Which league has most to prove in bowls?
At the college football roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic.
This week’s question: Which league has the most to prove in the bowls?
Olin Buchanan’s answer: I think it is the SEC, the conference that loudly trumpets its superiority at every opportunity. Alabama and LSU are playing for the national championship because they’re the best teams in what we continually are told is the best collection of football teams in the country. But many feel that outside of LSU and Alabama the SEC was rather average this season. If that’s true, doesn’t it then raise questions whether LSU and Alabama really are the best teams in the country? The SEC needs a good showing in the bowls to prove that it actually is as strong as its continual boasts would indicate.
[Forde-Yard Dash: Pat Forde dashes through all 35 bowl games]
David Fox’s answer: I have maintained that the SEC, beyond LSU and Alabama, doesn’t have the elite depth we’ve seen in recent seasons. Georgia and South Carolina helped answer some questions in the final week of the regular season with convincing wins over Georgia Tech and Clemson, but I still want to see more. Arkansas is supposed to be the No. 3 team in the league. Given that, the Razorbacks should be able to handle Kansas State, one of the teams I thought gave the Big 12 the edge as the deepest conference this season. If South Carolina beats Clemson and a quality Big Ten team, Nebraska, in its final two games, that’s quite a statement for the league. The same could be said of SEC East champ Georgia defeating Big Ten Legends champ Michigan State. Auburn was a non-factor in the SEC race, but the Tigers will face a Virginia team that was in ACC contention until the final week of the regular season. Even Vanderbilt has a chance to make a statement against Big East co-champ Cincinnati. If the SEC wins most of those games, the conference reaffirms its spot as the most complete league in the land. If the SEC loses most of those games, it reinforces the notion that the conference wasn’t much more than the two teams playing for the BCS championship.
Mike Huguenin’s answer: I think the Big Ten has a lot at stake. The league has 10 teams in bowls, tied for the most all time, and eight of them play other Big Six opponents (three vs. SEC, two vs. Big 12 and Pac-12 and one vs. ACC). Despite the 10 teams being in bowls, the league was thought to be down this season. Was that correct? If the Big Ten struggles in the postseason, the answer would be yes. The leagues that were thought to be the strongest were the Big 12 and SEC, and they have something to prove, too. The SEC has to show it was more than a two-team league this season, and the Big 12 has to show it deserved all the regular-season kudos that flowed its way.
[Inside the bowls: Mountain West is unparalleled when it comes to bowls]
Steve Megargee’s answer: I’d pick the ACC, with a qualifier. I don’t think anyone really cares how the ACC fares in its lower-tier bowls. All that matters is how the ACC does in its two BCS games. The ACC’s 2-11 record in BCS games is far and away the worst of any of the six major conferences. This marks the first time the ACC has received multiple BCS bids, and the Sugar Bowl’s decision to hand an at-large invitation to Virginia Tech received the most criticism of any BCS selection in the past few seasons. The ACC has a great opportunity to change its dismal BCS history. Clemson is a 3.5-point favorite over West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Michigan is favored by 2.5 to 3 points over Virginia Tech, but this is certainly a winnable game for the Hokies. If the Hokies and Tigers win their bowls, the complaints about Virginia Tech’s Sugar Bowl bid will die down and the ACC gains some national respect. If Clemson and Virginia Tech split those two games, it likely doesn’t change the ACC’s reputation as a BCS underachiever. And if both teams lose, the jokes about Virginia Tech’s Sugar Bowl invitation and the ACC’s BCS woes could last throughout the offseason.
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