10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after the SEC's bowl season
Thank goodness for Alabama? OK, but don’t forget Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Sure, Florida and Auburn opted to get their butts handed to them on national TV. Mississippi State opted to treat its Armed Forces bowl literally. And I sincerely hope Kirby Smart opted to do anything other than watch the Sugar Bowl.
But it’s hard to argue with the SEC’s 6-2 record against ranked teams. Though some certainly tried. Those are just some of the 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after the SEC’s better-than-you-think bowl showing.
10. This is so old, Joel …
The anti-SEC crowd was having itself a grand ol’ time Friday.
Right up until Georgia’s Jack Podlesny kicked those tired, ol’ “SEC is overrated” chants to the curb — along with Cincinnati — with a career-best 53-yard boot to win the Peach Bowl.
About midway through the game, when things looked bleak and Georgia looked lost, Big Ten spokesman Joel Klatt took to Twitter …
I guess we can all see why @AlabamaFTBL led the country in margin of victory at 30.3 PPG (only played SEC teams)
The SEC was exactly like the ACC has been for the last few years…A one team league
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 1, 2021
Joel should know better. Georgia rallied — with multiple starters watching after opting out, mind you.
Then this stuff happened, too.
The "SEC is overrated" takes were flowing widely on this here app when Georgia went down early to Cincinnati. Since then
–Georgia beat best G5 team
–Alabama crushed Notre Dame
–4-5 Ole Miss beat B10's No. 2 team
–4-5 UK beat No. 23 NC St
— John Talty (@JTalty) January 2, 2021
But here’s the biggest issue with this lame, annual, made-for-attention take:
The SEC is the only league that has had 3 programs make the Playoff. Klatt’s B1G has only had 2 — one of which didn’t even score.
Further, the SEC is the only league that has had multiple programs win a Playoff game. Three SEC programs have won a Playoff game. Heck, 3 SEC programs have reached the national title game.
Ohio State remains the only B1G team that has won a Playoff game. Clemson is the only ACC team that has won a Playoff game.
It’s fun and easy to take shots at the SEC.
But when you swing at the king, you best not miss.
9. Speaking of the king …
I know Bama had King Henry, but dare I say Najee Harris … might be even better?
Holy Saban. That’s ridiculous. It’s too bad the Heisman votes have been collected, because the hurdle-stiff arm was the single best Heisman moment of the season.
8. End of an error …
Bo Nix had to be helped off the field Friday. He returned … but I’m guessing that will be short-lived.
I don’t blame Nix for Auburn’s disappointing season or bowl performance. I blame the recruiting analysts who anointed him a 5-star savior. He’s a Group of 5 quarterback with a great last name.
7. Why, Dan Mullen, why?
Days before the game, I was chatting with our incredibly talented Florida columnist, Neil Blackmon about the Cotton Bowl. As the opt-outs were mounting, I told Neil if I were Dan Mullen, I’d give Kyle Trask 2 series, call a timeout, allow him to thank his teammates and then walk off to a celebratory handshake for a program resurrected.
And then I would turn the page to 2021 and finally find out whether Emory Jones is good enough to take down Georgia next year. Because that’s all the Cotton Bowl was: a primer for 2021.
Mullen obviously didn’t do that. Instead, Mullen put Trask in the worst possible position, throwing to inexperienced receivers he’d rarely worked with. The timing was off. The strategy was off. Trask was off.
None of it made sense. And that was before Mullen said after the game that the real 2020 Gators played their last game against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Trask deserved better than that. Mullen should have protected his QB.
Even worse, I’m still not sure we know enough about Emory Jones to know whether he can take down Georgia next year in Jacksonville.
All of that momentum talk about the Gators dethroning Kirby and reclaiming the East for good?
I joked with Neil about that, too. I think I settled on Georgia 73, Florida 17 next year.
6. Why David Pollack is wrong about opt-outs …
David Pollack is an SEC legend. He earned the platform to say and think what he wants about players opting out. He doesn’t like it. He said he wouldn’t have done it.
I have no problem with that and no doubt Pollack would have wanted to still be on the field in the 4th quarter of a 40-point blowout.
Pollack took it a step further, however, and said “opting out to me = quitting. Not in my DNA.”
I have a huge problem with that.
Why? Nobody called Kirby Smart a quitter when he quit Alabama to become Georgia’s head coach.
Nobody ever calls coaches quitters when they quit, opt-out or transfer from one program to another.
This is a national issue, but because our focus obviously is on the SEC, it’s worth noting that 13 of the 14 head coaches all quit a job to take their current job. The only exception is Ed Orgeron. He was out of coaching when LSU hired him as an assistant. He moved up after Les Miles was fired. But Orgeron had quit other jobs to accept better ones earlier in his career. Heck, 7 of these guys quit jobs as head coaches to become (or continue to be, in Dan Mullen’s case) SEC head coaches!
