Dallas Colleges: 2012 bowl overview 010913
Alabama’s utter domination of the No. 1 team in the country gave SEC commissioner Mike Slive and his league one more crystal ball to add to a stellar collection. It made seven BCS titles in row for the SEC, and continued to show the massive stronghold the SEC has built in college football.
Alabama’s win also gave the league a 6-3 bowl record, which was the best of any AQ conference. The last time the SEC failed to have a winning record in the postseason? Well, you have to go back to 2005 (3-3). The last time the SEC had a losing record: 2002 (3-4).
More importantly, the league has more crystal hardware for the rest of the nation to glare at.
Only days before Nick Saban's squad won its second straight national title and third in four years, fans from all over took to social media to berate the SEC for its bowl shortcomings, thanks to flat performances by Florida, LSU and Mississippi State. It didn’t matter that the SEC entered the final weekend of the bowl season with a winning record, those three losses had people screaming that the SEC wasn’t the beast it -- and the media -- portrayed it to be.
Sure, six teams finished the regular season ranked inside the top 10 of the BCS standings, but two fell at the hands of teams deemed inferior. First, it was No. 8 LSU, which appeared to have the Chick-fil-A Bowl in hand late in the third quarter before No. 14 Clemson roared back with three straight scoring drives to win 25-24 on a last-second field goal.
The next day, Northwestern blasted Mississippi State 34-20 before No. 3 Florida was run out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome by No. 20 Louisville in a 33-23 loss in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
Those three games had the SEC temporarily hunched over with its tail between its legs, but there was much more to the bowl season than just three losses.
You had Vanderbilt’s 38-24 win against NC State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in which the Commodores dominated just about every moment of the game. Tenth-ranked South Carolina registered a thrilling, last-minute Outback Bowl win against No. 18 Michigan, while No. 7 Georgia won a back-and-forth game with 16th-ranked Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl to take some pride away from the Big Ten.
That was all before Johnny Manziel and his ninth-ranked Aggies rolled past No. 11 Oklahoma 41-13 in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and Ole Miss creamed Pittsburgh 38-17.
Still, it took an Alabama beatdown for the rest of the country to quiet down about all the overrated talk. Did the SEC come up short in a couple of games? Absolutely. Florida and LSU were the more talented teams, but laid eggs for the league, while Mississippi State looked lost from the start against Northwestern.
The league was far from perfect, but it led BCS conferences in bowl wins and captured the biggest one of all -- for the seventh straight year -- to once again leave the rest of the country looking up at the South.
The Big 12 was the best league in college football from top to bottom (or, perhaps more accurately, bottom to top), but qualifying for those bowl games also means you've got to play them. The lesson the Big 12 learned was clear: Its strength was in the middle of the league, with mostly just OK teams at the top and good-but-questionable teams at the bottom.
Like in 2010, the Big 12 was weak at the top. The same was true at the bottom, where overachieving Iowa State played its worst game of the year against a 10-win Tulsa team that cracked the Top 25 and dominated the line of scrimmage while the Cyclones offense sputtered. West Virginia's fall from grace (and the top five ... and Big 12 respectability) finished in predictably ugly fashion. When you began writing the story of WVU's season, you couldn't have written a more gruesome finish than a 24-point loss to a Big East team (the same Big East, though, that went 4-1 against the SEC this year) in a snowstorm.
Where the Big 12 shined, though, was predictable. The middle of the league was perhaps its biggest strength relative to the rest of college football, and we saw that play out on the field. Oklahoma State drew one of the easiest matchups of the bowl season and made a mediocre Big Ten team in Purdue look like an FCS team, delivering the worst beating of anyone the Boilermakers faced all season.
The Big 12's biggest wins, though, came in two of its toughest matchups against the league that was its toughest competition for the nation's No. 2 league: the Pac-12.
Texas and Baylor both faced top 20 opponents from the Pac-12 and did so as underdogs. Baylor won in spectacular fashion in the Big 12's bowl opener, earning respect for the league and a clear edge in the Big 12 vs. Pac-12 debate. Oregon's beatdown of Kansas State leveled the playing field between the two leagues, but ultimately, those two games likely gave the Big 12 an edge in the debate between the two conferences. Despite the losses everywhere else, that's saying a little something.
The Big 12's lackluster performances on its biggest stages means it will fall short when it comes to national respect. It leaves the league without a single top 10 finisher and critics deservedly questioning the credentials of the league's co-champions. However, the strong performance against the Pac-12 gives it the edge as college football's No. 2 league.
For the Big 12 , there was no big movement or exodus into the Top 25, no grand statement. Just a 4-5 record and a feeling of being underwhelmed with college football's postseason complete.
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