It wasn't always this way. From the beginning of the Southeastern Conference during the Great Depression, college football has mattered deeply here, pouring out passion, pomp and champions, as "Saturdays in the South" captured so eloquently - but not quite like this.
Not like LSU at Alabama with College GameDay, SEC Nation, the SEC on CBS and other dignitaries from the college football world - not to mention the President of the United States - all rolling toward Tuscaloosa to witness two teams ranked at the top of two different polls in the Game of the Sesquicentennial.
The College Football Playoff committee may think differently, but for historical context, we defer today to the granddaddy of them all, the Associated Press Poll, which debuted in 1936, a mere three years after the SEC was born. By that long-running standard, Tigers v. Tide in that order is one of those rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups that light up a season brighter than the crimson LEDs will cut through the gloaming in the fourth quarter Saturday evening.
At least, 1 vs. 2 affairs used to be a rarity, especially for the SEC - until they became a delicious habit. Of all the metrics in all the stadiums in all the world, check this incredible confluence of symmetry and superiority.
This will be the 52nd meeting of the top two teams in the AP Poll. None of the first 14 meetings included an SEC team - but this will be the 14th straight 1 vs. 2 matchup involving at least one member of the Southeastern Conference.
That's right. From No. 1 Notre Dame 35, No. 2 Michigan 12 in 1943 through No. 1 Nebraska 35, No. 2 Oklahoma 31 in 1971, the SEC was shut out of the biggest of big games, with an asterisk. In 1969, long before anyone in Birmingham dreamed of calling the Hogs, No. 2 Arkansas came up a point short against No. 1 Texas - with President Richard Nixon in attendance - while both programs lived in the Southwest Conference.
Alabama ended that SEC drought when the No. 2 Crimson Tide met No. 1 Nebraska in the 1972 Orange Bowl. From that night through the end of the 2006 regular season, the SEC participated in a healthy but not overwhelming seven of the 24 games pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the AP Poll.
Obviously, the conference was just getting warmed up. Ever since, whether regular-season game, conference championship, BCS championship or playoff, No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups have become the SEC's playground, and everyone else is just visiting. What started with No. 2 Florida whipping No. 1 Ohio State 41-14 in the 2007 BCS Championship Game has no end in sight.
These 14 straight summit meetings have involved four different SEC programs: Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn. They've included 19 SEC appearances because five of these 1-2 games have been All-SEC parties: Florida-Alabama in the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championship Games; LSU-Alabama in the 2011 regular season, 2012 BCS Championship Game and now in the 2019 regular season.
But wait. There's more. Because LSU-Alabama is a division rivalry, it guarantees that an SEC team will win. That means an SEC team will have been the winner in 12 of the last 14 No. 1 vs. No. 2 games.
That is about as strong a sentence in the "It Just Means More" mission statement as winning nine of the last 13 national championships.
Of course, where the latest in this continuing series of good-on-good snapshots ultimately takes up residence in our collective memory will depend on Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, Darryl Stingley Jr. and Anfernee Jennings, Ed Orgeron, Nick Saban and their dang strong football teams. All Saturdays in the South have the potential to live forever. Until further notice, so does the SEC's now-permanent residence in the exclusive neighborhood of No.1 vs. No. 2.