Thursday, November 19, 2009

Signature Wins?

In honor of this week's riveting Alabama-UT Chattanooga and the Florida-Florida International slugfests, let's recap the season's overwhelming evidence that the SEC is the country's best league.

Could it be Alabama's signature win over Virginia Tech?

Or is it Auburn's signature win over West Virginia?

Or perhaps it's LSU's signature win over Washington.

Or what about Florida's win over . . . wait a minute, Florida hasn't played anyone out of conference that's worth a chomp.

And that's a problem. The SEC's national schedule stinks.

Sure, Va. Tech was preseason Top 10 when Alabama belted them around the Georgia Dome. Does anyone think the Hokies are even Top 20 now?

For a brief while, LSU's road win at Washington had some star power. But that's before the Huskies disappeared in a snow bank. Hell, Washington even found a way to lose to Notre Dame.

Auburn took care of West Virginia with a considerable assist from the Mountaineer quarterback. Still, a win's a win. Except, perhaps, when it comes against a mid-level Big East team.

Which begs the bigger question: Has the SEC really beaten anyone yet? Here's the answer. No.

OK, altogether now, let's recite the SEC's case: Conference teams have to play each other and then survive the momma and daddy of all conference championship games.

But am I alone in feeling a little spooked by the lack of national competition the conference has faced? The exception is Mississippi State -- with games against Ga. Tech and Houston, games in which the Bulldogs gave almost as well as they received -- games they still lost.

Other notable defeats: Tennessee to a bad UCLA team. Vandy to just about everyone; and Georgia to Oklahoma State. Granted, Georgia got by Arizona State, but most believe the Dawgs will be tied to the back of the Ramblin' Wreck and dragged all around Grant Field when it meets instate rival Ga. Tech at year's end.

No one is arguing that the SEC isn't the deepest conference in the country, and CBS analyst Gary Danielson told Charlotte radio host Mark Packer last night that the league is stronger this year than last. But are Florida and Alabama really the country's two best teams? Maybe.

Three years ago, Ohio State and Michigan were the honorees of a season-long coronation. Their showdown that year -- akin to the buildup surrounding Florida/Alabama, don't you think? -- lived up to its billing, so much so that it appeared the BCS would opt for a Big 10 rematch to settle the national title.

In the end, either the computers or just enough writers blocked the do-over. Florida slipped into the game. The Rust Belt howled. Then the Gators went out and annihilated Ohio State. All the pundits were wrong. The best team all year in the sports pages was not the last team standing. The national take on the Buckeyes and the Big 10 has never been the same.

Could the SEC be setting itself for a repeat tumble? We think we're the best league, with the two best teams. But how do we know for sure until we leave our own backyard?

And here's what even scarier: The loser in Atlanta almost certainly will face an angry TCU or Boise State, still feeling the snub of the BCS. As the Sugar Bowl showed last season, that could get ugly in a hurry.

Michael Gordon

The SEC often takes heat for its terrible non-conference schedule, which will take front and center this weekend, with Alabama squaring off against Chattanooga and Florida tussling with Florida International.

Ah, Florida.

Started thinking about UF and its non-conference schedule. About the Gators traveling outside of the region for a non-conference regular season game. Like LSU playing at Virginia Tech in 2002 and at Washington this season. Alabama playing Oklahoma in Norman in 2002. Auburn going into the Coliseum to play USC the same year.

And I kept thinking. Couldn't even picture the blue and orange outside the South, except for a couple of bowl games.

So I looked it up. The Gators last played a non-conference game outside of Florida in 1991, a 38-21 loss to Syracuse.

Florida fans will no doubt point to their annual game against Florida State as the reason the Gators can't be more ambitious with the schedule, though the Seminoles have been mediocre for five years. And yes, the Gators played Miami in 2002, 2003 and 2008.

But with 12 total games, couldn't Florida manage to cross the Mason-Dixon Line? Yes, they have to play LSU every year and yes they play the Seminoles. But what is now arguably the country's premier college football program should step it a notch. Wouldn't it be great to see Ohio State play in The Swamp? Or the game that every college football fan would like to see - Florida-USC?

Steve Harrison


J said...

Big Ol' Hairy Dawg fans shouldn't be ashamed of losing to OK St. With Dez Bryant, that's a very good team. Without him, not so much, but I still don't think that's a bad loss.

Overall, excellent point. The non-conference schedules very much resemble the non-conference slate Nebraska used to trot out every year, back when they mattered.

As for an angry TCU/Boise St vs the SEC title loser - If an undefeated 'Bama/Florida is playing an undefeated Texas, I don't want to hear it from the other guys.

Bowl season should be interesting. And hopefully next year there will be some better scheduling.

J said...

Got an even better one for you, Steve. How about a nice UF-Notre Dame series? Everyone would get what they want. UF haters like me would get to see them go out of the region for a game. National pundits would get a game to hype to infinity. And UF gets their usual 49-7 non-conference win, since Notre Dame is the most over-ranked, over-rated, over-hyped mediocre team year after year after year.

Now if you want some real games, it would be nice to see UF against a top team from the Pac 10 or Big XII South (they'd beat everyone in the North by at least XXV points). I know we'll probably see UF-Texas if UF wins the SEC title game, but that's one that would be a nice non-conference match.

The Reid said...

"Does anyone think the Hokies are even a Top 20 team at this point?" Um yeah. The pollsters do. They have them at #13. And how you can just say the SEC is better than every other conference? The fact is that when the new polls come out, the ACC will have the most ranked teams of any conference. I don't argue that the top two of the SEC is better than the top two of the ACC, or any conference for that matter, but based off of facts the ACC is better this year. And don't use that "Alabama beat Virginia Tech so the SEC is way better than the ACC argument" because its total BS.