SEC Dominance Very Much on Display in Bowl Season
As the early New Year's Day bowl games were going on, and it appeared that the SEC could go 0-3 versus the Big Ten in 2013, fans suffering from "SEC Fatigue" were on the brink of recovering from their seven-year illness.
South Carolina and Georgia managed to come back and win their matchups versus Michigan and Nebraska, respectively. But coupled with LSU's 25-24 loss on New Year's Eve to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the perception that the SEC is an out-of-control juggernaut that tears through its opponents with reckless abandon has been diminished a bit.
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Or, has it?
Les Miles' inexplicable decision to pass three times late in the fourth quarter when he needed to drain the clock notwithstanding, the SEC has shown why it's the nation's top conference this bowl season.
South Carolina showed that its offense can be successful with multiple quarterbacks and its defense can rise up and take over the game at the most opportune time, thanks to 6'6", 256-pound monster Jadeveon Clowney. It was a 60-minute slugfest versus Michigan in the Outback Bowl; and in the end, the Gamecocks delivered the knockout blow in the 33-28 win.
Georgia's rush defense was disappointing all season long, but the Bulldogs managed to pull away from Nebraska—a team that was favored to win the Big Ten just over a month ago—thanks to an epic 427-yard, five-touchdown performance from quarterback Aaron Murray against the Big Ten's best pass defense in the 45-31 Capital One Bowl win.
The Bulldogs had every reason to sulk after coming within five yards of the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, they proved that they weren't a product of an easy schedule.
Vanderbilt, a middle-of-the-road SEC team at best, topped N.C. State in the Music City Bowl on Monday afternoon, 38-24, in a game that wasn't really as close as the score indicated. James Franklin is doing a tremendous job turning around the perennial cellar-dweller Vanderbilt, and with another above-average recruiting class likely signing on the bottom line in February, the outlook for the program is only going to get better.
Sure, Mississippi State got destroyed by Northwestern, 34-20, in the Gator Bowl; but that shouldn't have been surprising. Northwestern is a good football team that finished with the Big Ten's third-best record while the Bulldogs came in losers of four of their previous five games and without a signature win during the four-year Dan Mullen era.
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It was a mismatch, plain and simple. That happens during bowl season.
Is the SEC unbeatable? Of course not.
If you didn't believe it before, the 3-2 record so far during bowl season and LSU's offense falling flat on its face in its second straight bowl game is more than enough evidence.
Good football is played all over the country. It's unrealistic to think that the SEC would go 9-0 in bowl games even though all nine teams from the conference were/are favored, according to VegasInsider.com.
SEC teams are 16-7 all-time in BCS games and have posted a 38-20 record in bowl games over the last seven years–most of which against opponents that, at least in theory, are supposed to be somewhat competitive.
With four teams awaiting their bowl games to kick off, there's still plenty of time to determine whether the SEC is back to its old dominating antics, regressing to the mean or something in between.
The first five games of bowl season shouldn't sway your opinion either way.
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