Tag Archives: championship

About Miller Time for Big Ten Title

Ohio State senior quarterback Braxton Miller will undoubtedly be considered one of the all-time greats to ever play the position for the Buckeyes. Miller holds nine individual records at Ohio State but his stats are lacking in the championship department.
Miller’s records are impressive. They include total offense per game (231.8), 200-yard total offense games (22), 300-yard total offense games (10), total offense in a season (3,310 in 2012), total offense per game (275.8 in 2012), QB rushing yards (1,271 in 2012), 300-yard total offense games (five in 2012), QB rushing yards in a game (186 vs. Nebraska in 2012) and longest rush by a QB (81 vs. Indiana in 2012).

Braxton Miller eludes a Clemson defender in the 2014 Orange Bowl.
Braxton Miller eludes a Clemson defender in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

Throw the records out and Miller still has delivered exactly zero Big Ten Championships. The Buckeyes are seeking their first Big Ten crown since 2009, which is also the year of their last official bowl win, a 26-17 victory over Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
To be fair, Miller did orchestrate a 24-game winning streak with back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2012 and 2013, the longest in the program’s history. In the three seasons (2011-2013) that Miller has been under center, his only legitimate shot at a Big Ten title was last year. The short lived Luke Fickell era standed no chance in 2011 and NCAA sanctions put a damper on an undefeated season in 2012. Former OSU greats with Big Ten titles such as Art Schlichter, Rex Kern, Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor were never forced to produce 35+ points on a weekly basis in order to win.
Regardless of the circumstances, Miller must go out a winner if he doesn’t want to leave a blemish on a career that has the potential to be of legendary status.
Miller doesn’t need to win a national championship, much less a Big Ten championship in order to validate his credentials as a great Buckeye. He enters this season needing just 11 wins to surpass Schlichter (36) as the winningest quarterback in OSU history. Miller could break Schlichter’s career passing record of 7,547 yards and move past Eddie George into second place on the school’s career rushing list. He needs 2,256 and 715 yards, respectively.
A championship of any kind wouldn’t hurt, though.
Former OSU quarterback Steve Bellisari (1999-2001)
Former OSU quarterback Steve Bellisari (1999-2001)

The last full-time starting quarterback for the Buckeyes to not win a Big Ten was Steve Bellisari (1999-2001). I’m not going to count Justin Zwick, considering he only started nine games from 2004-2005.
Winning trumps all and should the Buckeyes give us anything short of the 2014 Big Ten Championship, we’re going to look back Miller’s career with great memories, yet a thought of something missing.
I can still remember Mike Doss announcing he was going to return to Ohio State in 2002 to win a national championship. While Miller didn’t use the words “national championship” with his announcement, you know he is on a similar mission.
Should Miller achieve his mission and bring the Big Ten gold back to its rightful owner, his legacy will be supplanted.

SEC Year-In-Review Road Trip: Part II

As we turn our calendars to the month of October, we are already well into gut-check time in the Southeastern Conference.  While Alabama continues to roll and Missouri remains unranked, it’s been a time of struggle in the SEC, which could easily be interpreted as no one being able to survive the gauntlet.  If you didn’t subscribe to that, you may have rejoiced in the SEC being “down” in 2013, but it’s a tough sell in Tuscaloosa and Columbia, either Columbia really.

Our road trip is going to take us to some places that would have been better visits in any other year, and we’re going to see some mid-majors make mid-season visits to the Southeast.  October’s third Saturday features the best overall slate of games, but we can only go to one in a given week.  So, let’s keep it going; after a great game in Georgia, we’re headed for one that lacks as much as promise in Gainesville.  As long I’m not hearing that dreadful Florida-Georgia Line tune about having my windows down, it’s all good.

Gainesville

October 5th:  I guess it helps that Miami, the team that beat the Gators in September, remains undefeated, but it’s still not easy to understand how this Florida team, even at 2-1 is ranked in the Top 25.  It isn’t all Will Muschamp’s fault; they are without Jeff Driskel and a number of other key contributors on both sides of the ball.  A game with Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is perhaps the best way to showcase this bunch in 2013, who might have suggested what was yet to come when they got destroyed by former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong’s new team in last year’s Sugar Bowl.

