Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rick Cleveland: The West..... is the best

Most telling moment of the college bowls season? It came in Alabama's 38-0 dismantling of Big Ten champion Michigan State.

Spartans' quarterback Connor Cook, who somehow survived the Cotton Bowl carnage, was shown on the sidelines talking about Alabama and telling anyone who would listen and millions of lip-reading TV viewers: “They're (insert profane adjective here) everywhere.”

He was talking about Crimson defenders and he was correct. Bama's speed, strength, quickness and size combination overwhelmed Michigan State. It was as if we were watching men vs. boys. And it was a familiar theme in games involving teams from the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

All seven SEC West teams played in bowls. Six won big. One, Texas A & M, playing with its third string quarterback, lost. By six points. The other six won huge by an average margin of 27 points.

This is dominance, so extreme, it bears repeating: Auburn 31, Memphis 10; LSU 56, Texas Tech 27; Mississippi State 51, North Carolina State 28; Alabama 38, Michigan State 0; Ole Miss 48, Oklahoma State 20; Arkansas 45, Kansas State 23.

What we saw, game after game, were SEC West teams so much faster and quicker it often appeared their opponents were out-numbered. Seemed as if the SEC teams, particularly the defenses, were using 13 or 14 players.

The SEC, overall, was 8-2 with an average margin of victory of 26 points.

In Charlotte, while Dak Prescott completed a marvelous career, State fans chanted: “SEC! SEC! SEC!” In New Orleans, where a touchdown run by left tackle Laremy Tunsil highlighted another rout that could have been worse, Ole Miss fans chanted, “SEC! SEC! SEC!”

Finally, we have found something on which the two can agree.

Actually, it's hard to see how anyone can disagree with this fact: The best college football is played in the SEC West.

A year ago, many national sports commentators talked and wrote incessantly about how the SEC (the West in particular) had been exposed during the major bowls. Remember? Ohio State toppled Alabama. TCU routed Ole Miss. Georgia Tech stung Mississippi State. It was almost as if the rest of the nation rejoiced in the SEC West's demise.

The resentment is somewhat understandable, if misguided. Before 2013, the SEC had claimed seven straight national championships. Florida State won in 2013 and Ohio State in 2014. The rest of the U.S. became tired of hearing SEC! SEC! SEC!

The guess here is that they will hear it one more time next week, although Clemson, Alabama's national championship opponent, is extremely SEC-like in its speed/size quotient. We shall see.

Alabama has much going for it besides size and speed. For one thing, Bama has played a much more difficult schedule. If you play in the SEC West, you are guaranteed at least six opponents headed for bowls. For the second straight season, all seven West teams played in a bowl, an amazing feat considering the round-robin division schedule.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, an Illinois native, played his football at Iowa and previously coached at Kansas State and Wisconsin. He is a product of the midwest, but he knows where the best college football is played, and he believes the SEC West doesn't get the respect it deserves because the teams beat up on one another.

“What people have to realize is we play each other,” Bielema said after the Liberty Bowl. “If somebody wants to find out, come in and play all seven of us, and see what you think.”
Bielema should know. His first Arkansas team finished 0-8 in the league. In three years, his teams are 7-17 in the league. And they are good, really good. In the SEC West, everyone is really good.

•••

Rick Cleveland is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His email address is rcleveland@msfame.com.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

As much as I like to see Clemson beat Alabama, I expect it to be another game that is over by half time.

Anonymous said...

State and Ole Miss picked a hell of a time to be good.

Anonymous said...

The rest of the nation finds the ESS-EEE-SEE fanboyism irritating because this is the only place in the country where people care more about "conference pride" than their own teams. Plus the constant "disrespect!" attitude despite the fact that the entire sports media fawned over SEC football for an full decade.

Anonymous said...

Hard to be proud of your conference when they suck 8:52, so you're clearly out of your league, pun intended. The SEC West is probably the only division in CFB history where every single member has been ranked Top 5 nationally at some point within a 5 year span. SEVEN national champions in a row and 5 of them from one division.

Third and Fourteen said...

I know very few people with 'conference pride' at the expense of 'team pride'. Those that fit that description are the low information crowd and don't have a clue what a conference rival's win means to their own team.

thusbloggedanderson said...

The playoff should be changed so that the best four SEC teams play in a proper championship (never mind East vs. West).

That would be more entertaining than these Toilet Bowls this season.

Anonymous said...

It's just so sad that people cling to the notion that a college football loss is equal across the board. I'd take any SEC West team (except for A&M. what's going on over there with the QB situation?) to beat Michigan State. Easily.

Anonymous said...

10:18 -- Who cares? Do you root for all of those teams? Did you go to all of those schools? Do you buy tickets and merchandise for all of those programs?

The rest of the country thinks it's ridiculous because nobody outside of SEC COUNTRY! has ever thought to themselves, "Hey, you would what would make college football more enjoyable? Taking pride in all of the accomplishments of my school's rival programs!"

Anonymous said...

Hey, you would what would make college football more enjoyable?

Anybody care to translate?

Anonymous said...

10:20 I think you have it backwards. When another SEC team wins, especially in a bowl, it helps all SEC teams. How did Mississippi State go from unranked to #1 in three weeks last year? They beat three SEC teams who were highly ranked. By the end of the year flaws were shown in all of those teams, but the reason they were highly ranked early was because of SEC success in the past. Seven national champs in a row - amazing.

