On behalf of the SEC West, thanks a lot.
You had the chance to salvage a considerable hunk of our dignity by dispatching those northern interlopers from Ohio State on Thursday night.
And instead, you got ahead and then forgot you were playing a team forged in the same manner Urban Meyer had done in winning two national championships at Florida until it was too late and came up short 42-35 in a Sugar Bowl that ranks among the best in the bowl’s 81-year history.
But do we need to remind you that this was for a berth in the first College Football Playoff Championship Game?
Now the league that had sent teams to the final eight BCS title games, winning the first seven of them and coming within 15 seconds of the last one, won’t have a team traveling to Jerry World to lay claim to the first title of the bracket era.
And while some of your brethren may be feeling schadenfreude from seeing Nick Saban finally losing one that counts (he was 5-0 when playing for the BCS championship), take comfort in knowing that the past few days have been so rough on our egos that seeing you lose to the Buckeyes is cold comfort.
After all, that’s why we cheer S-E-C — sharing in your reflected glory when Little Nicky’s raising the winner’s trophy so high over his head it almost reaches eye level with his players.
Hey, a little gallows humor never hurts, especially when you consider:
On Tuesday, LSU’s defense checked out 5:41 before John Chavis did, giving up an excruciating 14-play, 71-yard game-winning drive by Notre Dame in a 31-28 loss to the Fighting Irish in the Music City Bowl.
Wednesday was the worst day for Mississippi since Elvis died.Ole Miss was humiliated by TCU in the Peach Bowl 42-3, and Mississippi State was pounded by Georgia Tech 49-34 in the Orange Bowl.
And earlier Thursday, Auburn lost a 34-31 overtime duel to Wisconsin in a game that saw the lead change hands five times in the final 15:20 of regulation plus OT. That doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that Wisconsin was coming off a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and had just lost its coach of only two years to Oregon State. Oregon State!
Those are bowl defeats for the teams that ranked first (State), third (Auburn) and fourth (Ole Miss) in the initial CFP standings back in October (Alabama was No. 6 and LSU 18th) when the division was considered invincible — or at least better than the NFC South.
It may still be. But you wouldn’t have known it from the past three days.
To be sure, there were a couple of bowl victories by the lower denizens of the division.
Arkansas had its way with 6-6 Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl, and Texas A&M outlasted West Virginia 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl.
Big whoo-pig. Gig ’em.
The sad truth is that the division, which became the first in divisiondom to send all of its teams to bowls, which was 28-0 against everyone not in the SEC, 10-4 against the East and 17-6 in bowls in the previous five years, had a 2-5 bowl record, with losses coming to teams from the Big Ten (two of them), Big 12 (that league’s only victory, by the way), the ACC and the indy Irish.
So what happened?
Was the division overrated? It looks that way.
Did some of the teams lack motivation? Definitely.
Put aside LSU’s play for a moment.
The Tigers were confounding to their followers — and probably their coaches — throughout the season right until that last drive.
But Ole Miss and Mississippi State had reached rare air for the first time since Confederate flags were still waving in the Grove for the Rebels and, well, just about forever for the Bulldogs.
One got the sense they both might be one-year wonders.
So when they fell out of the playoff picture late in the season, their best moments — and play — were behind them and they had nothing left to prove except to put happy endings on signature seasons.
That’s not to take anything way from TCU and Georgia Tech.
The Horned Frogs did have something to prove — that they, not Baylor, and not even Ohio State deserved that No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
So they took the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense to the woodshed with a collective team speed that exceeded anything Ole Miss faced in the SEC.
“They rightfully deserved to be in it with the others,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
As for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs, who would have had their own playoff case had they not lost at Ole Miss in their final game, played like they didn’t know Georgia Tech ran the option (the Yellow Jackets rushed for 452 yards). They certainly didn’t seem to be as happy to be on South Beach as Georgia Tech.
Is there something in Starkville we don’t know about?
And as for Auburn, well, there’s no disgrace in giving up 251 rushing yards to Melvin Gordon, but giving up three conversion passes on Wisconsin’s final two possessions shows you why the Tigers are paying Will Muschamp $1.6 million to be their new defensive coordinator.
So will the West’s collapse make the selection committee look at the league with a more-skeptical eye next season? Just maybe.
Besides, teams throw clunkers in bowls all the time.
Ask Alabama about losses to Utah and Oklahoma in its two previous Sugar Bowl appearances.
Could be motivation played a part in Thursday’s outcome.
More likely, though — the better team won.
And tonight, it wasn’t you.