Tyler Murphy was starting his first home game and played well for the first time in three weeks, since taking over for Driskell, but it was Solomon Patton’s world; his Gator teammates and the entire Arkansas roster was just living in it on this early October afternoon.  The undersized senior had six catches for 124 yards and a big run for a first down in the third quarter on third down, which extended a Florida possession that ended with Patton’s second score of the day.

The game was still in question in the second quarter, when Murphy found Patton for 51 yards with 20 seconds left in the half.  The Gators went up 17-7 and never looked back.  Arkansas entered this SEC road-test 3-2 on the season, but 0-1 in the SEC.  After blocking a long Florida field goal attempt, the Razorbacks took over on their own 36, and their running game pieced together their best drive of the day, as they went 64 yards on plays, which ended with a Jonathan Williams touchdown run.

Quarterback Brandon Allen completed one pass on the drive, for 31 yards to the Gators’ 4 yard-line, and Williams ran it on the next play.  Allen struggled most of the day, completing just 17-of-41 passes, and giving Florida their first touchdown of the day and the lead on a Loucheiz Purifoy pick-six, spotting the Gators a 10-7, before Patton took over.

In the rest of the league, Alabama creamed Georgia State, Auburn held off Ole Miss, Tennessee’s upset big of Georgia at home came up just short, LSU refused to Hail State in Starkville, and South Carolina had no problem with Kentucky.

Starkville

October 12th: From the Mid-American Conference, the Falcons of Bowling Green came to Starkville with hopes of a better showing than seen in their first matchup with an automatic qualifier in Bloomington, Indiana.  After all, they were 5-1 and Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were 2-3 entering play October 12.  The game did not get off to a good start for Dave Clawson’s Falcons, allowing Mississippi State to move the ball at will, 9 plays and 75 yards on the game’s first possession, then followed it up with a 3 & out the first time they had the ball.

Fortunately, an interception around mid-field abbreviated the Bulldogs’ next possession, and Bowling Green was able to turn it into points, narrowing the deficit to 7-3.  However, the joy of scoring was short-lived, as Dak Prescott, Mississippi State’s running quarterback went 75 yards on State’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff to put the home team up 24-3.

Bowling Green got into the end zone in the second quarter on an Andre Givens touchdown run, but Prescott countered, once again leading his team 75-yards, taking it in himself from 10 yards out on the tenth play of the drive.  The visiting team got the ball right before the half, and put a triple on the scoreboard, shrinking State’s lead to 8 at intermission.  Matt Johnson’s third quarter touchdown run made it a 1-point game, but the teams stale-mated the rest of the way, and Bowling Green went back to Ohio, having suffered their second defeat of the season.

Over the past couple seasons, we’ve seen these MAC schools go into SEC country and put up strong showings, perhaps demonstrating a narrower gap between Division I’s worst FBS conference and its best.  Though, if you’re strictly counting wins and losses, these teams from the north have proven nothing.

Knoxville

October 19th: This was the best week to sit back and take in the entire SEC catalog.  This was the week we learned that Missouri deserved more respect, and without disrespecting the Tigers of any color, how the hell was Florida still ranked?  Alabama was about seven touchdowns better than Arkansas, but the rest of the games were close and might have helped to establish the pecking order in the conference.

The Vols did themselves some favors on their 2013 schedule, but scheduling a road trip to Oregon a week before a game at Florida was not one of them.  Home wins of substantial margins against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, and Alabama State balanced out their W-L slightly, but Tennessee could quite make a statement against a beaten up Georgia team the week before Steve Spurrier came to Rocky Top.  Tennessee had taken the Bulldogs to overtime, but couldn’t close the game out in a 34-31 loss.

To be fair, South Carolina may have been guilty of looking ahead to an undefeated Missouri team, the only team that stood between them and an SEC East Division title when they took on Butch Jones’ team at Neeland Stadium.  Michael Palardy hit 2 short fourth quarter field goals, the second coming from 19 yards out to give the Volunteers a 23-21 victory in front of 95,000 fans and 250 former players on an emotionally-fueled day in Knoxville.

