Oh how the mighty have fallen. West Coast football fans have been saying it for years, but finally the SEC took an undeniable turn and it wasn’t in an upward direction. The storied “powerhouse” conference saw it’s least successful bowl season in years among ranked teams, of which it led the nation with seven. When the final bowl game with a ranked team, excluding the National Championship game, wrapped up on Friday the Pac-12 walked away with by far the most dominant bowl season among the elite representatives from each conference.
The final bowl results for ranked teams in the power five conferences were as follows:
Big Ten: 3-1
Big Twelve: 1-2
Sure, the Pac-12 was great, but look at the SEC! Two and five. Take a moment and let that soak in – Two wins, FIVE losses, including #1 ranked Alabama. Only Georgia and Missouri (neither of which were ranked in the top ten) managed to pull off victories. Missouri won against Minnesota, the 25th ranked team who barely made it in the final rankings. Georgia beat down Louisville, who made it’s move to the ACC just this year and is still a program looking to improve. What’s that say about the almighty SEC? Well that’s for pundits, fans and analysts to break down.
Here’s a more in depth look at the conferences, and the ranked teams that represented them in the Bowl season.
The ACC performed admirably, especially considering how weak they were comparatively to the other four power conferences. The ACC walked away with the third best record out of the five conferences, including a signature win from Georgia Tech.
No. 17 Clemson: The Tigers represented the ACC well, blowing out an Oklahoma team that looked like a shell of its former self. Final score: 40-6
No. 3 Florida State: The Seminoles’s loss tarnished any remaining belief that the ACC was better than people thought after their 40-point beat down at the hands of the Ducks. Additionally, their performance put into question the relative talent of teams FSU was able to beat. Final Score: 20-59
No. 12 Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets beat former No. 1 ranked Mississippi State by more than two touchdowns, utilizing their dominant running game. The SEC continued its downward spiral though, as the second highest ranked SEC team lost handily to the second best team in the ACC. Final Score: 49-34
No. 21 Louisville: The Cardinals put up an impressive 9-3 heading into a bowl game in their first season in their move to a power five conference, but the game itself was a different story. Georgia proved to be too much, and the Card’s run defense couldn’t hold off Nick Chubb. Final Score: 14-37
Big Ten (3-1):
The Big Ten way outperformed any and all expectations set for them, especially considering every single team came into their matchup as an underdog. The most impressive win of course was Ohio State, but huge come from behind victories by Michigan State and Wisconsin weren’t anything to scoff at either.
No. 8 Michigan State: The Spartans capped off an unbelievable rally by stuffing Baylor with 17 seconds left to finish their 21 point turnaround. In almost identical fashion to how Baylor came back against TCU earlier, the Bears got a taste of their own medicine. Final Score: 42-41
No. 25 Minnesota: The Gophers, barely making it into the top 25, gave it their best shot, but Mizzou proved to be too much. Considering the Big Ten‘s only loss came from the 25th ranked team, Minnesota has nothing to hang their heads about. They just weren’t as good as the Tigers, and sometimes that’s a reality a team has to face. Final Score: 17-33
No. 4 Ohio State: There are no more reasons to assume Ohio State “can’t” anything. Second string QB? No problem. Third String QB comes in and wins the two biggest games of OSU’s season? Sure! As Ducks fans, I sure hope none of us are getting big heads. This team is on a mission. Final Score: 42-35
No. 18 Wisconsin: Led, just as they so often have been, by Melvin Gordon, the Badgers pulled off an improbable victory against last year’s BCS runner up Auburn. Gordon’s 251 yards and three TDs, and excellent blocking from the offensive line, proved to be too much for Auburn and Wisconsin escaped in a close one. Final Score: 34-31
Big Twelve (1-2):
The Big 12, although finishing with an under .500 record, performed admirably. If it weren’t for one of the most storied comebacks in bowl game history Baylor would’ve pulled off a victory. Kansas State almost was able to do what MSU did to Baylor too, and in different circumstances the Big 12 could’ve finished 3-0. Their combined losses totaled to six points, so the record is certainly deceiving.
No. 5 Baylor: The Bears had to feel the same emotional roller coaster they put TCU through earlier in the season, as they watched MSU come back from a three touchdown deficit. This helped put Oregon is perspective though, as the Ducks win against MSU earlier now looks even more impressive. Final Score: 41-42
No. 11 Kansas State: The Wildcats came just an onside kick away from capping off one of the wildest bowl seasons in recent memory, but thanks to a great play by UCLA’s Paul Perkins they were denied. Kansas State had a season filled with ups and downs, and ironically their bowl game played out that way. One thing’s for sure though: Tyler Lockett is one heck of a player. Final Score: 35-40
No. 6 TCU: Think the Horned Frogs were disappointed to be knocked out of the playoff? Their 39 point shellacking of Ole Miss only further extended the doubts of the SEC’s true power, as Ole Miss had absolutely no answer for TCU’s powerful offensive attack. Final Score: 42-3
Far and wide the best all-around performance of the bowl season, the Pac-12 saw all but one ranked team leave with a victory during the postseason. The lone loss, Arizona’s eight point loss to Boise State, was still an impressive and gutsy performance. The Pac-12 had the second most ranked teams, second to only the SEC, but saw much different results.
