What We Learned from bowl games - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

College football ends, we take a last look back at the year that was

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Florida State celebrates is national championship win over Auburn. (Source: George Jones/RNN) Florida State celebrates is national championship win over Auburn. (Source: George Jones/RNN)
Auburn's Dee Ford (30) tackles Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5). (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Dee Ford (30) tackles Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5). (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight (9) passes against Alabama prior to being hit by linebacker C.J. Mosely (32). (Source: Alabama Athletics) Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight (9) passes against Alabama prior to being hit by linebacker C.J. Mosely (32). (Source: Alabama Athletics)
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(RNN) – So, you want to talk some trash about the SEC?

You say it's a down year for the conference? You say the SEC got exposed? You say the SEC isn't that much better than any other conference in college football?

Well, keep saying it. I need a good laugh.

The national championship streak came to an end and both SEC teams in BCS bowl games lost, but that's not enough to condemn the conference. In fact, that helps make my point, because both things are noteworthy because of their rarity.

The SEC went 7-3 in its 10 bowl games, which was the second-best winning percentage behind the Sun Belt, which was 2-0 in its appearances in the New Orleans Bowl and GoDaddy Bowl. Only one other conference was above .500 – the Pac 12, which went 6-3.

If you look at the last five years of bowl results, the SEC is 28-16. It might not seem impressive, but no other conference is better over that span. The SEC's worst year since 2009 was a 5-5 mark in 2010, making it the only conference to not be below .500 for any year. The only conferences with better records that season were the Mountain West (4-1) and the Big East (4-2).

Last season was the only one in which two AQ conferences finished better than the SEC's 5-3 record. The Big East went 3-1 and the ACC was 4-2. Even in 2011, when the SEC had teams facing each other in the postseason, its 6-3 record was only topped by the Big 12's 6-2 record.

The only conferences to notch a better postseason mark than the SEC twice in the last five years are the Big East, which no longer exists, and Conference USA, which was 4-1 in both 2011 and 2012 but placed no teams in BCS bowls either season and faced only two AQ conference opponents (both wins, but neither against the SEC).

Meanwhile, the SEC put six teams in the national championship game and won it four times. The SEC's record in BCS games since its inception in 1998 is 17-10. (.629). The only other major conference above .500 is the Pac 12 with a 13-8 (.619) record. The Big East/American conference is 8-8, the Big 10 is 13-15, the Big XII is 10-12 and the ACC is 5-13, including this year's 2-0 mark.

If you want to pursue the futile argument that the conference is top heavy and doesn't match up "top-to-bottom" well, feel free to do so, but good look finding evidence to back that up.

Here is what we learned from watching SEC teams play in bowl games.

1. Auburn ran out of magic. After the tipped Hail Mary that beat Georgia and the 100-yard missed field goal return that toppled Alabama, the only way Auburn could have possibly won in more dramatic fashion would have been a series of increasingly ridiculous laterals culminating in another miracle touchdown.

The Tigers had that opportunity and gave it a respectable attempt, but came nowhere near being successful.

Auburn set up a triple lateral hook-and-ladder to Tre Mason that set him up with a wall of blockers and the best opportunity he could hope for given the circumstances. If the Tigers had only needed 17 yards, they would be national champions, but they needed 82 and lost 34-31.

Essentially, Auburn got out-Auburn'd. Florida State played poorly for three quarters, but scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one with 13 seconds left, capping a quick, game-winning drive aided by Auburn penalties.

2. Bob Stoops gets to run his yap for a little while. This is depressing. Oklahoma coach and SEC uber-troll Bob Stoops got his shot at the big boy on the block and just straight up beat him.

Oklahoma put up 429 yards in a 45-31 win over Alabama and backed up his statement that the SEC is all "propaganda." He then took a victory lap on ESPN Radio touting his team's ability to play with anyone, trumping the Big XII because Texas A&M and Missouri are enjoying more success in the SEC than they had in the Big XII and then said he was done talking about it.