Connor Shaw, one of the best surprises in the conference this season, had a rough day throwing the football, but kept this offense in the game with his legs, picking up 78 yards on the ground for the Gamecocks.  South Carolina’s leading rusher on the day was Mike Davis, who carried 21 times for 137 yards.  Shaw left the game with an injury after a sack in the game’s final five minutes, but not before a 1-yard rushing touchdown gave the Cocks a 21-17 lead in the third quarter.

Tennessee’s touchdowns came courtesy of Alton “Pig” Howard, who was held to three catches on the day, including one from six yards out, which put his team on top by a count of 10-7, and Rajion Neal, who had 77 yards on the ground.  The telling statistic in this game was the turnover margin, won by Tennessee 2-0.  Both South Carolina giveaways came at the fault of Shaw, who fumbled after a huge 45-yard run by Mike Davis and an interception on the first possession of the second half, after a Volunteers penalty gave them excellent field position.

For South Carolina, the loss, paired with the Georgia loss earlier in the year, meant they no longer controlled their own destiny in the SEC East, even with a win (which they got) in the following week at Missouri.  Elsewhere, Vanderbilt took down Georgia at home and Ole Miss did the same to LSU in Oxford.  Texas A&M couldn’t manage to outscore Auburn at home, so maybe it was time to start paying attention to the other team in Alabama.

Oxford

Photo credit: 247 Sports

October 26th: Coming off a huge win in conference-play, the Rebels were afforded the chance to throw the bus into cruise control with hapless Independent Idaho coming to town for a late-season non-conference game.  The Vandals, recently orphaned by the WAC, were 1-6; having lost every game, except their 2-point home win over Temple, by double digits.

This made-for-ESPN3 game gave us everything that was expected, 572 yards of total offense, a 17-0 lead after a quarter of play, and a lot of playing time for Hugh Freeze’s backups.  Bo Wallace was 15-of-22 passing for the Rebels, with two touchdown passes, both to Ja-mes Logan, while backup Barry Brunetti was a perfect 7-of-7, playing most of the fourth quarter after a 21-point third quarter put them 45-14. I’Tavious Mathers ran for just short of 10 yards per carry, 14 carries for 138 yards.

Paired with the big win at Texas, Ole Miss was now 2-0 versus out-of-conference FBS opponents.  Over in Starkville, in-state rival took Kentucky 26-22.  Auburn and Alabama each won 45-10 at home, over Florida Atlantic and Tennessee, respectively.  Texas A & M blasted Vanderbilt in College Station, LSU played an FCS school, and South Carolina handed Missouri its first loss, opening things up a bit in the SEC East race.

Columbia (Missouri)

November 2nd:  It was a major bummer, for the Missouri faithful and all of those outside of the SEC ready to get behind the Big XII defector, but a loss is a loss.  If they didn’t lost at home to South Carolina, they might be thinking Alabama is the only thing that stands between Gary Pinkel’s team and a National Championship.  Pasadena and the crystal football remained a possibility, but they weren’t even going to win the SEC East, if they didn’t run the table.  Tennessee might have been an easy out on paper, especially without having to do deal with the noise at Neeland, but you still have to show up on Saturdays.

After “blowing” a double-overtime affair that meant the world to everyone, they could have laid down, collapsed, and given Tennessee a big win on the road.  They could have let Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane just run all over them.  After all, they were supposed to be put down a peg when James Franklin went down against Florida.  A freshman like Maty Mauk wasn’t supposed to be able to carry the load.  To take it a step further, Henry Josey was never supposed to be the same after suffering that gruesome knee injury two years prior, almost to the day.

Mauk didn’t play well on paper, completing less than 50% of his passes, but he found the end zone three times with his arm in the first half, essentially putting the game away at intermission.  Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett exorcised some of the demons of a miss in the South Carolina game, hitting a 24-yarder in the second quarter, even though it did clank off the post before going through for 3 points.  Neal and Lane were held to 45 yards on the day, and while Josey’s 74 yards were nothing special, Mauk outrushed Tennessee on his own, 114-94.

