Mike Sorensen: Bowl season has proved that SEC, Pac-12 were country's best conferences this year
John Bazemore, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Bowl season comes to an end Monday night — some might say a merciful end — when Florida State and Auburn meet for the national championship at the Rose Bowl.
We’ve been watching college bowl games for 2 1/2 weeks now, ever since the New Mexico Bowl a week before Christmas when Washington State gift-wrapped a victory for Colorado State with a couple of late turnovers.
We’ve seen some great games and some dogs and a whole lot of average games that seem to blend into each other.
Some say there are way too many bowl games — 35 with three more being added next year — and there probably are. But I say it’s better than watching re-runs of "Duck Dynasty" or whatever is on. If you don’t want to watch a lousy bowl game, you know where the off button is on your remote.
SEC, PAC-12 TOPS IN BOWLS: While it’s certainly not scientific because of some of the random matchups, we can get an overall idea of the relative strength of the various conferences by measuring their success in the bowl games.
This year, the SEC is assured of having the best record even if Auburn loses to Florida State in Monday night’s national championship game.
So far, the SEC has compiled a 7-2 bowl record with just Alabama and Georgia losing their respective bowl games. The Pac-12 is second at 6-3, while the other major conferences are .500 or worse.
The Big 12, Mountain West and Conference USA each ended up 3-3; the American Athletic (former Big East) was 2-3; the Big Ten came in at an abysmal 2-5; and the ACC is 4-6 heading into the final game.
CALLING LARRY: The SEC is generally regarded as the nation’s top conference every year, and this year the consensus was that the Pac-12 was No. 2. As noted above, this year’s bowl results have backed up that notion.
But have you noticed that the two leagues never seem to play games against each other to perhaps determine which league might be stronger? Unless the two are matched up in the postseason, they don’t meet in bowl games and rarely meet in regular-season games.
This year, the Pac-12 had three matchups against the Mountain West Conference, two against the ACC and Big 12, one against the Big Ten and one against an independent.
The SEC played three games against the ACC and Big Ten, two against the Big 12 and one each against Conference USA and the AAC.
With bowl games in a bit of flux, wouldn’t it be nice if a couple of bowls would arrange for matchups between the two leagues? Why not send an SEC team to San Francisco to play the Pac-12 in the Fight Hunger Bowl or send a Pac-12 team to Florida to play in the Gator Bowl or Citrus Bowl against an SEC team?
Next time I see Larry Scott, I’ll suggest it.
BEST AND WORST: Before we put it to bed, here’s a quick look at the best and worst of the bowl season.
Best bowl game: Chick-fil-A Bowl. In Atlanta, Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel came from a 21-point halftime deficit to beat upstart Duke 52-48 on a late pick-six.
Runner-up: Rose Bowl. It was an old-fashioned smash-mouth game that came down to an obvious run up the middle on fourth-and-1 by Stanford that Michigan State stopped cold to hold on for a 24-20 victory.
Worst bowl game: AutoZone Liberty Bowl. After giving up an early touchdown, Mississippi State, the team with the ninth-best record in the SEC, scored 44 straight points and outgained Rice, a 10-win team from Conference USA, by a whopping 533 yards to 145.
Worst bowl game runner-up: The Heart of Dallas game at the Cotton Bowl. The matchup of North Texas-UNLV was bad enough to begin with, but the game itself was crummy with the Mean Green taking a 36-14 victory.
Most satisfying outcome: Alabama’s 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Sorry Roll Tide fans, but it’s always nice to see Nick Saban have that smug smile wiped off his face. Did you notice that Alabama lost by the same 14-point margin as the last time it played in the Sugar Bowl, against Utah in 2009? I guess the Crimson Tide just didn’t want to be there, again.
Most satisfying game runner-up: Utah State knocking off Northern Illinois and Jordan Lynch in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. The Aggies proved that they were the best team in the state by defeating a 12-win team that was ranked all season with a quarterback who was No. 3 in the Heisman Trophy voting. A great finish for Matt Wells' team.
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