No. 10 Arizona: The Cats came close to coming back from a three touchdown deficit against the Broncos, but their rally fell short. The game did do great things for the Mountain West conference though, as the Broncos were able to beat a team that beat the Ducks earlier. Perhaps the notion of the “power five” is starting to become overrated. Final Score: 30-38
No. 15 Arizona State: The Sun Devils beat the Blue Devils in what I’m now calling the Devil bowl, managing to hold off Jamison Crowder and the Duke offense. Duke played admirably though, considering they were supposed to be the fifth best team in the ACC. Final Score: 36-31
No. 2 Oregon: Not a whole lot to say about the Ducks’ performance other than “wow.” A 39-point victory against a ranked team is one thing, but an undefeated ranked team that hasn’t lost since 2012? That’s a whole separate beast. Final Score: 59-20
No. 14 UCLA: The run game dominated, and UCLA used four rushing touchdowns to build a lead just big enough to hold off K-State. The win only helped boost Oregon’s resume, as the Ducks beat UCLA earlier in the season. Final Score: 40-35
No. 24 USC: The win came against unranked Nebraska, but it sure was fun to watch. Cody Kessler and Javorious Allen led a balanced attack that proved to be too much for the Cornhuskers, who finished off a disappointing season. Next year USC gets to test how good they truly are in their trip up to Autzen. Final Score: 45-42
No. 22 Utah: It was a win against an unranked team, but the 35 point margin was nothing to take lightly. The Utes kicked off the ranked bowl season, and they did the Pac-12 well. Final Score: 45-10
This is what the entire college football season was looking for. The SEC, and in particular the SEC West, were supposed to be the cream of the crop. All seven members of the SEC West, and 12 out of the 14 total, went to bowls. The ranked teams, as I’ve already stated, went 2-5. Ranked SEC West teams? 0-5. It is clear to me that the SEC can no longer be the gold standard by which all of college football is measured by. Sure they get the best recruits and the most talented athletes, but hey. Marcus Mariota was a three star recruit and now he’s likely going to be a No. 1 pick. It’s not the players, it’s the system they’re put in and developed by. Sure, it can be argued the SEC played, on average higher ranked teams than the Pac-12 did, but an 0-5 mark by the SEC West speaks volumes no matter the opponent. Times are a’changin.
No. 1 Alabama: Maybe Cardale Jones is great. Maybe Urban Meyer is a genius. Or maybe, just maybe, the Tide and the rest of the SEC was overrated. In a year where if the BCS still existed Bama would’ve played FSU in the National Championship, the Tide instead lost to a third string QB and now head into an offseason with a whole lot of questions to answer. Final Score: 35-42
No. 19 Auburn: Boy the postseason was a mess. Auburn was supposed to contend for a playoff spot this year, and instead they found themselves losing to a team that in their previous game lost 59-0 to a third string QB. No excuses, simply dumbfounding. Final score 31-34
No. 13 Georgia: One of the two SEC East teams that produced the lone victories for the SEC, the Bulldogs made quick work of newcomer Louisville. Cards never seemed to settle down and Nick Chubb took advantage. Final Score: 37-14
No. 23 LSU: Another storied SEC franchise losing to a team with a QB playing in his second significant game. Leonard Fournette tried as hard as he could to give LSU the victory, but Notre Dame willed a victory right from under the Tigers’ noses. Final Score: 28-31
No. 7 Mississippi State: From No. 1 to this. MSU had no answer for the Georgia Tech rushing attack, a team FSU was barely able to bottle up themselves. It seemed like with every bowl upset, Oregon just continued to look better and better. By beating the Seminoles, the Ducks now appear to be the only unbeatable team in the country. Final Score: 34-49
No. 16 Missouri: The other SEC win, the Tigers handled No. 25 Minnesota and gave the SEC at least something to be proud of. It’s worth noting though that this bowl season the SEC didn’t beat a single team ranked in the top 20. Final Score: 33-17.
No. 9 Ole Miss: A 39 point loss for a team that beat Alabama this year. Is TCU that good? Maybe. Is it likely Ole Miss just isn’t that good? Yes. An embarrassing loss, but a perfect way to capitalize the SEC’s postseason this year. Final Score: 3-42
SO, although this is just one man’s opinion, here’s my conclusion. Excluding the outliers (Oregon losing to Arizona, Baylor losing to WVU, etc.), the top nine teams played almost perfect seasons. The top nine- Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, Mississippi State, Michigan State, and Ole Miss- all have some relation to each other.
Here’s the chain of dominance: Mississippi State lost to Bama. Bama lost to Ole Miss. Ole Miss lost to TCU (badly). That finishes up the SEC, who round out the bottom of the food chain. TCU lost to Baylor, and then Baylor lost to Michigan State. The two teams that beat Michigan State this year? Oregon and Ohio State, the two teams playing for a National Title. The only outlier is FSU, whose only relationship to the group is when they were pummeled by Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Where they rank is hard to say, but it’s certainly not above the Ducks or Ohio State. When the games mattered the most, and the teams had everything on the line, that’s how the games played out. So, based on this, and the win/loss column for bowl games, the rankings exiting the Bowl Season should look like this:
2/1. Based on the winner of Oregon vs. Ohio State on Jan. 12
Is this ranking perfect? No, but it was the best way I could come up with a lot of so called “top ten” teams not showing up for their postseason games.
The one thing that can be said though is that the Playoff Committee is a huge boost for College Football. If the BCS system still existed, Florida State would be playing Alabama for a National Title a week from Monday. Just some things to think about…
Top photo from John Sperry