This set the tone for a solid stretch run to the SEC Championship game, where Alabama or possibly Auburn awaited.  Alabama was off on this first Saturday of November, but Auburn took care of business in Fayetteville, South Carolina beat Mississippi State in their own private Columbia, and Texas A&M had no problems with UTEP at Kyle Field.

Tuscaloosa

November 9th: It was prime time football on CBS; it has pretty much become the same must-see TV that CBS promotes for their Sunday package when it’s Manning versus Brady, but it’s more about the coaches here, Miles versus Saban.  The teams had met three times over the past two seasons, one was Alabama’s National Championship at the Superdome in 2012, but the winner of the past two regular season games has won the SEC Championship and gone on to play for the National Championship.  The road team had won the previous two regular season meetings, which may have been the best thing LSU had going for it in this one.

The writing was probably on the wall in the first half, when Alabama was obviously not at their best and LSU might have been playing their best football.  Yet, they still led and it was still somewhat surprising that LSU was down only 3 at the half after hit Travin Dural with 43 seconds left in the first half.  LSU evened things up at 17 on their first possession of the second half on Colby Delahoussaye’s field goal, but that was the end of the Tide screwing around.

Nick Saban leaned heavily on his running game the rest of the way.  AJ McCarron did a fine job, completing 14 of his 20 passes for 179 yards and 3 scores, but it was another set of initials that played the hero role against LSU.  TJ Yeldon scored 2 second-half rushing touchdowns, the second put the Tide up 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Odell Beckham’s kick return after Yeldon’s second score of the night put the Tigers in a great position to cut the Alabama lead in half, giving Mettenberger and company the ball at the Alabama 18, but Cam Cameron’s offense only went backwards and the Crimson Tide took over on downs.

When they took over the ball, they took over the game.  Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, and a pair of LSU penalties reversed the field on a 78-yard drive that was capped off with a short touchdown pass to fullback Jalston Folwer.  The 38-17 lead would stick, and those 38 points were the most Alabama scored on LSU since 1947.

Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Missouri all beat up on lesser competition on the road, while A&M and Missouri held serve at home in a week without an upset in the SEC.

Columbia (South Carolina)

November 16th: So, we can only spend one week at Auburn.  We’re going to have to save it for the Iron Bowl; otherwise there’s no question we’d be hanging out there to see Nick Marshall take on his former school.  Man, Mettenberger was supposed to go to Athens too; how many SEC rosters have UGA refugees!  Anyways, Georgia lost on an Auburn Hail Mary, which helped South Carolina in their pursuit of an SEC East title, but Florida, even this 4-5 version of Florida, was not a team to sleep on.

Behind two Kelvin Taylor touchdown runs, the Gators led 14-6 at the half.  They kept the ball on the ground, only having freshman quarterback Skyler Morhinweg to throw the ball 13 times, and ran for 200 yards as a team, but they were blanked in the second half.

For South Carolina, a third quarter touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Bruce Ellington put them within a point.  Elliot Frye’s 3rd and 4th field goals of the day gave the Gamecocks a 19-14 lead, which ended up being the final count.  It was South Carolina’s 16th straight win at Williams-Brice Stadium, a new school record.

Shon Carson ran for 102 yards on 13 carries; he didn’t find the end zone on this day, but his long of 58 yards set up the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.

After the Hail Mary win at Auburn, everything else that happened in the SEC felt relatively pedestrian, including Alabama’s 20-7 win at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt’s 22-6 win over visiting Kentucky, and most especially Ole Miss’s thumping of Troy at home.

A Bye Week

November 23rd: Simply put, after 12 weeks on the road in 13 cities, I would have killed myself to find an SEC game this week.  The game to watch that week was the Arizona State-UCLA game, which served as the Pac-12 South Championship.  The best game the SEC had to offer was the Texas A&M-LSU game in Baton Rouge, but with one trip to LSU in my criteria for this, I chose Auburn’s loss.  It made sense to me.

LSU won 34-10, Georgia clobbered Kentucky, Missouri beat Ole Miss, and it was Mississippi State’s turn to beat up Arkansas.  The rest of the conference scheduled the best the Southern Conference and Big South of the FCS ranks had to offer; Florida didn’t answer the call and lost to Georgia Southern.

