Around the SEC

Here are a few final notes on the Southeastern Conference 2007 college football season courtesy of the SEC offices. Check back weekly for news and commentary during the off-season.

Notes:

  • LSU’s victory over Ohio State gave the SEC its fourth national title in the ten years of the BCS format (Tennessee 1998; LSU 2003; Florida 2006; LSU 2007)
  • LSU and Georgia finished 1-2 in the final AP poll … first time ever for the SEC and the first time for any conference since 1971 (Nebraska #1 and Oklahoma #2)
  • The SEC finished with a 7-2 bowl record … most bowl victories by any conference in NCAA history
  • The SEC is the only conference to currently have five head coaches who have won national championships
    o Steve Spurrier-South Carolina (with Florida in 1996)
    o Phillip Fulmer-Tennessee (1998)
    o Nick Saban-Alabama (with LSU in 2003)
    o Urban Meyer-Florida (2006)
    o Les Miles (2007)
  • Darren McFadden of Arkansas will finish his career as the 2nd leading rusher in SEC history behind Herschel Walker of Georgia. McFadden has 4589 yards (38 games) only 670 yards behind Walker’s 5259 (33 games)
  • Tim Tebow of Florida became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy
  • Tebow is also on track to shatter the conference’s record for touchdown responsibility … after only two seasons, he has accounted for 68 touchdowns (31 rushing 37 passing), well over halfway to the all-time mark of 122 held by former Gator QB Danny Wuerffel
  • Earl Bennett of Vanderbilt will finish his career as the all-time SEC leader in receptions with 236, eclipsing the 208 of former Kentucky receiver Craig Yeast (1995-1998)
  • Kentucky’s Jacob Tamme was named a National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation
  • In the past six years, LSU and Georgia are tied for the best record in the SEC with matching 64-15 marks … here are the full records:
    o Georgia and LSU 64-15
    o Auburn 59-18
    o Florida 54-23
    o Tennessee 52-25
    o Arkansas 45-31
    o Alabama 43-33
    o South Carolina 37-35
    o Kentucky 32-40
    o Ole Miss 31-41
    o Miss State 22-49
    o Vanderbilt 20-50
  • In the past eleven seasons, Georgia has the top mark at 107-32 … here are the full records:
    o Georgia 107-32
    o Tennessee 104-36
    o Florida 103-36
    o LSU 98-40
    o Auburn 87-43
    o Arkansas 80-55
    o Alabama 74-61
    o Ole Miss 68-63
    o South Carolina 60-69
    o Miss State 58-72
    o Kentucky 54-75
    o Vanderbilt 35-90
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Wishing Carefully

Wishing Carefully

Did your mom ever tell you to be careful what you wish for?

Probably so, and it was good advice.

College football fans clamoring for a playoff might be wise to remember the wisdom of mothers.

A playoff push is gaining some attention just now for a couple of reasons.

The just completed bowl season (it is complete isn’t it?) was a poor dessert after what was a fabulous meal of a regular season. The championship game was yet another mismatch, and the rest of the so-called “major” (BCS) bowls did not yield compelling pairings.

Following that disappointing Division I (FBS) post-season, playoff proponents gained a powerful ally in University of Georgia president Michael Adams who proposed an eight-team playoff using existing bowls for a three-week tournament. (Interesting that he didn’t come on board for such a plan when Auburn went undefeated a few years ago).

So, while there seems to be some momentum for a playoff (in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey published this morning, sixteen of thirty college presidents expressed willingness to at least consider the idea), a few considerations should be kept in mind.

Excitement

Would a playoff be more exciting than what we have now? History shows that for a handful of schools (and only a handful of schools) it might.

Division III has a playoff. In the past dozen years, Mt. Union of Ohio has played in the title game ten times and the Purple Raiders have won eight championships. Folks in Alliance, Ohio, probably love a playoff … the rest of D-3 … maybe not so much.

Division II has a playoff. Two teams (Grand Valley State and Valdosta State) have won the last six titles – four for GVS and two for VSU. A third team, Northwest Missouri State, has been in the title game five times over the past decade. Boosters in western Michigan, southern Georgia, and northern Missouri probably like a playoff … others in D-2 … perhaps no.

Division IAA (FCS) has a playoff. Appalachian State has won the past three titles, but rumor has it that people outside Boone, North Carolina, still enjoy the spectacle.

Would college football fans enjoy seeing a program or two emerge dominant over all others (even more than happens now)? SEC and USC supporters might end up happy, but probably few others.

Travel

Under Adams’ proposal, eight teams would play in four of the current major bowls around New Year’s Day, the winners would advance to a pair of semi-final games the following week, followed by a championship game the third weekend in January.

Let’s say Tennessee advances to the tournament.

First round is played at the Orange Bowl. The Big Orange wins and plays the next week in Glendale, Arizona. There, the Vols prevail once more and are rewarded with a shorter trip for the championship game in New Orleans.

Some fans on Rocky Top might have deep enough pockets to travel to what would essentially be three bowl games (right as Christmas bills are coming due), but most might need to hold off on the shopping trips to Pigeon Forge and save up for those three playoff dates.

A Simpler Solution?

Is there a simpler solution for determining a national champion in big-time college football?

No.

Football is not a tournament sport.

A subjective evaluation will always be part of crowning a champ because some group (whether media, coaches, or others) would need to identify teams to include in any tournament or playoff.

A “plus-one” (extra game between the top two teams after the bowls) might work some years, but in others a clearly superior team would have nothing to prove. Who would LSU play this season … Georgia or USC? Oh, how about West Virginia.

Four or eight team formats have problems with team selection, travel, and season length, and a hunch is that there would still be discussion or controversy about the winner most seasons.