Logically, you can’t question a player’s commitment or loyalty for doing the exact same thing every Power 5 coach has done at some point in his career.
5. We’ve seen enough of Notre Dame, right?
The ACC Championship blowout loss told us all we needed to know about Notre Dame’s chances in the Playoff semifinal against Alabama.
The Irish had none.
A predictable blowout ensued — one in which Alabama seemed destined to cover the largest point spread in Playoff history until the Irish scored a final minute TD, aided by Nick Saban penalty of all things.
Every year is different, but some things never change.
Is this good? pic.twitter.com/TMzRZmuiKb
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 2, 2021
This is exactly why there was so much outrage about Notre Dame landing in the No. 4 spot.
4. Ease up on Dabo, a’ight?
Everybody jumped on the fact that Dabo Swinney ranked Ohio State No. 11 in his coaches poll.
It made for very simple and explosive headlines.
Nobody has time for context anymore, but Swinney provided plenty of it. He explained why he ranked Ohio State No. 11 and why it wasn’t a shot at Ohio State. He said he would have ranked any team that only played 6 games that low.
He also said this: Ohio State is good enough to beat us.
Nobody cared about that part of the statement because nobody listens anymore. They hear what they want to hear.
3. Ohio State is good enough to beat Alabama, too, but …
My only concern is: Teams usually only play 1 Super Bowl a year.
Ohio State just played its Super Bowl. A year’s worth of frustration over last season’s Playoff loss to Clemson, coupled with the persistent fight just to play this season and then fight through this stop-start-stop-start season. Dabo’s comments were just the final piece of cloth at the top of the bonfire.
It all added up to Ohio State’s best performance since 2014.
Now all the Buckeyes have to do is turn around and do it again in 8 days.
All that fury that was directed at Clemson fueled the semifinal blowout.
Can the Buckeyes produce that kind of effort and performance 2 weeks in a row?
I can’t wait to find out.
I’ll say this much: You already know about Justin Fields and Chris Olave. Trey Sermon is a problem. Ohio State’s edge rushers, particularly Jonathon Cooper, are most definitely a problem, which surprised me given the fact the Buckeyes had to replace an all-word edge rusher in Chase Young. I had forgotten Cooper was injured last year. Clemson’s o-line is younger and less talented than Alabama’s and OSU toyed with the Tigers, but OSU’s d-line will be the best the Tide have faced, too. Trevor Lawrence is a much, much more athletic quarterback than Mac Jones and he had no chance for most of the night.
2. Alabama hasn’t played its best game yet …
I said in the offseason and repeated throughout fall camp that Alabama wasn’t losing a game en route to the national title game.
I believed in Mac Jones last year and chuckled at the thought that hyped 5-star Bryce Young was going to win the job.
National media panicked when Jaylen Waddle went down. I noted that Alabama’s next man up was a 5-star recruit with early-round NFL talent, too.
Absolutely nothing about what Alabama has done thus far has surprised me.
Here’s the scary part, if you’re a Buckeyes fan: Everything Alabama has done on offense looks easy and repeatable. And here’s the key: complementary.
Load up the box to stop Najee Harris, you expose your DBs to Bama’s complex route forest. Alabama runs decoy routes more often and better than anybody in the country. Brother routes, they call them. I mean, the unselfishness in that program is mind-boggling. DeVonta Smith caught 3 TD passes Friday, but my favorite play was when he waved to John Metchie to follow his lead block after Metchie caught a crossing route.
You can’t teach love like that.
John Metchie with a nice 40-yard gain with DeVonta Smith leading the way on the block. pic.twitter.com/fyRRNkuoSx
— Alabama Crimson Tide | AL.com (@aldotcomTide) January 1, 2021
Drop 6 into coverage to double Smith and limit the big plays, then you expose LBs and DBs to Open Field Najee, part Olympic hurdler, part Herschel Walker.
There’s a reason this offense had 3 of the top 5 Heisman vote-getters. Ohio State won’t stop it. Its offense will have to match it.
As much fun as Alabama-Clemson V would have been, this game feels right.
It’s the SEC vs. the Big Ten.
The SEC won the preseason showdown to play football.
The B1G reluctantly re-engaged, legitimizing the entire season and national championship trophy in the process.
I’ve looked forward to every championship game, but if Ohio State can play like it did against Clemson, this one could be special.
1. Justin Fields, take a bow young man
Wow. What more can you say?
The guy led the fight to save Big Ten football. And now, after playing the game of his life, he gets a chance to take down almighty Alabama, a chance he would have gotten and should have gotten at Georgia.
Fields played so well against Clemson that he made Jake Fromm a trending topic on Twitter.
Kirby Smart is going to be 80 years old and still answering questions about that disastrous decision.