Auburn

November 30th: Regardless of whether or not, it meant anything in the actual grand scheme or not, the SEC Championship is still the place to be.  Since Florida and Michigan could not knock their traditional rivals off the undefeated block, the SEC needed some help in the conference championship week to get their champion to Pasadena.  Their seven-year streak of winning the BCS National Championship was now in serious jeopardy, but no one had locked up a spot in Atlanta just yet, just as no one had really locked up a spot in Pasadena, except maybe Michigan State, but the timing was different for them.

In the East, Missouri was in with a win at home against Texas A&M.  If not the Tigers, it would be South Carolina, who was virtually in the clubhouse, though they were playing Clemson.  The West was a lot more cut and dry; the winner of the Iron Bowl was headed to Atlanta, where the winner could have been bound for the National Championship or the consolation Sugar Bowl.

Going in, I thought that Alabama needed to find a new gear, and it isn’t that you found anything they did to be particularly poor, but we’ve put the SEC under such a microscope that nothing was really good enough.  For some reason, as much as I believed in Alabama, I thought something was, I’ll say “up” with them.  I have to acknowledge that it may have been doubting them for the sake of doubting them.

Auburn was an even tougher sell.  I was convinced Georgia was a fluke, that they upset a better A&M team, and they were handled by a much better LSU team.  I remember they weren’t exactly running away from Washington State, and I remember they didn’t win an SEC game last year.  No way were they better than the Tide, not a chance.

The game was already in a place where it would be remembered forever.  Epic didn’t need to get any more epic, but it did.  You have to know what happened better than I can tell it.  Tie game deterred on its way to overtime, so Coach A can lobby for an extra second for an impossibly long field goal; Coach B camps a kid under the goalposts in a “What the hell; let’s do it” feat of ‘strategery’.  Chris Davis, aka #11 on Auburn runs it back 108 yards, and that’s how the Iron Bowl ends; Auburn scores more than Alabama, and there’s no time left.

Missouri beat A&M to share the field in Atlanta with Auburn, but the level of hysteria in rural Alabama trumped any concept of the idea at Mizzu.  There were people sold on the idea that the Tigers were better than the Tigers, and it would be the Tigers meeting Florida State in Pasadena, provided Michigan State gave the SEC that helping hand they so desperately needed.  They just needed one more Ohio State letdown, because Duke promised to do them no favors against Florida State.  In the end, Ohio State went down in flames, just a week after they celebrated Alabama’s misfortune on the World Wide Web.

Auburn took down Missouri a week later, got their solid from Sparty, and had a few weeks to prepare for Florida State.  Florida State beat Auburn at their own game in Pasadena; they found a way to win.  They were better than Auburn about doing that.  Even if you aren’t trying to sell the SEC being down, you have to admit the usual suspects let a few slip their hands.

 

 

Escape From the S-E-C

Simple, little events can do so much to change the way we see things and how we feel about them.  We might not appreciate how good it feels, after being antagonized by something for so long, to be past that albatross.  A little reflection upon the 2013 College Football season has left me grateful the enlightenment I experienced in the wake of the most recent Championship Game.

It’s hard to believe the days before the BCS were a half a lifetime ago, literally half of my life. Granted, we were all victims to the limited coverage we were offered way back then, but I don’t exactly recall the national networks picking up the SEC games very frequently. It’s not a slight on them; they usually had a Top 10 team in the Sugar Bowl and lord knows Ohio State couldn’t hang with any of their teams on New Year’s Day, but it goes to show that the Southeastern Conference was never anything special in my formative years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDoZ0Nf5nbw

I’d never personally heard anyone refer to a team by the pedigree of their conference before that night in 2005, just minutes after Vince Young and Texas upset Ohio State in Columbus. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, LSU was playing a “home game” against Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium, a game the Sun Devils let get away in the end. That’s when I heard it.

“You can’t do that against an S-E-C team.”

Then, I heard it again.

“The S-E-C is going to make you pay for that.”

Really? The whole conference? When the game ended in defeat for ASU, it was more of the same; I eventually had to look and make sure that it was still Louisiana State playing in Tempe, and not some compilation of all-star student athletes from the Gulf region.

