What We Learned from bowl season - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

What We Learned from bowl season

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Alabama's Michael Williams (89) and Kelly Johnson (31) celebrate in the end zone after Williams scored a 3-yard touchdown late in the first quarter of the 2013 BCS National Championship game (Source: Dennis Washington/WBRC) Alabama's Michael Williams (89) and Kelly Johnson (31) celebrate in the end zone after Williams scored a 3-yard touchdown late in the first quarter of the 2013 BCS National Championship game (Source: Dennis Washington/WBRC)

(RNN) – The SEC rules the world.

Below is the list of things we've learned from the bowl season.

1. No, seriously, the SEC rules the world. And sitting on the world's throne right now is Nick Saban.

By now you've heard the SEC has won each of the last seven national championships and never had a team lose in the BCS championship game, except to another SEC team. The SEC is 9-1 in the BCS title game and is the only conference with a winning record in it.

That's all well and good, but here's something you might not have heard. Of the few regular season losses between the 10 SEC champions (three went undefeated), not one was to a team outside the conference.

It's become commonplace for the SEC to dominate the final game of the year. Only two of the conference's wins came by less than a two-score margin.

The stats from Monday were no different. Notre Dame gave up as many rushing touchdowns in the game as it had all season. Alabama had the longest scoring drive the Irish allowed all year to open the game, then added another that qualified for the distinction later in the game.

The Irish rushed for only 32 yards and gave up 265 on the ground. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both had more than 100 yards rushing.

The Alabama offensive line made the much-hyped Notre Dame defensive front seven look like a high school squad. The only hit quarterback AJ McCarron took all night was delivered by his own center during a verbal spat in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame missed tackles on nearly every running play, including a few embarrassing whiffs by Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o.

The word "dynasty" was being attached to Alabama before the game even started, and now is being used without hesitation. Saban could retire or leave for the NFL tomorrow and be considered the best college football coach of his generation.

Comparisons to Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant began years ago when Saban won his first championship with the Tide. In Bryant's 25-year tenure at Alabama, he won six national championships. Saban has won three in six years, a rate that would have him doubling Bryant's championship total in the same span.

It took Bryant four years to win a championship at Alabama. It took Saban three, but Saban inherited a program that had six wins the previous year. Bryant inherited a team that had four wins in the three previous seasons combined.

The dominance of the SEC is challenged only by the SEC itself, and isn't likely to wane any time soon.

2. Johnny Football is officially Johnny In-Your-Face. Adding insult to previous insult, Texas A&M delivered a crushing blow to its former conference's bloated ego by beating trouncing completely annihilating Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Johnny Manziel went full video game in what is usually one of the best bowls of the season.

(It is at this point we would usually talk about that Madden game where we ran for 400 yards with Michael Vick, or how we won the NCAA Football national championship without throwing a pass all season, or that time we told our opponent we were running a fake punt and then scored on a 75-yard run and ran the same fake punt for a two-point conversion that won the game. What Johnny Football did was more impressive than all that.)

It wasn't enough that Manziel won big, he had to record more than 500 yards of offense, including 229 on the ground. He outgained Oklahoma's entire offense by more than 100 yards and ran for 106 more than the Sooners.

It's at this point that we feel comfortable making a bold prediction. Manziel can't possibly keep this up. He might have another year like this one, but he won't have three more, as some people seem to think.

He's a prime candidate for some sort of football-related injury. Of course, defenses have to touch him first, and they've not shown much of an ability to do that.

Plus (awkward throwing motion and death-by-linebacker not withstanding) he'll leave early for the NFL if he keeps these kinds of numbers up. Then again, he doesn't really need the money or exposure.

3. Jadeveon Clowney provided the best GIF in internet history (not involving Kate Upton). Until Kate Upton does something to distract our attention, all the love our heart can muster is being directed in Clowney's direction after his complete destruction of Michigan's Vincent Smith.

If you haven't seen "the play," here it is. Watch it 100 times before reading further.

OK, we are having a hard time determining the best part of "the play." First, there is the penetration into the backfield. How anyone would think it's OK to not block Clowney is beyond our comprehension.

Second, there is the launching of Smith's helmet into the stratosphere. Aircraft on final approach into the Tampa airport had to be rerouted until the helmet cleared the area (NORAD spotted it over Phoenix about 10 minutes later).

Third, there is the creation of the fumble and the nonchalant one-handed recovery Clowney makes before crawling over a pile of bodies he created trying to get to the end zone (like the killer in a horror movie refusing to die).

