The steam-powered locomotive is back in full force. The rowdy, overbearing train that has replaced its whistle with chants of “S-E-C! S-E-C!” is powering down the tracks at full speed, with not the slightest intent of even slowing down at the stations of logic or reason.

It only took two weeks for it to return.

What am I talking about? In case you haven’t heard, the “SEC deserves two teams in the College Football Playoff” crowd is back in full force. Some have even taken this to an entirely new level, saying there’s a possibility that the conference could occupy as many as three of the four spots at the end of the year.


How did we get to this point in early September? Two things have happened: 1. The SEC did actually pick up some really nice wins early in the season (No. 8 Florida def. Miami; No. 16 Auburn def. No. 11 Oregon; No. 6 LSU def. No. 9 Texas). 2. Some of the SEC acolytes out there have already painted out those very specific “if this then that” scenarios for the remainder of the season.

You know, with 12 weeks of the season still left.

One of those individuals is ESPN’s Heather Dinich — who is already covering the “what if” ground with 10 games remaining on the schedule. Here’s the tweet she fired off Sunday morning, after LSU came out of Austin with a win over Texas:

What if … LSU’s only loss is to SEC champ Bama? What if LSU AND Georgia only lose to SEC champ Bama? What if Bama’s only loss is to SEC champ LSU? We’ll see how long it lasts, but door is wide open in SEC for two teams again — at least as we sit here in September. — Heather Dinich, ESPN

To be honest, I’m usually a fan of Dinich’s work — I think she does an excellent job covering and telling stories from around the sport. But come on, “at least as we sit here in September” is a punchline, not the closing point on your speculation.

She’s not the only one, by the way. You can see these arguments pretty much anywhere you look.

I can only imagine Best Buy is making a killing right now, with fans from the other four Power Five conferences entering the doors by the dozens to purchase noise-cancelling headphones to use for the rest of the season. Because if there’s anything we’ve learned since 2017 — the first time the SEC got two teams in the College Football Playoff — it’s that the conference’s Kool-Aid drinkers believe it should happen every year, facts and logic be damned.

Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

You know what’s most frustrating about those SEC two-team and (Lord help me) three-team playoff discussions? For some reason, it only applies to one conference. Nobody seems to be offering a similar argument for the likes of the B1G, ACC, Pac-12 or Big 12.

What if No. 14 Wisconsin goes undefeated in the regular season — beating all four ranked teams on its schedule (No. 10 Michigan, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 19 Iowa), and it’s only loss is to an undefeated Michigan in the B1G Championship Game? Or what if Iowa goes 11-1 with its only loss to Wisconsin and beats an undefeated Ohio State for the conference title?

See, I can come up with those scenarios, too. And, regardless of what the SEC worshipers say, it’s absolutely as valid as any argument that’s been made for Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU.

But when there are three months of football still to be played, I don’t get too caught up in the “if this then that” conversation. Yes, I understand speculation is part of my job, but there also has to be the realization that we know very little about the 130 teams playing on Saturday afternoons right now.

Texas could turn out to be an average 6-6 team, and negate an impressive win from LSU’s resumé. The same could be said for Auburn’s win over Oregon. Or maybe Georgia drops a few games here and there and Florida reaches the SEC Championship Game. There are so many different directions the season could go, it’s impossible to predict where the next turn is coming.

In the SEC, though, it’s still full steam ahead.

Here’s the other thing that annoys me about the two-team talk in early September: it sets the narrative for the rest of the season. And when you have people at ESPN and other outlets already establishing a foundation that the SEC is the best conference in the country and the only league that could ever possibly get multiple teams into a four-spot field, it will almost certainly have some sort of impact on the selection committee.

It’s human nature to subconsciously allow those SEC arguments weigh in on your thought process, especially when your rankings show is being aired on the network where a lot of this conversation has started. And yes, I’ll say it again, having ESPN air the rankings shows, the College Football Playoff games and owning SEC Network and ACC Network is a major conflict of interest, at best.

Yet, here we are, talking again about the SEC’s route to get two teams, maybe three into the College Football Playoff. We couldn’t even get into the month of October before the ridiculous arguments and “what if” scenarios started filtering across our Twitter timelines, Facebook pages and television networks. As the season continues, the conversations will only get louder and more frequent.

My advice to fans of the other four Power Five conferences? Buy a pair of those noise-cancelling headphones. That “S-E-C! S-E-C!” train whistle isn’t going to quiet down anytime soon.