I guess it was more of a warning shot than anything else, something that should have prepared me for the hype machine that would steam-roll the world of College Football for nearly an entire decade. It wasn’t quite that long, six full seasons of College Football, plus a day that brought in this new age in January of 2007. I have to admit I was a little bit surprised, by everything.

I expected Florida to have a similar showing to what Miami brought to the desert four years earlier, which was a weak showing. And though Ohio State was playing in Arizona in January for the fourth time in five years, I still expected an overwhelming delegation of Scarlet and Gray. Things were different this time around, the schools had more of a 50/50 representation, and this SEC tidal wave had hit the Valley of the Sun.

It didn’t just hit the local area; it hit the Buckeyes on the field, where they suffered a 41-14 defeat. It was the third BCS Championship for the Southeastern Conference in the series’ nine-year existence, but Florida’s first since 1996. The fans sang that, “it’s great to be…a Florida Gator,” but throughout the game the dominant chant was, “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C.”

It didn’t add up for me. Why give your league credit, when it’s your school, not the other eleven you erroneously include with that nonsense, that deserves the glory. I thought about it; maybe I don’t have a good perspective on this because Ohio State’s distaste for Michigan is so intense that I’d never want another Big Ten school have the glory. But, then there’s Arizona State; Pac-10 rival USC had claimed two consecutive AP National Championships, but the jubilation was more in tune locally when Texas denied them a third at the 2006 Rose Bowl. In every professional sport I take interest in, the teams I desire the worst things for happen to be in the same division as my favorite teams.

A year later, almost to the day, Ohio State ends up on the field with the Southeastern Conference’s champion once again; this time it’s Louisiana State in the state of Louisiana. I didn’t take the trip to New Orleans, but I heard it was more of that chant in the atmosphere around the game and saw a similar result on the field. LSU had won their second championship in five years, coincidentally on the same field. A week earlier, Florida lost to Michigan in Florida, but those Florida fans were happy for their conference foe, and it was if Ohio State losing was more important in Gainesville than the Gators winning.

In the following years, it became less about Ohio State and more about getting one team from the league into the big game. While the Buckeyes were forced into a consolation game with Texas, the Gators were back at it again, taking down Oklahoma for the second title in three years, while Alabama lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. It was all good in Alabama though; their mighty SEC brother kept the championship in the conference, and the chants continued.

Alabama got theirs the next season, besting Big 12 Champ Texas in Pasadena, giving the conference their 4th straight title, but Alabama’s first since Bear Bryant put them atop the College Football World in 1979. The next season, the conference and the state of Alabama were back at it, but this time it was Cam Newton and Auburn against Oregon in Glendale. The Ducks gave the best effort we’d seen in SEC’s 5-year run, but it was not to be in the end.

A sixth title for the conference was inevitable when the final poll had the SEC West Division Runner-Up at #2, behind the conference’s champion. LSU, the SEC Champion, became the first league champion since Georgia in 2005 not to bring the title home, but that’s really only a matter of a technicality since it was Alabama who took them down, avenging their November loss to the Tigers at home, their only loss of the 2011 season. In 2012, Alabama made quick work of previously undefeated Notre Dame in Miami for back-to-back championships, leaving only one more season for the conference to put a stamp on the BCS era.

It seems so silly, to want it to end. At this point, it had become like rooting for the Washington Generals. I felt like Gary and Ace’s nemesis on TV Funhouse’s Ambiguously Gay Duo; all he ever wanted was concrete confirmation that these faux superheroes were gay, leading him to become increasingly frustrated, which inevitably made for his demise. Of course, this 2013 season coincided with my first at More Than A Fan, dedicated to covering College Football; so, I did my best to put my feeling aside in the name of objectivity.

If I allowed myself to be giddy with a down year for the SEC, I did it quietly. Georgia lost to Clemson, then South Carolina lost to Georgia. Florida lost to Miami, Texas A&M took a home loss to Alabama, Auburn lost to LSU, then LSU lost to Georgia. It wasn’t even October, and most of the SEC had been crossed off the list, not that I was happy or sad about it in any way. Missouri stuck around the ranks of the unbeaten longer than most had expected, until they lost their quarterback in October, and we all knew Alabama would be a tough nut to crack.