Anonymous said...

All these wins weren't exactly against stellar competition. They were against a bunch of mediocre Big 10 and Big 12 teams, one American conference team, and a bad ACC team that finished the regular season 7-5 with four of those wins over Troy, Eastern KY, ODU, and South AL.

The Big 12 was clearly not as good as everyone made them out to be. Lots of commentators were saying that Oklahoma was the best team in the playoff and look what Clemson did to them. This national championship game will likely be closer than SEC fans think. Alabama hasn't faced a QB like Watson and he will give them some trouble.

Anonymous said...

1:12 -- Should read:

Hey, you know what would make college football more enjoyable?

Punt From The Twenty said...

Can you imagine Ole Myth fans rooting for State in a State bowl game? Can you imagine Auburn fans rooting for Alabama? Can you imagine LSU rooting for Ole Myth? Of course not. There is no such thing as 'conference pride' unless you're a woman with zero knowledge of the game or the impact had when a rival wins a conference game or bowl game.

We haven't mentioned yet the impact of that on recruiting when in state teams are competing for the same boys. I don't expect the low information crowd to understand. They're still trying to figure out offsides and a pulling guard.

Anonymous said...

@2:48 Whatever you say, Dabo.

Anonymous said...

Is Nick Mullens related to Dan Mullens? If yes, is there any chance of a transfer?

Anonymous said...

4:10 I did it. I pulled for the Webles in the Sugar Bowl. I am a State grad. Have had season tickets for a number of years. My father was a State grad. My sisters and daughter too. When SEC plays out of conference I pull for the SEC. It helps all of us for the conference to do well. I may be low information. I don't know. I have an engineering degree. My IQ is 147. Last year I ate breakfast at least 100 times with a former college head coach who was also All SEC and played in the NFL. We mostly talked about football. Just because you don't understand pulling for the conference don't think that those who do are stupid or ignorant.

Jack Cristil said...

I never ate breakfast a hundred times with a college coach but I stayed at several Holiday Inn Jrs one year. I'm a State grad, as was my dad, as are my two children and a brother. So, I'll see your brag and raise you a punt or two. I'm not sure what my IQ is and don't give a shit what YOURS is, but I do know you won't catch me pulling for Ole Miss to win anything other than a U-haul contract to move coaches out of Oxford.

If you think Ole Miss winning the Sugar helped Mississippi State, you're more ignorant that the girl serving you and your coach-friend's breakfast. Tell that to the families in the living rooms where Freeze shows up to recruit their boys. He's telling them that MSU is a horrible place to be and Mullen is an atheist.

Social media has taught people across the nation to hate Ole Miss.

Anonymous said...

Roll Tide. Time to change the helmet number from 15 to 16.

Anonymous said...

4:11 you are just plain wrong about this. Certainly Ole Missy winning the Sugar Bowl helps them a lot more than it helps State, but it does help State more than if they had lost. Before last year some one could tell a recruit all day long about coming to MSU to win a national championship, but how many kids believed it? I would have bet a lot of money that MSU would never win a National Championship in football. Ever. All of that changed for many people because State was ranked #1 for 5 weeks. That does not mean they will win a NC. But it does show that it is possible and that is HUGE. I think it is the biggest thing that ever happened to MSU football. This affects not only recruits, but also coaches we may be trying to hire in the future. Have you noticed how many times Ben Howland has mentioned that MSU had a final four team? That final four team was good enough to win it all. So now Ben Howland and recruits can see that it is possible at MSU to win a NC in basketball.
Now, back to the Sugar Bowl. The only way that MSU got to be ranked #1 last year is because of all the bowl games and national championships won by SEC schools in the recent past. Without that, it would be impossible to go from unranked to #1 in three weeks.
So now I have made my case. I understand that your rooting against them is probably a lifelong habit and my perfectly logical argument will lose a battle with your emotions. No problem. Just understand that what you are feeling has to do with emotion, not intelligence.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but "My IQ is 147 and I ate breakfast at least 100 times with a former college head coach," needs to become a running joke on this site.

Where Is The Colonel Buried? said...

6:27; in all your rambling, you never did explain how you think an Ole Miss win will positively affect Mississippi State. Could you possibly try again? Thanks.

Let me help you. MSU being ranked number 1 last year for five weeks had absolutely nothing to do with the SEC wins of other teams 'in the recent past'. Are you nuts or just..........well...........nuts?

Anonymous said...

Football right now is a blast. I am a fanatic (for now…until it inevitably breaks my heart). Never cheer for an sec team until we have played them… then I always want them to win… (makes us look not so bad …or better…whatever the case.). Just got my voice back from the sugar bowl. I will remember it forever. Bowl season I am sec all the way. …and yes, I sat with a room full of Ole "myth' fans yelling for Ms state! Can't wait to watch Saben almost pass out he because he is so mad.… and of course win. For the record I hope LSU's L.F. wins the Heisman this year.

But … good grief some people can take the fun out of anything anything. As far as harming recruiting… we are not even remotely fishing in the same ponds. ❤️💙

Anonymous said...

Jack Cristil… I am assuming you don't live in the south. I can't imagine talking like this about some of the families that surely you would live close to … people you do business with… church? Please, I hope you a member of that cute family with the state flag in the front yard. OMG… our daughters could be friends.

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