College football wrapup: 2014-15

The 2014 college football season is in the books, and Ohio State is the first school to win a national championship determined by a postseason playoff system.

Beyond the usual discussion of champions and coaching legacies (quickly: Urban Meyer– three national championships at two different schools, evil; Nick Saban– four national championships at two different schools, merely soulless), one of the central season-in-review topics of conversation, at least in these parts, is whether the SEC is over. Surprisingly but also not surprisingly, Paul Finebaum, voice of the SEC, answers the question implied in the previous sentence in the affirmative. (UPDATE: PFT Commenter emphatically concurs.) Although he’s been developing his position over the course of his daily radio show since roughly the first of the year, he summed up the general point in his appearance on Keith Olbermann’s show just before the national championship game:

In short: “It was a pretty bad year for the SEC.”

Although I contemplated the notion of Peak SEC at least as early as December 2012 and later pegged the possible date somewhat more recently, I’m not sure I agree that the SEC is over.

The SEC’s bowl record was 7-5. (They were 7-3 last year.) The Pacific Twelve was 6-2 (exclusive of Oregon’s national championship loss), the Big Ten was 5-5 (exclusive of Ohio State’s national championship win), the Big XII was 2-5, and the ACC was 4-7. In other words, among the power five conferences, the SEC had the most teams playing in bowl games and notched the second-best winning percentage.

What seems to concern Finebaum, though, is a sudden lack of championships. That people think the SEC is done for because one of its members hasn’t played for a national championship in a whole year and hasn’t won one in a whole two years is a testament to the never-before-seen degree of dominance the conference produced during the BCS era. Prior to Ohio State’s inaugural CFP championship on Monday, the Big Ten had 1.5 national championships since 1970. The SEC had nine in the BCS era (i.e., since 1998) alone. The ACC had two BCS championships, the ACC had two, the (now-defunct for football purposes) Big East had one, and the then-Pac Ten had one, since vacated.

After the hunt for Mississippi October turned up empty and OSU knocked Alabama out in the semis, the SEC may need to do a little more to earn its seeds next year, but I’m not sure we can say the conference is measurably weaker simply because it failed to produce a national champion this year. If anything, the above suggests the conference is as deep as ever.

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Transitioning toward the offseason and the 2015 season, I’ll use this space to remind everyone that Michigan State’s only losses in 2014 were to Ohio State and Oregon. The Spartans face both teams again in 2015, albeit without the aid of their departed defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi. Continue reading

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Narrow Margin Monday

Excepting the above-depicted forty gambler-point swing victory by Middle Tennessee State University, the Volunteer State’s biggest school, over Georgia Tech, there were a lot of close college football games on Saturday. Michigan State lost by one to Ohio State. Although the internet’s had a lot to say about that game in the way of eye-gouging, taunting, and the pregame game tape exchange, there’s not much to say about the game itself beyond the observation that OSU’s Braxton Miller is pretty good. Even though it was high scoring, West Virginia only beat Baylor by a touchdown in Morgantown. Of course, it was really high scoring. Like 70-63. Big Ten basketball territory. Other top-25 games, though not quite as close, probably were closer than the winning team would’ve preferred. Alabama beat Ole Miss 33-14 in a game that was in reach for the underdogs (underbears?) in the fourth quarter. Washington State put up 26 against Oregon, which is 26 more than Arizona could do. Texas and Oklahoma State went to the wire, and UGA-UT was a one-score game as well. Clemson got back to its winning ways with a 45-31 win over woeful Boston College.

The pros sang a different tune on Sunday, though, at least in part, when Denver found its legs against Oakland (38-6), New England posted 52 on Buffalo, and San Francisco bounced back with a 34-0 shutout of the dead-in-the-water-not-walking-on-water J-e-t-s. There were some close games in the NFL too, as the Cardinals won by three in overtime to inexplicably stay undefeated, and the Saints lost by one to stay defeated.

On the topic of defeats, the U.S. team absolutely melted down on the last day of the Ryder Cup, surrendering a supposedly insurmountable lead. We now return to our regular golf coverage, which, absent Jungle Bird, is nonexistent.