As dominant as Alabama looked against Notre Dame in winning another national championship, the season wasn't a total loss for anyone trying to catch up to the SEC.
The rest of college football couldn't prevent the SEC from winning a seventh consecutive national title, but it at least should have figured out what it will take.
For starters, you better have a talented quarterback who can run as well as pass. And you better have the right approach.
Notre Dame didn't have it.
The shortcomings that Notre Dame overcame during its 12-0 regular season were exploited repeatedly by Alabama in a 42-14 victory Monday night. As steadfast as the Irish defense was during the regular season, it was no match for Alabama.
You're not going to beat Alabama with defense. Oregon, with its high-speed and exotic offense, would have given the Tide a more competitive game.
The greatest distinction between the SEC and everybody else is the speed and athleticism of the defensive fronts. Quick passes and quick quarterbacks can help neutralize those advantages.
And that beats the heck out of giving South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney a four-second window in which to dismember your quarterback. In fact, you have to wonder how much longer any SEC team will entrust its offense to an immobile quarterback.
The postseason confirmed what you learned from the regular season: If you want to beat a good SEC defense, get yourself an exceptional dual-threat quarterback.
You saw that in November when quarterback Johnny Manziel helped Texas A&M knock off No. 1 Alabama. You saw it in the postseason when Clemson and Louisville upset superior SEC teams through exceptional quarterback play.
On a lower level, Mississippi State also was done in by mobile quarterbacks. Two Northwestern quarterbacks combined to complete 21 of 36 passes and averaged better than 6 yards per carry on 13 runs in a 34-20 Gator Bowl victory.
But mobility alone doesn't guarantee success.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater have a lot more going for them than foot speed. Their durability also was a factor in what they accomplished against LSU and Florida.
Boyd carried the ball 29 times and threw 50 passes against an LSU defensive
front chock-full of pro prospects. Neither the hits nor the expectation of them distracted him from his job. Bridgewater was just as poised against Florida despite taking a ferocious and late hit from linebacker Jon Bostic on Louisville's first possession. The Gators sacked him five times but never rattled him. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards.
Surviving one game against defenses as nasty as Florida's and LSU's is altogether different from making it through an SEC season, which explains why some conference coaches are still reluctant to rely on running quarterbacks.
But a drop-back passer is just as much at risk in this league. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, a prototypical drop-back passer — not Manziel — was the quarterback with the concussion this past season. Manziel carried the ball 201 times, threw 434 passes and didn't miss a game. He won the Heisman Trophy in the process.
Boyd and Bridgewater didn't have to withstand an SEC season. But they held up long enough to beat top-10 defenses.
The SEC shouldn't lose sight of that. Neither should the rest of college football.