the top 12, and seven of the top 18.
A little more evidence:
• The SEC has won the past six national titles in a row. If you are arguing excellence, don't you start with championships?
• According to the weekly release by the Big East, the SEC tops all leagues in nonconference games since 2006. Over that span, the SEC has won 81.3 percent of its games, which is 6.2 points higher than any other conference.
• Since the SEC started its championship run, it has 40 first-round NFL draft picks, and 21 of those have been in the top 10.
When a league sustains excellence that long, there is bound to be a backlash. Often, it seems to be based on stats such as one conference's head-to-head record, which seems to be another way of saying that other leagues can beat Ole Miss and Kentucky, too. And, yeah, sometimes the SEC will lose a Capital One Bowl. Let the confetti fall.
Last year, there was a blog on the Sports Illustrated website that suggested the SEC was down. That was just before the league's top two teams, LSU and Alabama, played for the national title. Four other teams ranked in the final BCS top 25. Oh yeah, the league was falling apart.
And so it goes. Outsiders make fun of Saban's personality and Les Miles' grass-eating and Steve Spurrier's visor throws. They make fun of Rocky Top and Florida's chomp and Auburn being the Tigers while yelling "War Eagle."
Yeah, yeah. It's the league of Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow and Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker and Emmitt Smith and Cam Newton and Mark Ingram and Joe Namath and Danny Wuerffel and Bert Jones and the rest. And if you feel good about that, critics will make fun of you for that, too. In college football, everyone throws rocks at the kingdom.
This sort of outside disdain for the SEC is why this time of year is so much fun for fans who follow other conferences. Over the next few weekends, Florida plays South Carolina and Georgia, Alabama plays LSU and Mississippi State. Someone southeasterly has to lose. What fun for the ACC and the Big Ten.
On the other hand, here's a question for the critics: Who's better than the SEC?
The Big Ten? It didn't even crack the BCS top 25.
The Big 12? Yeah, Texas was the last non-SEC team to win the national title, after the 2005 season. These days, its best team is Kansas State.
The Pac-12? A lonely conference turns its eyes to Oregon.
The ACC? Not a team ranked higher than 14th.
Look, this won't last forever. Other places in America have athletes with legs and hands and big bodies. Eventually, Oklahoma or Southern Cal or Oregon or FSU will have a special year and win a national title.
This year, the rest of the country has some catching up to do.
After all, you don't have to agree that the SEC is the best league.
Until further notice, however, it's ahead of yours.
Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.