Never in the history of college football has a conference dominated the bowl season like the SEC did over the past week. It all started on Dec. 29 when LSU throttled Texas Tech 56-27 in the Texas Bowl. The next day Auburn beat Memphis 31-10, Mississippi State beat NC State 51-28, and Texas A&M lost to Louisville, 27-21. The conference looked fairly impressive up to that point, holding steady with a 3-1 bowl record.
That’s when the fun really began, as the SEC brutalized teams of a much higher caliber than Texas Tech, Memphis, or NC State (with all due respect). On New Year’s Eve, Alabama blanked Michigan State in its College Football Playoff semifinal, 38-0. Then on New Year's Day, Tennessee mauled Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, 45-6. There was, of course, a slight hiccup for the SEC when Michigan stomped Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl. But later that night, Ole Miss showed up and off in a 48-20 Sugar Bowl romp over Oklahoma State.
On Saturday, Georgia held off Penn State, 24-17, while Arkansas knocked out Kansas State, 45-23. The SEC finished 8-2 in bowl games, breaking the all-time record for most bowl wins by a conference in the postseason. But the most impressive part of the whole thing was how the conference did it.
Seven of the eight victories posted by SEC teams were significant blowouts, all with margins of victory of 21 or more points. For comparison, the other nine conferences only had a combined five wins by 21 or more points this bowl season, according to the SEC Network. An 8-2 bowl record is unheard of, but even in the losses, an SEC homer could make excuses for Florida and Texas A&M. The Gators have been awful since quarterback Will Grier was suspended, and the Aggies had not one, but two quarterbacks transfer before their bowl game. That doesn’t necessarily mean either of those teams would have gotten the job done (especially Florida, which lost by 34 points) but a case could be made. Hey, the Gators did beat Ole Miss by four touchdowns with Grier at the helm.
The point is, it should be recognized how impressive this particular bowl season was for the SEC. After last year, the headlines had everyone believing college football’s best conference was finished. Ole Miss got smacked around by TCU, Georgia Tech embarrassed Mississippi State, and Alabama was beaten on the grandest stage of all by a hot Ohio State team. Granted, it wasn’t the best postseason, but the SEC still managed a 7-5 bowl record. That would be considered a huge success for most conferences, but the national narrative led us to believe the SEC was dead in the water. The reason is because that’s what the rest of college football wanted to believe.
It’s understandable, after watching the same teams win seven consecutive national titles, that people would jump at the opportunity to write off the SEC. Rooting for the underdog is part of our culture, going all the way back to David vs. Goliath. It’s exciting to watch a giant fall. Everyone is tired of hearing that the SEC has the best coaches and best players, but it’s the truth. That’s why the Big Ten upgraded its coaches. Eventually, maybe the Urban Meyers, Jim Harbaughs and James Franklins will own the SEC – but not yet. Argue coaches all day if you want, but the most important element in this discussion is the talent.
The SEC has the best players in college football, and it’s not even close. The conference is positioned in the perfect place, geographically. Its western border is Texas and Louisiana. Its eastern border is Florida and Georgia. That’s the big secret behind the success – geography. It didn’t seem like a big deal in seventh grade, but now geography is responsible for dynasties in college football. People use the word ‘pipeline’ to describe it, and that’s exactly what it is. All the recruiting channels are running through the south. California has a lot of talent, especially at quarterback, that the SEC misses out on. And there are other areas, like New Jersey and Ohio, that have a decent amount of talent. But the south is where the majority lies.
When you control Florida and Texas, you can afford to give up California. It has been increasingly difficult for Big Ten schools, and others for that matter, to infiltrate the south when they are going up against Nick Saban, Les Miles, Hugh Freeze, Butch Jones, etc. Why do you think satellite camps were such a hot topic in the offseason? Harbaugh is a pretty smart guy. But until other conferences are able to have success poaching recruits from the south, the SEC will continue to dominate college football.
Obviously, by law of probability, the SEC isn’t going to win every matchup with another Power 5 conference member. Hence, last year’s “bad” 7-5 bowl season. But when the cards fall right, like they did this bowl season, the SEC is the most likely to beat up on its competition. It flexed its muscles this past week, and there was nothing the rest of America could do about it. Maybe one day the power will shift, but it hasn’t yet.
By the way, the SEC still has a chance to finish 9-2 and bring home the national championship. A certain team in crimson has a date with destiny on Monday.