Yes, the Southeastern Conference has provided yet another national championship team. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last night by a score of 42-14. This win makes Alabama’s third national championship in four years, and the SEC’s seventh national championship in a row. In the short history of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), an SEC team has claimed the championship every year since 2006. (I have to add that seeing Alabama’s routing of an undefeated number-one team makes me not feel so bad about how badly Auburn got beat by them.)
None of us down here really had any doubts. In fact, one January 6 news report where I live explained that our local Academy Sports store already had ‘Bama national championship t-shirts in boxes in the stores the weekend before the game, ready to cut the packing tape and sell them immediately after the game had been won! In fact, I saw, while I was Christmas shopping with my kids, that the same store had a huge banner up over their front doors announcing that they would have those national championship t-shirts on sale immediately after game— and that was more than two weeks before it was played! Crazy!
And frankly, the consensus – if you’re not a Notre Dame fan – was that Alabama would go home with the trophy. On the day of the game, ESPN’s website published “10 reasons Alabama will win it all.” (The article’s publication date says January 8th, but it was published on the 7th, trust me.) The Sporting News had Alabama as 9.5 point favorites on the day of the game.
Anyway . . . let’s take a quick look back at the end-of-season week 15 rankings (December 2) as another reminder of SEC domination this season. Within the Top 10 of the BCS rankings, Alabama ended the regular season as #2, Florida as #3, Georgia as #7, LSU as #8, Texas A&M as #9 and South Carolina as #10. In a conference of fourteen teams, six finished in the BCS Top 10. In the AP Top 25, things are little different but not much: Alabama is still at #2, Florida is #4, Georgia is #6, then LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina are #9, #10 and #11. (The AP list includes the undefeated-but-on-probation Ohio State team, coached by Urban Meyer who led Florida to the national championship a few years ago.)
How did SEC teams fare in other bowl games? Four wins and three losses. Vanderbilt stomped North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl. Georgia beat Nebraska on New Year’s Day in the Capitol One Bowl, but Louisville beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl on January 2nd. LSU got beat by one point in the final seconds by Clemson (another team from the Deep South) in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but Texas A&M beat the hell out of Oklahoma on January 4th in the Cotton Bowl. South Carolina beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Mississippi State, which went undefeated until their eighth game (against Alabama), got beat by Northwestern in the Gator Bowl. Ole Miss beat Pitt in the Compass Bowl on January 5th. Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri did not go to bowl games. And of course, in case you have forgotten, Alabama won the national championship by beating the hell out of Notre Dame last night.
And we can’t forget the Heisman Trophy. Texas A&M’s quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman. Manziel’s win also makes the fourth Heisman in six years for the SEC.
However, there are going to be a lot of new faces around the SEC next year. Sadly, the SEC also sported some of the worst teams in college football this year. Head coaches were fired at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Of the five SEC teams that didn’t go to bowl games, four of those schools will have new head coaches. That’s how serious we are about it down here. Almost immediately after firing Gene Chizik. Auburn had former their offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who coached Cam Newton and led the team to a national championship, on the job to replace him. The fired Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips is staying in the SEC, moving down to Gainesville to work as an assistant coach for the Florida Gators. Poor old Derek Dooley at Tennessee just couldn’t seem to reproduce his father’s great results at Georgia; he got fired before Thanksgiving and apparently he’s mostly playing around on Twitter these days. Arkansas didn’t really stand much of chance this year, with the Bobby Petrino mess and an interim head coach, but we’ll see where they go next year with Bret Bielema.
Now I have in front of me the long and arduous stretch of months from now until next football season. Living without college football from mid-January until late August is rough. But I’ll manage . . . don’t worry about me. I’ll pass the time praying for Gus Malzahn.