Tuesday, January 09, 2007

SIMPLY THE BEST


Over the last few years, the question has emerged: Why is the SEC the best conference in the country?


Does this answer your question?

Is it just a claim, or is there any truth to it?

Well, let's take a look at the conference records in the BCS since it began in 1998 (more than one appearance):

SEC, 9-4, 0.692
Pac-10, 7-4, 0.636
Big East, 5-4*, 0.555
Big Ten, 8-7, 0.533
Big XII, 5-7, 0.417
ACC, 1-8, 0.111
Notre Dame, 0-3, 0.000
*includes five appearances by Miami, Virginia Tech (3-2)

The SEC has clearly done better. But here's something else interesting: The SEC has more BCS championship wins than any other conference in the nation, with three. The next best is the Big XII, with two. The Pac-10, Big Ten, ACC and Big East all have one -- though the Big East's title came from Miami's 2001 crown. (Game in January 2002)

All of this brings us to last night: Florida was just flat out better than Ohio State. Don't give me this, "Ohio State had 50-some days off." Florida had more than 30, and the idea that after getting more time to rest, Ohio State slowed down is just ridiculous. Unless you want to somehow suggest that Ohio State lost their edge or forgot how fast the game is. If that happens in less than two months -- with everything on the line -- then the Buckeyes didn't deserve to be the champions.

Was Florida faster? Yes, some. But the appearance of more speed was helped by the fact that the Gators WR each seemed to have a three-foot buffer every time they caught the ball. It was like Ohio State played soft zone the entire game -- despite having the lead for only a few minutes at the beginning of the game.

One area where the time off might have hurt Ohio State? Penalties. The Gators had more -- six to the Buckeyes' five -- and each team gave up 50 yards on flags. But three of Ohio State's penalties, totaling 35 yards, came in the first quarter, when Florida put up a 14-7 lead and began the drive that would put them up 21-7. (Game stats here.)

You're tempted to point out, as (for one example) MOTSAG has, that there were few signs of any halftime adjustments by the Buckeyes. But when, in fairness, did Florida allow Ohio State to do what they wanted to on offense, in the first or second half? The Buckeyes ran 37 run or pass plays to Florida's 80. The Gators controlled the clock for more than 40 minutes.

The fourth-down call by Tressel in the second quarter was disastrous. In the first half? On your own 29? That's not gambling, that's suicidal.


Hey, macaca, what could go wrong?

With Florida's offense arguably slowed before that play, the Gators went on to put up three of ten unanswered points to close out the half following the turnover. )There were helped by an ill-timed fumble by Troy Smith.)


In fairness, who expected Hetland to make a FG?

And Ohio State never could stop the short passes. Leak killed them on 5- to 10-yard passes in the middle of the field the whole game. Granted, neither team could run for much per play, though Florida got 156 yards through sheer force of will.

In the end, it might have simply been the fact that the Gators had to go through a better conference that turned what should have been a competitive game into a Quentin Tarantino movie. After playing more bowl teams and more games against teams that were above-average (sadly, the two are not the same anymore), Florida was simply used to a higher level of competition. True, Ohio State had a good game against Michigan, but much of the Buckeye's dominance of that game was on the arm of Troy Smith -- and the USC-West slicing and dicing of the Michigan secondary in the Rose Bowl proved that unit to be a touch overrated.

Yes, I know, Wisconsin beat Arkansas and Tennessee beat Penn State. But does anyone want to honestly sit here and tell me that, matching teams 1-11 in the SEC with teams 1-11 in the Big Ten would end up with a Big Ten victory?

Has the SEC always been the best conference? Of course not. Will it always be the best conference? Almost certainly not.

But on that night, on that field, Florida was clearly the best team in the nation.

And as an SEC fan, I couldn't be more proud.

Thus ends my rooting for the Gators. See you in November, Florida.

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