When the other shoe would fall for the Tide, all it did was elevate Auburn. It elevated Missouri as well, even though they both lacked a 0 in the loss column. They’d enter the SEC Championship, for the first time in ages, without a berth in the BCS National Championship assured to the winner. They needed help and they got it; Auburn despite the loss to LSU and the need for miracle finishes against Georgia and Alabama got the bump they needed from Michigan State, who pushed Ohio State into the loss column for the first time on the year, and it would be Florida State versus Auburn for that last crystal football.

As the game went to intermission, with Auburn up 21-10, I remember saying to myself, “I’m over it.” The best team in the country should win the title. With thirty minutes left in the season, I couldn’t make an argument for any other team. Stanford laid an egg at Utah, Oregon lost to Arizona, the Buckeyes may shown their true colors in Indianapolis against Michigan State, and Clemson was destroyed at home by this Florida State team that has no answers for Auburn on either side of the ball.

Eight straight titles were inevitable, and it was time to take my hat off to those eight teams. I’d done plenty of that in the past. I can’t think of any year where the title game ended, and thought the winner didn’t earn it, or that the winner wasn’t the best team in the land, even if it did take me a couple of days/months/years to accept that the 2006 Ohio State team just wasn’t that good. The only knock I had on this Auburn team was that nobody paid attention to them until mid-November, but that’s more on me and everyone else than it is about these Tigers, who couldn’t beat a single team they played in-conference in 2012.

Then, the second half happened and Florida State won the football game. They won the final BCS National Championship, and I finally got an answer to the question that I’d been asking for about five years. How will I feel when this streak is over?

I think the answer falls somewhere between feeling nothing at all and being free of the burden. What I’ve learned is, the hype machine wasn’t nearly as I ever made it out to be, even if it was completely overdone. It isn’t like I took any joy in Auburn losing or Florida State winning; it just happened, two good football teams took the field and the better team might have won in the end. I don’t think the result told us much about the ACC and SEC in 2013, let alone what’s happened over the last 8 or 16 years.

They play good football in the SEC. The league’s better teams do anyways. I think it’s possible that Kentucky was just as bad as Kansas or Cal; we really don’t know. I think it’s possible that a middle-of-the-road team like Vanderbilt could have taken down the Pac-12 runner-up; even though Arizona State was embarrassed by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, they had the best regular season record in the conference that was almost granted as the consensus #2 conference in the country. The underlying truth to all of this is that it’s difficult to compare two teams that don’t play on the same field.

What I think we get caught up in is, if Team A or League A is good, then Team B or League B must suck. This logic, or lack thereof, also works in reverse. It takes the lowest common denominator to accept this idea as gospel. Take Oklahoma, for example; had they lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, it would have somehow made Oregon better and worthy of Oklahoma’s spot in a BCS game after the fact. And since Oklahoma won, Alabama must have been overrated all year.

Damien and I preach it all of the time on the College Football Roundtable podcast, just because a good team loses to another good team, they don’t suddenly become a bad football team. Clemson isn’t terrible for losing to Florida State or South Carolina. Ohio State doesn’t become overrated garbage for losing 4th quarter leads over Michigan State or Clemson. I think we tend to get so hung up on what one or two people say about something, and there’s this panic to overcome the perception.

As fans, especially those who have nearly made it our life’s work to discredit the SEC as a whole, disprove their quality as a conference and dissent from the status quo, we have our own far-fetched views that don’t make any sense. There is some logic that we ignore; if your conference doesn’t win any of their bowl games, it means something, and if the crown jewel of the conference has never won a bowl game against an SEC team, it’s okay for fans of any of those school for keeping that streak intact.

If an analyst is critical of a team with real facts to back it up, he’s not a “hater”; he’s just doing his job. I know that it goes too far sometimes, but not so much from the people we might first suspect. CBS, who does their due in promoting their SEC product, tends to be very balanced. ESPN, another broadcast partner of the Southeastern Conference, has a very large staff, and many of them can be honest when something’s awry south of the Mason-Dixon. Obviously, there are exceptions; some people who shouldn’t have a voice are given one.

