SEC versus Big 10: Ohio States loss says it all

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Louisiana State University became the first two-loss team to play for the BCS title Monday night &8212; coming back from a 10-0 deficit in the early first quarter to rally to a 38-24 win over Ohio State. The dominate win over the champion of the Big Ten Conference helped LSU grab the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press post-season poll &8212; something a meager win wouldn&8217;t have locked for the group after the beatings dolled out by Georgia and USC in their BCS bowl games.

LSU locked the No. 1 spot in the poll, while Georgia came in a close and contested second after the two groups never met during the season because Tennessee edged out the Bulldogs for the SEC East and a trip to the SEC Championship. The Tigers and the Bulldogs were the only two SEC groups in the Top 10, but five teams from the conference made the Top 15 in the poll.

Coming into the bowl season, fans from the SEC were adamant that their teams were in the best and toughest conference in the nation &8212; defending against the arguments by some in the national media that LSU didn&8217;t deserve the trip due to their two in-conference losses. If the conference of the South didn&8217;t dissuade those in the national media with their performance in this year&8217;s bowls, there is no changing their minds.

First and foremost the conference, where an undefeated season is rarely seen due to the level of talent present across the board in the conference&8217;s 12 teams, managed to have 10 of its 12 teams become bowl eligible. That fact in its self means that a lot of team towed the line to make it in and should diminish any surprise that no team in the conference had less than two losses.

Of those 10 teams eligible for bowl play, nine made it into the post season &8212; only South Carolina didn&8217;t get the nod. The closest conference to putting the same numbers in post season play as the SEC was the Big 10, who managed to get eight of its 11 teams into bowl season.

Then, once play began, the SEC dominated the majority of the opponents it faced. In non-BCS bowls the SEC was 5-2. In those games their opponents were all within seven points as the clock ticked to zero. The Big 10 went 3-3 in their non-BCS bowls and their opponents were also all within a seven point striking distance.

Arkansas proved the only major SEC disappointment, getting bulldozed 38-7 by Missouri. For the Big 10 both of their biggest post-season disappointments came into the games that mattered &8212; the BCS bowls &8212; while the SEC dominated both of theirs.

Georgia showed an undefeated Hawaii group what it means to face a real defense in the Sugar Bowl, routing the Warriors 41-10 and securing a great post-season spot in the polls. Illinois wasn&8217;t so lucky in the Rose Bowl, where they were whipped by the Trojans of USC 49-17.

And then there was the title game. Ohio State enjoyed a lead and the hope of an underdog rout for about half of the first quarter before the Tigers from Baton Rouge had their way with the Buckeyes. Ohio State fans are probably scratching their heads about their coach, Jim Tressel, leading by double digits in the first quarter of the championship game the past two years before having an SEC team post 20-plus points in the second quarter.

But I guess teams outside of the SEC aren&8217;t used to the defensive speed teams have had to bring into the conference with the introduction of the spread offense. Up north the defensive and offensive lines are big for power ball. In the south, everybody has to be quick, from the linebackers that resemble safeties in the north to the offensive line, to play gap control, grinding ball.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at brandon.glover@demopolistimes.com.