Personally, I wish we would go back to a free market approach and simply let bowls invite whatever teams they want.

Better pairings … more exciting games … a champion determined by a poll.

Wait … better be careful what I wish for.

Big Fun on the Bayou Again!

LSU won the BCS championship tonight with a 38-24 victory over Ohio State. Congratulations to the Bengal Tigers.

The Campus Game Professor’s Picks finished at 24-8 in bowl selections this year, and continued a perfect 5-0 string of correctly picking the BCS champion in the Game Day Weekly print edition (dating to the 2003 Fiesta Bowl with Ohio State over Miami).

Check back regularly this off-season for news and commentary on America’s favorite sport – college football – The Campus Game.

See you at kickoff!

Big Fun on the Bayou

Big Fun on the Bayou
BCS Championship Game

New Orleans Jan. 7, 2008
8:00 ET Fox
Ohio State vs. LSU

Where ya at Les Miles?

Contrary to what many believed for much of the season, the LSU coach is rolling on the river in New Orleans rather than heading home to become the main Michigan Man. Miles had plenty of reasons to stay in Cajun country, chief among them the national championship his Bengal Tigers (11-2) can claim by beating Ohio State (11-1) in the title game.

Where ya at Jim Tressel?

A year ago, the Ohio State coach brought his ballyhooed band of Buckeyes to the national title game and got bushwhacked and bullied 41-17 by the Florida Gators. Could another SEC champion do the same in this BCS championship?

Here are four factors likely to determine the (mythical) national champion.

1. Coaching: Last season Tressel and OSU were outclassed by Urban Meyer and the Gators. Don’t expect that to happen again. The Big Ten has been widely disparaged, leading many to doubt whether State should be in the big game. That underdog role will play well with Tressel. Miles catches flak for occasionally wacky decisions he pulls out from under his hat, but he has had bowl success at LSU. The Tigers crushed Miami in the Peach Bowl two years ago and Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl last January.

2. The Job Factor: Son of a gun, Miles is staying at LSU, but Tiger fans could not truly have big fun until Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. Another coaching hire is now the cause for concern. LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pellini has accepted the Nebraska position, but will coach in the title game. If Pellini is distracted in preparation or game day calls, the Tigers will suffer (and the track record for coaches splitting duties is not good).

3. Layoff: LSU gains the most from the down time. By the end of the season, the gruesome SEC gantlet had taken a toll on the bayou Bengals; they should be healed and ready by January 7. Ohio State had no comparable injury concerns, but the 51 day layoff since the regular season finale mirrors the down time from a year ago and we know how that turned out for the Buckeyes.

4. Home Cooking: We are not talking about that great Louisiana cuisine. Instead, consider this “neutral” site to be a little less neutral than others. Buckeye boosters travel as well as any school, but count on the Superdome to be filled at least 60-40 in favor of the purple and gold, with about a 90-10 noise advantage if the Tigers leap to a fast start.

Summary:

This game should not be a blowout. Buckeye pride in atoning for the Florida debacle will play a role, and the Big Ten champs are faster and more athletic on defense than they were a year ago.

Still, LSU will be healthy, energized playing for another title in front of their rowdy fans, and – most importantly – has better players.

Players win games.

LSU players will win a championship.

Professor’s Pick: LSU

BCS Bowls

Ok … here we are at the home stretch of the bowl season with the post-New Year’s offerings. Professor’s Picks stand at a solid 21-6 up to this point with five games left.

Enjoy the final bowls of the season … The Campus Game BCS title game prediction will be posted over the weekend. (If you want to visit a bowl website, simply click on the name of the bowl)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
January 2nd, 8:00 ET Fox
Oklahoma (11-2) vs. West Virginia (10-2)
The Fiesta is my personal favorite of the BCS bowls this year. Two explosive offenses meet, although West Virginia might be reeling a bit from the loss of native son head coach Rich Rodriquez to Michigan a couple of weeks ago. Oklahoma fans felt the Big 12 champs deserved a national title shot as much as any other team, but instead the Sooner Schooner rolls back to the desert for another Fiesta Bowl. Last year Bob Stoops and the boys watched Boise upset them with a variety of gadget plays. Expect them to play better this go round and to pull out the win. Prof’s Pick: Oklahoma

Fed Ex Orange Bowl
January 3rd 8:00 ET Fox
Kansas (11-1) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
Kansas is a nice story, but the best team the Jayhawks beat all season was Oklahoma State. Fortunately for KU, Virginia Tech is only an average offensive team. Expect the Tech defense to slow down Jayhawk QB Todd Reesing and Co. enough for the Hokies to pull out an ugly victory. Prof’s Pick: Virginia Tech

International Bowl
January 5 12:00 Noon ET ESPN
Rutgers (7-5) vs. Ball State (7-5)
Ok … could someone please explain to me why this bowl is being played … in Toronto … and after New Years? Do those Canadians realize that goals will be scored without a net or puck? Or that the field will only be 100 yards long? Well, it’s still a bowl, so I’ll watch Rutgers and Ray Rice run over Brady Hoke’s Cardinals. Prof’s Pick: Rutgers

GMAC Bowl
January 6 8:00 ET ESPN
Tulsa (9-4) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)
The GMAC bowl has hosted some big talent in its first eight years including LaDanian Tomlinson, Byron Leftwich, and Ben Roethlisberger. This year Tulsa QB Paul Smith (4753 yds and 42 TDs) will try to add his name to that list by throwing the ball all over Mobile. Tyler Sheehan of BG is no slouch either with over 3000 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. Scoreboards will be lighting up. Prof’s Pick: Tulsa