I don’t like to post something on the same day as a major game, but the Pac-12 championship doesn’t really affect what I’m talking about here. I do think the Pac-12 is pretty strongly the second-best conference, and I believe a 2-loss champion (if Arizona wins) is probably good enough to be in the top four, as I mentioned in my rankings blog. Anyway, my feeling on the conference does not change based on the outcome of that game.
I don’t think last week’s SEC losses (all by the East) indicated the SEC West wasn’t dominant. As mentioned, Georgia should have won anyway and Georgia Tech will be playing for the ACC title, so that’s not so bad of a result. Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina registered a combined 0 wins over the SEC West and were playing the other top 4 teams of the ACC. Given their relative position in the SEC, Georgia’s loss was the only one that I felt damaged the SEC overall.
Although it doesn’t help in the overall record, I thought it was an encouraging sign that Kentucky, one of only two SEC teams who failed to make a bowl game, got close to beating a very good Louisville team on the road. Had the Wildcats won, they would have qualified for a bowl game as well.
The top three SEC West teams (Alabama, Mississippi St., and Ole Miss) did not lose any games to the SEC East this season. LSU finished tied for fourth (with Auburn) and also did not lose any. The only SEC West teams that lost games outside of the SEC West were the other three teams, and Georgia and Missouri were the only teams in college football to beat any of them.
There were a few really strong out-of-conference wins too. LSU beat Wisconsin, the top team of the Big Ten West (and it wouldn’t shock me if the Badgers beat Ohio St.). Auburn, the other team who tied for fourth, beat Kansas St., which could tie for the Big XII by beating Baylor this weekend. Otherwise, they could be used as an argument to put Baylor in the top 4. West Virginia, losers to Alabama, beat Baylor and lost to TCU (another top-4 possibility) by one point. I also don’t dismiss Ole Miss’s win over Boise St.
I still can’t explain Missouri’s loss to Indiana except that apparently when they play badly they really play badly. They also lost to Georgia 34-0. That’s a very unusual result for two teams that compete with one another for a division title all year, especially being that the loser of that game won the division and lost no other conference games.
Georgia and Missouri will probably occupy the top two non-CFP Bowls for the SEC, which are the Outback and CapitalOne Bowls.
Most predictions I’ve seen place LSU against an ACC opponent in the Belk Bowl (in Charlotte), the TaxSlayer Bowl (known as the Gator Bowl), or the Music City Bowl. We could have a nice reunion with former SEC West head coaches Bobby Petrino or David Cutcliffe, for instance. Not sure if “nice” and “Petrino” belong in the same sentence, except in the sense that competitive teams are nice to watch.
The Big XII or Big Ten could also provide an opponent for LSU.
Mark Schlabach of ESPN changed his prediction of the Texas Bowl from Texas vs. Texas A&M (which has been widely predicted) to Texas vs. LSU. I wouldn’t have a problem with that as an LSU fan; but as a general fan of the sport, I want to see that Texas/Texas A&M game. I’d rather have a chance to beat a slightly better team than the Longhorns though. A Longhorn site is saying the SEC won’t allow such a game, but I’ve also heard from many neutral sources over the last couple of years it was Texas putting a stop to any game against the Aggies, so I’m skeptical.
It’s also possible the Gator Bowl could have a Big Ten team. I’ve seen Maryland and Minnesota suggested as possibilities within the last couple of weeks. Notre Dame was listed for that game at one point, but that was before they dropped the last two games.
I’m thinking what makes the most sense geographically would be Arkansas for the Independence Bowl, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl, and South Carolina for the Music City Bowl. The Birmingham Bowl or Music City Bowl would also make sense for Tennessee, but then the Liberty Bowl or Independence Bowl could have less geographically favorable teams. LSU (I hope and most expect) will be a more highly-regarded team, as will the other top four teams on the SEC West, so it makes more sense for SEC East teams to travel slightly to the West.
I also mentioned in the previous blog that there may be three SEC West teams in the six major bowls (not counting the national-championship game).
If LSU does not go to the Belk Bowl, that would also be a good one for South Carolina, and maybe one of the others could grab Florida.
Speaking of LSU, I also wanted to mention I’m excited about the basketball team, but I might go into that more when there is a lag with the football games.