Fourth: It came immediately after the worst first down call in the history of football. Michigan came up a couple of inches short of the first down. The officials measured it, saw that it was short and gave the Wolverines the first down. Steve Spurrier's head exploded, rematerialized and exploded again. Even a 3-year-old could've gotten it right. (Here's proof.)

According to this Wikipedia entry (which has since been removed for what we're calling no good reason), Clowney then destroyed the state of Michigan and earned a suspension from the NFL. This seems like a good place to note that nothing about the hit was illegal, it was just terrifyingly beautiful.

Nothing Clowney does will ever live up to this play. He could win the Heisman Trophy and get a game-winning safety in the Super Bowl and this play will still be the greatest play of his life.

South Carolina was losing 22-21 at the time. They won the game 33-28.

4. Les Miles can't digest artificial turf. Miles is notorious for his free range grazing (and free range play calling), with a tendency to let his inner ungulate run rampant on the sidelines.

When you take a man raised on pesticides and what we hope is nontoxic paint (given some of his antics, this is by no means a certainty) and switch him to a diet of rubber and polyethylene, it has several side effects. Among those side effects are headaches, nausea, constipation and losing 25-24.

When Miles' equine alter ego downs a handful of grass, good things happen for LSU. But when forced to switch from the good stuff to the knockoff, things go bad (It's like being used to eating pork chops and then having a McRib). The end result is the Tigers not pulling a win out of thin air and overcoming Miles' best attempts to get them beat with his clock management decisions, which make about as much sense as a Rolex on a water buffalo.

But we digress. Clemson did what nobody seemed to think they could do: Beat an SEC team. Never mind the fact that it happened in their season opener. It might have been against Auburn and its Sun Belt-quality defense, but it was a still an SEC team and we're counting it.

Who knew the impact a little photosynthesis could have on the course of college football? Apparently, the lack of it causes last-second field goals to go against the Mad Hatter. (Conspiracy theorists blame the Cheshire Cat, but there's no evidence to back that up).

5. James Franklin (coach) won't be at Vanderbilt long. Maybe we already knew this because under Franklin's leadership, Vanderbilt has done something that Vanderbilt doesn't do: Win. The Commodores won nine games this season after taking down N.C. State 38-24 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (more on stupid sponsorships in a minute).

So, let's make sure we have this straight. James Franklin has a bowl game named after him? You're welcome. We suggested this happening in Week 11, and now that it did Franklin may be apt to stay put in Nashville.

He also may eventually replace Mark Richt at Georgia when the Bulldog faithful have finally had enough of him, move to Columbia whenever Steve Spurrier retires or hop over to Alabama when one of those obligatory Nick-Saban-will-coach-your-professional-team-next-season-because-he-said-he-won't-and-we-all-know-he's-a-liar rumors actually comes true.

Unless, of course, Vanderbilt goes back to being Vanderbilt and then he'll stay there forever, because with all the good will he's built up to this point, there's no way they get rid of him.

It's only the third time in Vanderbilt football history the team won nine games. The previous times were 1904 and 1915. Franklin hasn't matched those teams' successes yet because both recorded at least seven shutouts and scored 90 at least once (the 1915 team won a game 100-0).

But that was in the days when Mississippi State was known as Mississippi A&M and one of their wins came over a team whose mascot is the Praying Colonels, so make of that what you will.

6. Tyler Russell made announcers look stupid. Granted this is usually not hard to do, but Russell took it to a level that few have ever achieved.

ESPN color commentator Danny Kanell talked about Russell in pregame as "impressive," the "most underrated quarterback in the SEC" and "when he has time, he can pick you apart." Play-by-play man Bob Wischusen touted Russell's record-setting performance and said he had the ninth-best interception-to-attempt ratio in SEC history.

Russell then threw a pick-six on the third play of the game under no pressure whatsoever. Mississippi State's second possession ended with another Russell interception under no pressure whatsoever.

He finished with four interceptions and barely 100 yards through the air in the Bulldogs' 34-20 loss.

Oops.

7. Georgia did what Georgia does. Did you see that SEC championship game? Wow, how awesome/predictable was that?

You have to feel bad for Mark Richt. It's not enough that he has to watch his team's total incompetence play out right in front of his eyes, but then he has to listen to questions like this one about his inability to win big games.

Aside from the reporter choosing very poor wording, pawning off his own opinion on other nameless, faceless entities and failing to identify himself as instructed to do before the press conference started, it was – at its core – a legitimate inquiry.

There were several weeks this season when we decried Richt and his Bulldogs by saying "Georgia did what Georgia does."

In the SEC Championship game, that was true again. But this iteration was different. Georgia had the lead for much of the game before needing a game-winning drive and wasted enough time to, arguably, prevent itself from getting it.