But he gets to, because he won. Winners get to talk. Losers don't. It's still not a legitimate argument to compare the conferences, but touting Oklahoma's success is not out of line, because he's right.

However, he may not be around to keep it going, because his name is being attached to the Cleveland Browns' open coaching position. That's happened before, though, without anything materializing, but if there was a good time for Stoops to drop the mic and exit stage left, this would be it.

3. The former Big XII schools are making a statement. Here is where Stoops' argument does a crash-and-burn.

Missouri and Texas A&M are having remarkable success in the SEC in a short period of time, but the emergence of Johnny Manziel, the health of James Franklin (player) and an unthinkable spate of injuries to Georgia and Florida are at least partly to blame.

And when those teams get their shots at former Big XII foes, they deliver. The Aggies did it last season in a 41-13 win over Stoops' Sooners in the Cotton Bowl and Missouri came through this season by beating Oklahoma State 41-31 in the Cotton Bowl.

In fact, the last Big XII team to win the Cotton Bowl was Missouri in 2008. It's the only win the Big XII has in the Cotton Bowl in more than a decade.

The Tigers scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes, including a defensive score to cap the win and defend the reputation of its new conference. Coupled with A&M's win over Duke (more on this later), it makes those teams 3-0 in postseason play since joining the SEC.

4. Other people are noticing James Franklin (coach). Franklin is in the discussion for the head coaching jobs at Penn State and the Tennessee Titans, and for once it's not just me saying it.

Franklin's historic achievements at Vanderbilt are getting out of control, because nearly every win the Commodores get under him represents a first-time occurrence. This season was the first time Vanderbilt had back-to-back nine-win seasons following a 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Now Franklin is a legitimate contender for head coaching positions with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions as well as the Nittany Lions, and is reportedly going to be interviewed by the Washington Redskins. The most intriguing possibility, however, is for him to move across town to coach the Tennessee Titans.1

Franklin will get interviewed by NFL teams, if only to satisfy the Rooney Rule requirement of interviewing minority candidates, but he isn't saying much about his future. However, it's obvious he's outgrown Vanderbilt.

5. You really don't want to play Ole Miss in a bowl game. There are two teams in college football with a six-game winning streak in bowl games: Ole Miss and Florida State.

The Rebels are 10-1 in their last 11 bowl games dating back to 1992, and eight of those wins have come against major conference teams, including their 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.

Bo Wallace threw for 256 yards and a touchdown and ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns and took some of the sting off of the Rebels' painful loss to Mississippi State.

But as good a track record as the Rebels have in postseason play, they haven't been to one of the four BCS bowls since a 1969 win in the Sugar Bowl.

6. Dan Mullen is the king of Starkville. If ripping Ole Miss' heart out in the Egg Bowl wasn't enough to win over every cowbell-ringing lunatic in the Magnolia State, a dominating 44-7 win over Rice in the Liberty Bowl was.

Mullen has led the Bulldogs to four bowl games and three wins since taking over for Sylvester Croom. The Bulldogs have a similar recent history to Ole Miss. Mississippi State has won six of its last seven bowl games with most coming over major conference teams in lower-tier bowls.

Mullen already has more bowl wins than any other coach in Mississippi State history, and if he can lead the Bulldogs to a major bowl game, which they haven't been to since the 1941 Orange Bowl, Starkville will be renamed Mullentown.2

7. Johnny Football may have gone out in style. You may have heard that the Chick-fil-A Bowl was "what could be" Johnny Manziel's last college football game. ESPN refused to let that talking point go unused. Actually, it was all ESPN could talk about.

However, as of when this was published, no announcement has been made on Manziel's future. But, like all sports fans, I'm beholden to what the Bristol Behemoth spews.3 So, anyway, if it was "Johnny Football's" last game, he could've done a lot worse than the 52-48 come-from-behind win over Duke.

It might have been the best performance of his career. Texas A&M trailed by 21 at the start of the second half and Manziel tossed three touchdowns and ran for another, including scoring strikes of 44 yards and 55 yards in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback. He threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards another score.

