For the life of me, I can’t understand the SEC’s constant need for validation. Honestly I think it’s just something that’s woven into the fabric of the South as the region deals with stereotypes. Everyone knows that good football is played in the South, but we have to go to any lengths to prove that the SEC is the best. It’s all that "Yankee media bias" we have to overcome. SEC fans are so fanatical about our football that we’ve collectively developed this provincial and paranoid insecurity that requires us to be reassured constantly that the SEC is tops.
So it’s no surprise that SEC fans, and of course I’m mostly talking about the Georgia fans I hear from, are doing their best to ride Florida’s coattails. Great. Let’s print up a batch of SEC #1 t-shirts and measure the players for their SEC Rules rings.
I said back during the bowls that I don’t really buy into the conference loyalty thing. I don’t see how having the reigning national champion next door is a good thing, especially as recruiting hits the home stretch. Florida on top just makes our job that much more difficult, though not impossible – remember what happened the last time Georgia faced a Florida team holding the title. Nor do I use the bowls as conference barometers. If we do, how can we place so much importance on Florida beating Ohio State while ignoring an unranked Penn State making Tennessee look ugly or Wisconsin having no problems with Arkansas?
Of course I’m not trying to put down the SEC. I have no problem defending the football played here. We just go overboard sometimes (OK, often). If last night’s win is a fundamental statement by the SEC, what was it last year when the SEC champion fell behind 28-0 to a team from the Big East? I guess I just put a lot more value in matchups than geography.
The win much more than anything else just means that Florida was better and more prepared than Ohio State. It’s amusing that every SEC team on Florida’s schedule came closer to Florida than Ohio State did, but that doesn’t make the Buckeyes on par with Vanderbilt. Those extrapolating that Ohio State would be an 8-4 SEC team (and I’ve seen that very line) are reading way too much into a single game. The Buckeye defense looked lost against the spread offense, and Ohio State presented nothing unique and challenging for the Florida defense. Florida improved a great deal in their final two games; the same team that struggled to score and beat South Carolina and FSU in November got it together in time for the postseason.
Give Florida credit, and maybe the rest of the conference can try to knock Florida off instead of letting them carry the water for the rest of us.
We’ve also started to hear how this outcome validates the matchup set up by the BCS. That’s fine; these were two of the top teams and I have no problem with either in the title game. But I can’t help thinking how close we came to not having this matchup and about the sequence of events that had to happen in order to bring about this outcome:
- Florida had to block several South Carolina kicks to avoid their second loss.
- SoCal losing an improbable finale to UCLA.
- Louisville being offsides on a field goal attempt.
- Poll voters explicitly engineering around a tOSU – Michigan rematch.
Again, I’m not knocking Florida’s title. They earned it, and of such breaks and plays are champions made in all sports. But events independent of Florida’s control nearly kept them from even having a shot at the title. Would a playoff be any better? You’re still not guaranteed that the "best" teams will play for the title, but you are at least more certain that qualified teams will have the opportunity to play in the process. We’ve seen before (2004) that the regular-season-is-your-playoff line can be pretty flimsy. We’ve also learned a bit about how hard it is to be objective when determining the two best teams. Two months ago, the "Hype Lives Here" machine of ABCESPN, complete with countdown clock, had a lot of us thinking that Michigan and Ohio State were #1 and #2. Both proved to be paper tigers in their bowls. With Florida on top, we’re still left with a question we had two months ago: who’s #2?
On that note, we also need to look sometime at how we use losses as strikes against title contenders. Of course a five-loss team doesn’t belong in the discussion, but I think it says something that a couple of two-loss teams turned in two of the most impressive BCS performances. Even given their losses, I’d have trouble picking against SoCal or LSU versus any team.
Aside – can we shut up about 2004 now?
One of the biggest chips on the shoulders of SEC fans recently was the "snub" of Auburn in the 2004 national title game. In our insecure little province, that event was a sign that the media and the rest of the nation didn’t respect the SEC. Oklahoma and SoCal started the season #1 and #2. Without a loss, there is no way that any other team was going to jump them. Yet some still maintain that an Auburn team who came into 2004 off an 8-5 season and a generous #10 preseason ranking should have been in the title game instead.
Did it suck that Auburn didn’t have a prayer at playing for the title if neither #1 or #2 lost? You bet. That’s a separate issue though. Under the BCS system, conference, schedule, none of it mattered – #1 and #2 remained intact throughout the season, they woulda/coulda/shoulda played for the title in 2003, and there was nothing that would keep them from playing for the title in 2004.