The Bulldogs also gave up something like a billion rushing yards. OK, so it was only 350, but it sure seemed like a lot more. They won their bowl game, so all is forgiven … until next year.

The Bulldogs stepped it up in a 45-31 win in the Capital One Bowl by shutting out Nebraska in the fourth quarter and pulling ahead late, thanks to 427 yards passing and five touchdowns from Aaron Murray.

It's not a bad consolation prize, but if you go on The Price Is Right and try to win a car only to come home with luggage and a toaster, you're going to be a little disappointed.

8. Florida did not do what Florida does. We praised Florida all season for its Leave It To Beaver-era approach to play calling. It worked great, and we were sold.

The only problem with that style of play in today's game is it leaves no room for error.

That had been just fine for the Gators, because they didn't make any errors. That is, until the Sugar Bowl. The Gators had been such a dominant rushing team all year, it seemed only natural that they would not open the game with a pass.

QB Jeff Driskel, however, did throw a touchdown pass … for Louisville (at least he didn't do this first).

Florida might have been able to overcome that. But a surprise onside kick after halftime recovered by Louisville and aided by a penalty that drew an ejection of a Florida player was enough to de-wheel whatever bus the Gators were riding in, to the tune of 33-23.

They forgot who they were. Florida did, though, have one of the oddest trick plays we've ever seen.

Just before halftime in a field goal situation, the Gators lined up in the most ridiculous football formation ever devised (aka the swinging gate) and ran a shotgun read option dive for a touchdown.

It worked, so we won't call it a dumb play, but running up the middle when all your blockers are standing near the sideline is at the very least puzzling. Hey, it worked, so it was a good play.

9. You don't want to play Ole Miss in a bowl game. We spent way too much time trying to come up with clever word play using "Freeze" and "hot," so we'll just say this: The Rebels don't always make bowl games, but when they do, they prefer to win.

Hugh Freeze took his Rebels to a bowl game in his first year after Ole Miss had been so bad last year that no matter what happened this season, it would have been an improvement. The Rebels hadn't made a bowl since 2009, but this year's win over Pittsburgh was their fifth consecutive bowl win.

In fact, the Rebels have won nine of their last 10 bowl games and are 11-2 in bowls dating back to 1986.

We're not sure what to attribute that stat to, but since most of those wins came against teams from the Big XII, we'll just say that conference stinks and move on.

Ole Miss is tied with Auburn and Florida State for the longest current bowl winning streaks. Florida State is the only one to have done it in five consecutive years.

10. Sponsorship is your friend. Well, it might not be your friend, but it's definitely somebody's.

Believe it or not, the following things actually sponsored a bowl: Potatoes.

We thought the point of sponsorship was to promote the company and increase its business. How many extra stealth bombers did Northrop Grumman sell because it sponsored a football game? Did you buy a helicopter from Bell because you saw Rice beat Air Force?

We're just guessing here, but you probably don't live in southern California. So why does it matter that the San Diego Country Credit Union advertises to you? Do you live in Texas? If not, PlainsCapital Bank wasted its sponsorship of the Heart of Dallas Bowl on your accord.

That makes two banks that advertised to you that you can't use. If you don't live in an area serviced by BBVA Compass, that makes three.

Did you eat at Outback Steakhouse because you're a South Carolina fan or Chick-fil-A because you like LSU? Did you apply for a credit card, change your cell phone provider, transfer your insurance policy or buy a Vizio flatscreen TV because of sponsorship of a football game? Did you buy a car because Southern Cal played Georgia Tech?

Is your child going to attend either Ashford University or the University of the Rockies because they are owned by Bridgepoint Education and they helped you watch Baylor pull off a 23-point upset?

Are you going to stop eating at Applebee's or Olive Garden because they didn't sponsor a game?

The next time you buy potatoes are you going to make sure they come from Idaho? Are potatoes grown in Colorado, Maine or Oregon no longer good enough for you?

We're guessing you answered no to all of those questions, making all of those sponsorships kind of pointless. But there is something you likely did that helped a sponsor accomplish its goal.

We're guessing you ate dinner Dec. 29. Congratulations, you helped Kraft, Arizona State and Navy fight hunger.

Extra points: If you missed Brent Musberger fawning over McCarron's girlfriend, enjoy the video and subsequent Twitter feed.

By the way, did you know Brian Kelly is in his third year as Notre Dame coach and the last two Irish head coaches who won a national championship did so in their third year? ESPN only said it once for every dollar the country is in debt (including an entire show devoted to it). Just thought you might have missed it.

This column was presented by the Human Brain. For all your intelligence needs, the Human Brain is here to serve. Don't open your mouth without it.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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