He still needed help from the Aggies' defense, and for once it wasn't totally incompetent. Duke put together a good drive, converting a third-and-7 and a fourth-and-4, but the drive went askew – Nate Askew – when it ended with an interception.

Manziel, of course, wouldn't say anything about his future plans, but he'd be stupid not to leave. Fortunately for Aggies fans, he has a track record of being incredibly stupid.

8. Georgia did what Georgia does. Poor Georgia. It just can't catch a break.

A season-ending knee injury to Aaron Murray put the Bulldogs in a difficult position before the Gator Bowl even started, but Hutson Mason did a good job as Murray's replacement and put the Bulldogs in position to win.

Trailing 24-19 with 25 seconds to play, Georgia needed to convert a fourth-and-3 from the 16 to set up a potential game-winning touchdown. Mason had time to throw, had an open receiver and made a good throw, but tight end Arthur Lynch dropped the pass and the Bulldogs lost.

If there was a perfect way for Georgia's season to end, that was it.

Mason threw for 320 yards and a touchdown and Lynch had six catches for 69 yards, but they couldn't connect at the most crucial moment. Georgia had failed to convert in the red zone the entire game, settling for field goals and having to rely on a leaky defense to keep the game close.

It looked like hope was lost when Nebraska scored on a 99-yard pass, but the Bulldogs answered quickly and shut out the Cornhuskers in the fourth quarter. But a disappointing year ended in another final, crushing disappointment.

9. There's no coaching carousel. One of the best things about this time of year is the upheaval and turmoil surrounding coaching changes and their effects on recruiting.

If James Franklin (coach) doesn't leave Vanderbilt, this will be the first year since 2005 – and only the second year since 1991 – that there will be no coaching changes in the SEC.

Gus Malzahn is a long shot to leave Auburn after leading the Tigers to the BCS national championship game in his first season, but outside of that there's not much turmoil.

Nick Saban was rumored to be taking coaching jobs that weren't even available yet, but signed an extension with Alabama. Texas A&M locked down Kevin Sumlin for a few more years, Florida and Georgia didn't axe Will Muschamp or Mark Richt despite their seasons being massive letdowns. Four other teams hired a coach last year, so they still think they have the right guy.

Oh well, there's always next year.

10. Sponsorship is dumb. I said this last year, too, but it's worth talking about some more.

Other than, you know, money, what purpose do sponsorships serve? It can't be getting those companies any extra revenue or customers. The dumbest – and the dumbest mascot – is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Seriously, what's up with that?

Northrop Grumman is another stupid sponsor. Northrop Grumman does good work, but it manufactures aircraft carriers, B-2s and missile defense systems. Unless there's about to be an Amazon drone uprising, the average citizen has no need for those things.

Amazon, by the way, doesn't sponsor a bowl game. Neither does eBay. GoDaddy does, though, because everybody needs a website.

Chick-fil-A, Beef O'Brady's, Outback Steakhouse, Papa John's and Buffalo Wild Wings all sponsor a bowl to help Fight Hunger (Bowl). I'm waiting for the Hooters Bowl. It's got to be coming soon, right?

Extra points: 1Did you know there was a pioneering settler in the Nashville area named James Franklin? There was. There's not much available on him except for a blog about preserving his grave and a Wikipedia entry for his son. But, you know, history and what-not.

2Starkvegas (aka, the Land That Fun Forgot) is in bad need of a rebrand. Danville is already taken by other states but could still work OK. Mullenville works too and keeps the alliteration with the state name. Dantown would be nice (as in, there's a big party in downtown Dantown tonight!). Mullenburg and Dan City, however, are long shots.

3Sorry, Fox Sports 1, but you're kind of terrible. There's too much screaming, too many discussions about soccer and way too many obnoxious graphics for my taste. Crowd Goes Wild is a decent enough show to make me remember you still exist, but I stopped watching Fox Sports Live after about two days and abandoned Fox Football Daily before finishing a single episode. Thanks for putting my alma mater, Louisiana Tech, on TV a few times, though. I'll keep popping in occasionally to watch them lose, but that's about it.

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