I believe it was just three weeks ago that I wrote that the Southeastern Conference’s streak of national championships was going to come to an end after the SEC’s best chance for another national title, Alabama, lost to Texas A&M.
Oops. Okay, so I might have jumped the gun a little. I could still be right because Notre Dame still might win the title and snap the streak. But Alabama and the SEC are right back in the mix after the Crimson Tide’s thrilling 32-28 win over a tough group of Georgia Bulldogs to win the SEC championship.
It didn’t come easy. Alabama had to fight from the opening kickoff to the final horn to finally come out with the victory that earned the Crimson Tide their third trip to the BCS Championship Game in the past four years. It was a heartbreaking loss for Georgia. The Bulldogs led going into the fourth quarter. When the game ended, they were inside Alabama’s 5-yard line but could not stop the clock to get one more play off to try and grab the win.
But the best news for the Southeastern Conference is not that a conference team will play for the national championship but that nine league teams will play in bowl games. That means nine teams will get a jump on getting ready for next season with bowl game practices, but two of those teams will be in BCS bowls, which just means another healthy bowl payday for the conference.
Alabama and Notre Dame will obviously play in the featured game, but they will be joined in a BCS bowl by the Florida Gators, who will meet Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
The Southeastern Conference has put two teams in BCS bowl games every year since the 2006-2007 seasons. No other conference has put two teams in BCS bowls more than twice.
The rest of the SEC bowl schedule finds Georgia’s consolation for losing in the SEC title game will be a date to play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss Rebels draw Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. LSU, that started the season with national title dreams, will face Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Mississippi State, after starting the season at 7-0 before losing four of its final five games, will play Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.
South Carolina will finish the season with a date against the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl. Texas A&M will get to renew an old Big 12 conference rivalry when the Aggies meetOklahomain the Cotton Bowl. Vanderbilt will get to stay at home and play NC State in the Music City Bowl.
The Southeastern Conference has a chance to enhance its reputation as the nation’s best conference by winning a seventh straight national championship. But even if that streak were be broken by Notre Dame, the league will have eight more chances to build on its reputation during the rest of the bowl schedule.
With nine tams in bowl games, the SEC will be taking on one independent team, three Atlantic Coast Conference teams, two Big Ten teams, two Big East teams and one Big 12 team.
With a chance to post nine wins against some of the best teams in college football, the SEC stands poised to make a real statement for the strength of the league. By the same token, the league also has nine chances to lose. If the league is as good as it has claimed to be over the past few years, then winning a majority of games against some of the best other conferences have to offer will be a shoe-in.
It was the same scenario last season when nine SEC teams played postseason games. The league made a statement then by going 6-3. If the league can match that showing it will again this season it will be a real plus. Anything less would be a step backward.
The Crystal Ball was right on the money in the SEC Championship Game by picking Alabama to edge Georgia, which made the regular season record 86-25, a .775 winning percentage. Next up will be the bowl picks for all the SEC teams.