Sometimes the SEC has the best team in the nation, but it doesn’t make it the best conference. TCU destroying Ole Miss in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and Georgia Tech running all over Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl proved that no matter how much hyped a conference or a division might be, the run of national championships has distorted the perception of the quality and depth of the SEC.
Sure, the SEC West is deep without a bad team in it, as all seven teams made the bowl games. Texas A&M and Arkansas won theirs against Big 12 teams with dominant performances, especially for the Razorbacks. A day later, LSU lost to Notre Dame. Their fans are still whining about the touchdown that was taken away from them, but the Irish were better at every phase and level of that game. That Notre Dame team that lost to everyone at the end of the season and got blown away to smithereens by USC.
And then came the dark day for the Mississippi schools. In a season in which both of them raised their heads and had people speaking about them as national championship material for much of the season; when the Egg Bowl seemed, for a while, like the biggest game we’re going to have all year; come this disappointing ending. Mississippi State at least looked respectable in their loss to Georgia Tech, rushing for over 450 yards. Ole Miss and Bo Wallace had nothing, zero, zilch to be proud of after what TCU did to them.
And to think Ole Miss, with a win over Alabama earlier this season, looked like the team with the best defense in the nation for a while. But the second half of the season was filled with Wallace stinkers and terrible offense, including being shut out by Arkansas and held to just 7 points in a loss to LSU. Now comes TCU, a team that did turn the ball over four times, just like the Rebels, but Trevone Boykin also threw three touchdown passes and did good things for his team. Bo Wallace did nothing, as Ole Miss gained just 129 yards in the game, outgained by 294. It ended in a 42-3 loss.
Mississippi State still finish the season with 10 wins and have a lot to be happy about with Dan Mullen as their head coach. But the finish? After being at the top of the polls going into the final month of the season, came a loss in a very good game against Alabama and then getting outplayed against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, which was their last chance to maybe find themselves inside the Final Four. But a two-loss Bulldogs team wasn’t going to jump others who deserved the place more.
So to the Orange Bowl they went against a Georgia Tech team with three losses but quite hot to end the season, not feeling to discouraged about losing by two points to the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game. The Mississippi State defense simply couldn’t keep up with Synjyn Days and Justin Thomas, as the Yellow Jackets ran for 452 yards and scoring six touchdowns on the ground. It was a good day for Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson wasn’t bad either. But it wasn’t nearly enough. The game wasn’t even as close as the 49-34 score might suggest.
The SEC isn’t just Alabama or LSU and Auburn during their good seasons. It’s also the Mississippi teams, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. There’s usually at least one elite team there, but a lot of bad, mediocre and plain regular programs a’plenty in the SEC. It’s a good conference, but not special or unique. It simply seems that way becomes of the national championship streak from 2006-2012.
Not everything about the day had to do with SEC teams falling on their faces. The Pac-12 lost its perfect record in this bowl season as Boise State, trick plays and all, had itself another Fiesta Bowl to remember, beating Arizona 38-30. There doesn’t seem to be a place for the Broncos in a power five conference at the moment for various reasons, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning big bowl games one after the other while Arizona, that a month ago were still hoping to play in the college football playoff, end they year with a humiliating loss against Oregon and a bad loss to a G5 team in the bowl game.