What are the national writers saying about the SEC's bowl chances?
What are you doing New Year’s Eve? Like the rest of us, you’ll be watching the College Football Playoff’s national semifinals.
Once again, it will be up to Alabama to snap the SEC’s streak of two seasons without a national championship. But behind the Crimson Tide, the conference also has a chance to reaffirm its reputation as the best league in the sport.
Here is what a few national writers have been saying lately about the SEC heading into bowl season:
1. Did the Big Ten bypass the SEC as the nation’s best league this year? That’s a question posed by Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, who mentions in this podcast that the Big Ten, at least with its ranked teams — Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan — has been better this year. But he doesn’t mention the strength-of-schedule disparity between both conferences, and also doesn’t mention that Alabama is favored by more than a touchdown against the Spartans in their upcoming playoff game. Let’s let this argument be decided on the field.
2. Alabama and Oklahoma are the favorites to win their playoff games, writes David Purdum of ESPN, who quotes a couple of Vegas bookmakers in this story, which unfortunately doesn’t include an overall favorite to win the whole enchilada.
3. Did the College Football Playoff selection committee do Alabama a favor by serving up Michigan State? Asks Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press in a column that has somewhat of a whiny tone to it. What’s also confusing is that he mentions that the Spartans’ matchup against the Crimson Tide is “an opportunity for the Big Ten to validate the growing perception that it was a far better conference than the SEC this season.”
Well, if this really is that sort of opportunity — and if Michigan State should happen to win on Dec. 31 — then Sharp should write a column that says the CFP selection committee did a great job of pairing these two teams. But what has a better chance of happening: Alabama winning or that column appearing some day? We wonder.
4. The SEC — and its championship game — are not what they used to be, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today. We’ve detected the pattern of SEC bashing this season, and some of it might be deserved. But as bad as Alabama’s 29-15 victory over Florida was last week, not every SEC Championship Game can be as good as the Crimson Tide’s 32-28 win against Georgia in 2012.
And it’s clear that the SEC West has been better than the East for some time now. But if Alabama survives its CFP gauntlet of Michigan State and then Clemson or Oklahoma, some pundits might write something like “this Alabama team ranks right up there with the Crimson Tide’s best.”
Nick Saban and his players — and the SEC for that matter — are fully cognizant of how big this year’s opportunity is in terms of validation for themselves and the league.
5. Still doubt Alabama? The SEC champs thrive off criticism, so says Jon Solomon of CBS Sports. The “thriving off criticism” approach seems to have worked for Big Ten teams such as Michigan State, which happens to be the Crimson Tide’s next opponent. Alabama seemed to have picked up the chip that is currently on its shoulder sometime right after suffering its only defeat of the season — a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19. That perceived lacked of respect toward Alabama might be the motivating factor that drives the Crimson Tide all the way toward a national title. We’ll see happens starting on New Year’s Eve.