SEC West the best? Not this bowl season
Don’t know how many times I have written these words in the last few years concerning the SEC West: the toughest division in the toughest conference in college football.
And so, you might ask, how do those words taste?
Not so good after:
TCU 42, Ole Miss 3.
Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34.
Notre Dame 31, LSU 28.
Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31.
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35.
The top five teams in the SEC West went 0-for-5 in this bowl season.
Explain that, you say?
I’d have a better chance of explaining Lane Kiffin’s play-calling against Ohio State.
And I have no clue on that one.
SEC apologists have said they beat up so much on one another during the season, they had nothing left for the post-season.
And they are wrong.
Clearly, we (I) overrated the SEC West this season.
Ohio State whipped Alabama worse than the score indicates and the Buckeyes did it with their third quarterback. If it hadn’t been for Tide punter JK Scott, no telling how bad the score would have been. He kept the Crimson Tide in it single-leggedly.
Notre Dame, which lost its last four regular season games by an average of 13 points, got well against LSU.
TCU, angry as Hades about being left out of the playoffs (and rightfully so), just hammered Ole Miss.
Georgia Tech gained eight yards per play in its whacking of State.
And if I could have my Heisman ballot back, I’d take it and list Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, as my first choice. He ran for 251 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn. Gordon reminds me more of Walter Payton than anyone since. He runs with superhuman effort. He does so with, gulp, SEC speed.
So what to make of this? First things first: One bowl season doesn’t wipe out a decade of excellence.
This Ohio State-Oregon championship match will be the first since 2008 that doesn’t involve an SEC West team (or one from Alabama, for that matter.) Seven of the last nine national championship teams have come from the SEC.
I would still argue that the SEC West is the best division in the best conference in college football. Even in this season, all seven teams in the West play in bowl games. Arkansas, which finished last in the standings, clocked Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl. Texas A & M, which finished next to last, whipped West Virginia 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl.
Anyone who thinks Ohio State — or Oregon, or TCU, for that matter — could play all the SEC West and go through the season undefeated is kidding themselves. They really do beat up on each other. Ole Miss would serve as Exhibit A in that regard.
And now then, if I could, I’d like to get back to Kiffin’s play-calling. And let me preface this with a disclaimer: Kiffin knows more about football than I’ll ever know. But, for whatever reason, sometimes coaches make it harder than it has to be.
Alabama lost two games this season: to Ole Miss and to Ohio State. Neither the Rebels, nor the Buckeyes, ever stopped the Crimson Tide when they ran the ball to the left with two great backs running behind massive left tackle Cam Robinson. But for whatever reason, Kiffin chose not to make them stop it.
A wise, old high school coach once told me that he always would keep running the same play until his opponent made him do otherwise.
“Why make it harder than it is?” he said.