SEC backlash evident in bowl games

SEC backlash evident in bowl games

January 4th, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, left, was intercepted three times as the Rebels were overwhelmed by TCU, 42-3, in last Wednesday's Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

They didn't wait until the final minute of the game to begin the chant.

"SEC! SEC! SEC!"

They didn't even wait until the final minute of the first half.

"SEC! SEC! SEC!"

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With two minutes remaining in the second quarter of TCU's 42-3 trouncing of Ole Miss in Wednesday's Peach Bowl in Atlanta, fans of the Horned Frogs let college football's proudest conference have it. TCU defensive end James McFarland had just intercepted Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace's ill-advised pass from his end zone for a touchdown to give the Horned Frogs a 28-0 lead in a game that everybody in the Georgia Dome knew was over.

"SEC! SEC! SEC!"

Mocking the Southeastern Conference occurred with great regularity this past week as five ranked teams from the league -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 8 Mississippi State, No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 19 Auburn and No. 22 LSU -- ended their seasons on sour notes. All five of those teams hail from the SEC West, which had been 30-0 against nonconference foes after Texas A&M and Arkansas won their bowl games, and all five were favored to triumph.

The SEC finished with a 7-5 bowl record following Florida's 28-20 defeat of East Carolina in Saturday's Birmingham Bowl. The league matched its record for postseason wins as well as for postseason losses, and those who conquered the SEC didn't mind taking jabs at the vaunted league before leaving the field.

"At least for a week or two, we don't have to hear about the SEC," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson beamed on ESPN after his Yellow Jackets raced past Mississippi State 49-34 in Wednesday night's Orange Bowl.

The next night, as Ohio State's 42-35 stunning of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was complete, Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones told ESPN, "We just took down the big, bad SEC."

Alabama's loss eliminated an SEC representative from playing in college football's title game for the first time since Vince Young quarterbacked Texas to a 41-38 upset of Southern California after the 2005 season. Since then it's been an SEC trophy parade, with Alabama claiming three national titles, Florida two, Auburn one and LSU one.

Auburn nearly extended the SEC streak to eight straight titles last January but was topped 34-31 by Florida State in a thriller the Seminoles won with 13 seconds remaining.

The SEC's run of championship success was unprecedented in the sport, and it led to an onslught of attention, including the creation of a highly lucrative SEC Network that made its debut this season. For those in other conferences, it's been a bit much to stomach.

"We always hear about the SEC," TCU defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said after the Peach Bowl. "They've won a lot of national championships, and everybody just seems to love them. They have great teams, but there is more than just the SEC in the nation. You've got to respect everything.

"It's always about the SEC, but this is a new day and age."

TCU got to experience for one week what Tech's Johnson endures daily -- trying to guide a consistent winner outside of the SEC while residing in Atlanta. Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson noticed the conference pride upon arrival for the bowl and said other leagues can learn from it.

"You've got to be one family," Patterson said. "The thing about the SEC is how strong they are about being as one, and I think that's one thing the Big 12 has to be able to do. I don't think it's necessarily the Big 12 versus the SEC, but I do believe that you have to be proud of the conference that you're in."

The Big 12 got the decisive win in Atlanta but was otherwise miserable in the postseason, with Baylor blowing a 20-point lead in a 42-41 Cotton Bowl loss to Michigan State and traditional powers Texas and Oklahoma getting routed by Arkansas and Clemson.

Winning this year's postseason have been the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, who have the last two teams standing with Oregon and Ohio State. The Pac-12 seems ready to challenge the SEC for college football supremacy, while the Buckeyes have every right to revel given their history of futility against SEC teams in bowls.

And don't think Notre Dame's 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl didn't improve the mood in South Bend.

"It was important to us that we came out and went head to head with a good SEC team," Irish defensive lineman Isaac Rochell told reporters in Nashville. "It was especially important because of what happened the last time we played an SEC team in a bowl (a 42-14 loss to Alabama for the 2012 BCS title). That one didn't go so well."

If Oregon defeats Ohio State on Jan. 12, the SEC still will have the second-best bowl record this holiday season among "Power Five" conferences.

The SEC is 67-38 in bowl games since the start of the 2003 season, which no other conference can come close to touching. The last losing bowl record for the SEC occurred in 2002, when the league went 3-4, but the fact the SEC struggled more than expected this time around certainly created excitement elsewhere.

"Once we got to Atlanta, all we've heard about is the SEC," TCU safety Sam Carter said. "Everybody gives all those guys the credit, and they say we're never good enough to play with them. The world thinks the SEC is better, but when you put your pads on in games like this, all things are equal."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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