So, if we can ignore the likes of Mark May, Clay Travis, and Dan LeBatard, I think I can make my point. The thesis of this whole thing is the ability to have an open mind. The sunset of the BCS, as well as the parity offered with Florida State’s title, cleans the slate. I think we can go back to watching games without any preconceived agendas because of conference affiliation, sans the high-major versus mid-major element, which is hard to deny. I was getting tired of the half-baked theory that Team Y was better than Team Z because one was in the SEC and the other was in the Big Ten; it never made sense to me.

Going forward, I hope to see some quality football from the Southeastern Conference, but I’d prefer it if the logo were just a patch on the uniform and a marking on 14 football fields. It doesn’t need to be a way of life, in fact, it’s better for everyone if it isn’t.

Playoffs, like it or not, they got it right.

All we have heard for the last decade is how bad college football needs a playoff.  Well guess what, we got it.  And you know what, it just may be perfect.  That’s right, I said it, perfect.  I feel like I may be in the minority with that viewpoint.  The overwhelming voice from the public is that people are not satisfied with the system that will be put into place.  I could not disagree more, College Football has the greatest regular season product out there.  And to damage that would be unbelievably dumb.  Obviously, there are kinks to be worked out, but the down and dirty is that four teams selected by a committee will make the “playoffs” each season.  The semi-finals will be held in you traditional BCS bowl sites, while the Championship will be held in the “highest bidding city.”

Is there any doubt that the first championship game will be held in Dallas? No chance that Jerry Jones doesn’t land this, right?

I have long said that college football needed a four or six team playoff.  I like the six team because it implements a bye week for the top seeds and adopts the NFL’s conference playoff format.  Eight includes too many teams not deserving of a shot for a title.  Sixteen is ridiculous and anything more would be absurd.   Here’s the thing, college football has the single greatest regular season in all of American sports.  Just one misstep or bad week could result in not having a shot at the title.  You have to be at your best each and every week.  It’s almost as if they have a 12-14 week playoff already in place.  Adding more than six teams to a playoff scenario would diminish the value of the regular season.  It allows a one loss team to still have the opportunity to fight for a final playoff spot, but a two to three loss team is virtually eliminated.

Continue reading Playoffs, like it or not, they got it right.

Mavericks Championship Reshuffles the All Time Greats

The 2011 NBA Championship was about more than a shiny trophy this year, but it's still damn pretty.

Lost in all the Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh analysis is what effect the 2011 NBA Finals is going to have on the men that actually won the thing.  I know it’s out of left field, but the Mavericks’ championship run may just end up altering more careers in a positive manner than the other way around.

We all know that, barring catastrophic injury, there’s only two places in history for Lebron James to end up; top 5 of all time, or the best to never win a championship.  Dwayne Wade has more wiggle room on the list of greats, but will most likely end up just behind Kobe Bryant or maybe even Jerry West in the Top 5 shooting guards list.  (If you have any doubt at all about who the best shooting guard in history is, I’m not sure we can be friends.)* I don’t love Dwyane Wade’s game enough to put him in any top 10 list of players from all positions, but there are only superstars ahead of him, to be sure.

Those last two paragraphs are pretty close to what people think, are going to think and probably have thought.  Sure, that’s a big  generalization, but the point is that we all know that Lebron and Wade are all-time guys Continue reading Mavericks Championship Reshuffles the All Time Greats

Lake County Captains 2010 Review: Little Known Champs

Cleveland only needs to look a few miles East to see the goal.  The Tribe’s Class A affiliate, The Lake County Captains, brought home the hardware in 2010.  And it’s some gorgeous hardware, at that. 

The Captains finished the season a healthy 77 – 62, but still started the playoffs a heavy underdog to win it all, finishing 13 games back of the division winner, the Great Lakes Loons.  But the Captains, after defeating the West Michigan Whitecaps two games to one in a three game series, exacted revenge on their divisional rivals by upsetting the Loons two games to one as well.

Continue reading Lake County Captains 2010 Review: Little Known Champs