I made a post a couple days ago highlighting 3 wins for SEC schools in bowl games, yada yada yada. To tell you the truth I've never been infatuated with conference bowl records, at least not as much as many college football fans are. Why? Because in college football 1) anything can happen, and 2) some teams just don't show up for bowl games. These things are particularly true in the lower level bowls, especially if they involve a team who thought they should have had a more successful regular season.
Having stated my basic opinion of tallying up bowl records for conference comparison sakes, today was a "big day" for the Southeastern Conference as they tried to flex some sort of muscle on the national stage against opponents from the Big-10 (Wisconsin & Penn State) and the Big 12 (Nebraska).
As you already know, the SEC did not come out smelling like roses today...and here's why:
In the early game we watched the Tennessee Volunteers, a team I felt was overlooked all season as a very good football team, fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions, a Big-10 team who looked anything but impressive against their big-time foes and never really put a whoopin' on some of their lesser opponents. However, none of the past regular season polls or results matter when it comes to January bowl games, and the underdog Penn State Nittany Lions exposed this truth today.
We've all heard the "conference stereotypes." You know, the SEC is fast. The Big-10 plays smashmouth football. The Pac-10 doesn't play defense (which is being unproven right now as USC has held Michigan to 3 in the 3rd quarter). There are endless jokes you can make of this, considering that these are all gross exaggerations.
With that in mind, Penn State actually came through with their end of the conference stereotype, winning the battles at line of scrimmage on their way to a balanced offensive attack. The Lions passed for 197, rushed for 183, and held a near-6 minute advantage in the time of possession. On defense they held the Vols rushing attack under 100 yards and forced 3 turnovers, one a fumble return for a touchdown. It was "classic Big-10 football" executed at its finest.
There's not much more you can say about this game other than it was a great performance by Penn State...quieting several doubters on their way to winning a nice bowl game for their booth-sitting head coach. I could sit here and make excuses for a fellow SEC team, but why? Perhaps it would make our schedule look stronger if Tennessee beats Penn State, but didn't that whole debate end about 2 weeks ago?
In another SEC game today, the Arkansas Razorbacks took on the one-loss Wisconsin Badgers, in a game that really was looked at as one for conference bragging rights - seeing that these were two of the better teams in each of their conferences. After the game, these were some of the final stats:
Arkansas 229 Wisconsin -5
Arkansas 368 Wisconsin 201
Arkansas 2 Wisconsin 3
Arkansas 18 Wisconsin 15
30+ yard plays
Arkansas 3 Wisconsin 0
Arkansas won the TOP too.
If you did not watch this game, by looking at these stats who do you think won?
If you answered A, you are wrong. The correct choice is B, Wisconsin. Final score: 17-14 in favor of the Badgers, giving the Big-10 a big win over the SEC West Champion Razorbacks, and somehow leading certain fans to believe Wisconsin would have won the SEC...I, personally, did not see anything out of the Badgers or Razorbacks today to give me any indication who was a better football team. BUT, in bowl games all that matters is what is on the scoreboard, and that advantage belonged to Wisconsin.
Arkansas committed 12 penalties for over 100 yards, and lost the field position battle somehow, I guess by continually giving up touchbacks and allowing the Badgers to start drives on their own 20? They also missed a crucial FG on their first drive following a big Darren McFadden run. The old saying goes "football is a game of inches," and today that really, really turned out true.
Oh well. The Gators are playing in the national title game...whether other SEC teams win or lose their bowl games.
By the way, Go LSU. I hope you obliterate Notre Dame. And congrats to Auburn for beating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.