Sunday, January 11, 2009

Conference Records in 2008-09 Bowls: SEC, Pac-10 shine

Ho hum. Another college football season came to an end Thursday, and it was yet another SEC team that was declared the National Champion. The last 3 champions have been from the SEC (Florida, LSU, Florida), and the SEC has 4 champions in the last 6 years. Even though there may continue to be debates on who the best team in the country was this year (Utah, USC, Texas--each have valid beefs), ultimately the hardware and history books will have my beloved Florida Gators etched in as the 2008 National Champions.

What I like to do this time of year is take a look at how the conferences all did in the bowls. And since I live in Cincinnati in Big 10 country, I especially love to compare the results of the SEC to the Big 10. However, over the last 5 years, this comparison has been, well... rather boring. The Big 10 is in the middle of a run of underperforming years that is seriously starting to hurt their national perception as a quality conference.

Let's take a look at each conference's records:

Conference-by-conference 2008-2009 bowl record

Pac-10 (5)Ariz,Cal,Ore,OSU,USC5-01.000
SEC (8)Ala,Fla,Ga,Ky,LSU,Miss,SCar,Vandy6-2.750
Big East (6)Cin,Pitt,Rut,UConn,USF,WV4-2.667
C-USA (6)EC,Hou,Mem,Rice,SMiss,Tulsa4-2.667
MWC (5)AF,BYU,CSU,TCU,Utah3-2.600
Big 12 (7)KU,Mizzou,Neb,OU,OSU,Tex,TT4-3.571
Independents (2)Navy,Notre Dame1-1.500
Sun Belt (2)Fla. Atlantic,Troy1-1.500
ACC (10)BC,Clem,FSU,GT,Mary,Miami, NC,NCS,VT,WF4-6.400
WAC (5)BSU,FresSt,Haw,LaTech,Nev1-4.200
Big Ten (7)Iowa,MichSt,Minn,NWestrn,OSU,PSU,Wis1-6.143
MAC (5)BallSt,Buff,CMich,NIU,WMich0-5.000

The PAC-10 had a great post-season, as they went undefeated (5-0). This indicates that the conference may have been somewhat undeserving of the 'down year' tag that was given to them all year long (even though they only had 5 bowl eligible teams--so the depth of the league is suspect). USC may be the most talented team in the country. Kudos to the Left Coasters for a great bowl season.

The SEC is the next best performing conference, with a stellar 6-2 record. Losses by S. Carolina (they shouldn't have been in a bowl with that anemic offense) and Alabama (Nick Saban seemed to fail at getting his team up for this game, as the Tide was emotionless and played with no heart in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl) were the lone blemishes in their bowl season. Obviously, the BCS Championship game victory by Florida over Oklahoma was the biggest high-quality win for the conference, but Georgia beating Michigan State and Ole Miss dominating Texas Tech also showed that the SEC still deserves the the 'best conference' label over the Big 12 and Big 10. Heck, even Vandy and Kentucky won bowl games.

The Big 12 conference was proclaimed to be the best conference in the country by the media for the majority of the year, with 4 teams consistently in the Top 10 and putting up gaudy offensive numbers in the process. The conference gave us some of the best games (Texas-Oklahoma, Texas-Texas Tech, and Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. were all classics) of the season. However, after looking at their results in the bowls, you have to wonder if the pundits got it wrong all year...and we were just watching some decent teams playing in a conference that played WAC-style defense (ie. non-existent). The Big 12's top 4 teams went a 1-3 collectively in the post-season, with only Texas squeaking out a last second win against a mediocre Ohio State. Texas Tech and Oklahoma played great in the first half of their games, but were dominated in the second half of their games against SEC opponents. And Oklahoma State came up short against an underrated Oregon team.

The Big East continues to show that they are deserving of their BCS status, as they had a relatively good bowl season at 4-2. I think this conference will take advantage of the Big 10's perceived downslide, as more recruits will consider the up-and-coming Big East programs over Big 10 ones. Still not at the level of the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12, the Big East is definitely on the rise in football.

The ACC had the most teams in bowls, but that's more a sign of that conference's mediocre parity this year than anything else. No huge results to distinguish the ACC this season... but the youth on Miami, Va Tech and FSU's teams next year will perhaps put the ACC onto the national stage next year.

And then, there is the Big 10. At 1-6 in the bowl season, only the MAC did worse than the Big 10 this year. I can't pile on here, because it's just no fun anymore. My Big 10 neighbors and co-workers all just tuck their tails and want to start talking about basketball season or, worse, college hockey. The days of my neighbors "borrowing" my Gators flag and replacing it with a Buckeye flag are gone. Their spirit has been broken. The smack talk, which always begins boiling hot in the early part of the season, once again has simmered to tepid tap water by season's end.

The Big 10, with their storied programs and great recruiting base, will always be one of the best conferences in the nation on paper. However, on the field, they are living up to the 'big and slow' tag that folks have been giving them since Florida's trouncing of OSU two years ago. You cannot ignore the fact that their high-profile teams have not had good bowl showings in the last 3 years. Going 1-6 this year (and 0-6 in their last BCS bowl games) is very indicative that this conference just isn't as strong as it was a decade ago. Dare I say that the Big East may be a better conference top to bottom? Yikes?


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