SEC’s reputation takes a hit this bowl season

Ben Cook

January 03, 2013 at 2:18 pm.

Louisville's defense was in Florida's backfield all night long in the Cardinals dominating win over the Gators. (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

The world of college football is laughing at the Southeastern Conference today.

Everybody that is not a fan of any SEC team or the conference as a whole has been waiting for the SEC to get a taste of humble pie. Too often SEC teams have dealt teams from other conferences a hard punch in the gut followed by a right cross to the jaw for a knockout blow.

Clemson’s win over LSU was the first blow to the conference. ACC teams have always had to battle an inferiority complex when it came to the SEC. Not anybody outside of a tight circle of Clemson fans expected Dabo Swinney’s Tigers to hold serve when they faced LSU, one of the SEC’s power teams. Clemson not only held serve, the Tigers from Clemson gave the Tigers from LSU a big bite from that humble pie with a 25-24 defeat in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Even that was not quite the come-uppance that Clemson wanted because most people who saw the game overlooked the outstanding play of Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins and the great coaching job by Swinney and his staff and chalked the final result up to LSU losing it rather than Clemson winning it. Poor clock management by Les Miles, a reoccurring problem for the LSU coach, stood out as a big factor. It wasn’t the deciding factor, that came courtesy of Swinney, Boyd, Hopkins and company, but Miles’ brain lock certainly contributed.

The rest of the country was happy enough when Northwestern beat Mississippi State but that did not have the same effect. State, though much improved under Dan Mullen, is not considered a power team in the SEC.

Then along came the Sugar Bowl and it was the haymaker the country embraced.

SEC fans have been looking down on the Big East for the last few years so it was particularly galling to haveLouisvillebeatFlorida, one of the true powerhouse programs of the SEC. The Cardinals didn’t just beat the Gators, they out-muscled them. It was embarrassing.Louisville was bigger, stronger, faster and more motivated than Florida.

The Gators appeared to believe all they needed to do was show up and Louisville would be so impressed the Cardinals would just roll over and give up. But a funny thing happened in the Superdome —Louisville didn’t roll over and give up. They came out swinging. Several of the Florida players played like they just wanted to get it over with and get back to theSunshineState.

Two Gators, safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, announced after the game that they were saying goodbye to college football so they could cash in on their talents in the National Football League.

“I wish it could have finished better, but I’ve had a great three years and now I’ve been told I have a great opportunity to play in the pros,” said Elam, who had 11 tackles and a sack against Louisville. “It’s a dream of mine to play in the NFL.”

Floyd put up five tackles and two sacks in his final game.

“I’m going to get a chance to do what a lot of players want to do,” he said. “The fact that my coaches gave me their blessing and said, ‘Go. You’re ready. Good luck to you’. If I didn’t get that from them, I wouldn’t be leaving. I care what my coaches think and how they feel about me, so now I’m moving on.”

Speaking of moving on, the SEC’s reputation as the best conference in college football has taken a hit during this bowl season. It’s not completely gone, but it has certainly taken a hit.