This bowl season has had a little bit of everything. Blowouts, nail biters, upsets, comebacks and even Hail Mary finishes. I don’t see how you could be upset with this year’s slate of bowls or the way they have gone, unless you are card carrying member of the Southeastern Conference.
For the SEC, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The SEC East, who had been underwhelming for majority of the season, is actually carrying the entire conference after Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn all bit the dust in their respective games. The SEC East is 4-0 in their bowl games, which includes wins from Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and South Carolina. The SEC West, which is said to be the toughest division in college football, is currently sitting at 2-5 with the only wins coming from Arkansas and Texas A&M. With Alabama eliminated from the playoff, the only remaining SEC game is Florida against ECU and I can see Florida possibly losing that game.
So what happen to the big bad SEC this bowl season? Was the SEC simply overhyped this year or are people overreacting because a few teams had an off night? I think the truth is somewhere in between honestly. Lets get one thing out of the way right now, the SEC is the best conference in all of college football. The SEC consistently has multiple teams in the hunt for a national title and sustained its success over a long period of time; it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
So went wrong for the SEC and what went right for their opponents? Well, just about everything both ways. TCU took the fight to Ole Miss early and often, Mississippi State couldn’t slow down Justin Thomas and Georgia Tech’s option attack, and Ohio State went toe to toe with Alabama in New Orleans. On top of that Auburn became the latest victim of college kicker syndrome in the Outback Bowl and they couldn’t seem to slow down Melvin Gordon. Plain and simple, when all of the chips were on the table and it was win or go home, the big dogs of the SEC got beat. As good as the SEC is people make them out to be some kind of invincible monster that can’t be beat and that’s just not the case.
Not only can the SEC be had, there are plenty of quality opponents from other conferences that are capable of holding their own against the SEC and I think it’s time to start giving them some props. I think that’s the biggest misconception out right now; that any team from any conference not named the SEC is somehow inferior. I think we can finally put that myth to bed after seeing Ole Miss and Mississippi State get pounded into submission in their bowl games and watching Ohio State not only beat Alabama with their third strong quarterback, but at times they outclassed Alabama. What I’m saying is, the talent gap isn’t as wide as some think it is, and people better start understanding that these teams from other conferences are on scholarship like everyone else and they aren’t scared or backing down from the SEC.
We saw last year as Florida State ran the table in the ACC and folks called out their weak schedule, yet at the end of the year they were holding up the crystal ball after knocking of the SEC champion in the Rose Bowl. Not only did they go undefeated last year, they almost did it again this year, but came up a game short after meeting their match in Oregon. Teams like Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State are not going anywhere anytime soon, and there are sleeping giants out there that will make their return to prominence eventually.
As I stated previously, I don’t think the SEC is going anywhere as far as being the prominent conference of college football, but I think other conferences are closing the gap on them. While this won’t exactly be a bowl season to remember for the SEC, they can easily bounce back next year and folks will forget about this. I would only start to worry as an SEC fan if this pattern continued going forward, but only time will tell if it does. For now, the SEC’s best was simply outplayed and outcoached this time and that is something to be proud of if you were on the winning end of those matchups. In five years or so, we can revisit this topic and see exactly where we are as far as who is dominating the college football landscape. One thing is for, college football works in cycles, and eventually the cycle of the SEC dominating will come to an end.