The SEC has won two-thirds of its games against Power 5 opponents (14-7) entering Alabama’s showdown against Clemson with a national title hanging in the balance.
That includes some memorable victories (Alabama-Michigan State, Ole Miss-Oklahoma State) and a couple of memorable losses (Oklahoma-Tennessee, Michigan-Florida). But with the dust nearly settled on the 2015 season, the SEC has a winning record against all four major conferences and a 1-0 mark against independents (Missouri beat BYU).
Let’s recap some of the highlights of the SEC’s games against Power 5 teams:
Big Ten blowouts: Of the five games that featured SEC-Big Ten matchups, four were blowouts, and the SEC teams won three of them. Alabama destroyed Michigan State 38-0 in the College Football Playoff and led Wisconsin 35-10 late in the season opener before the Badgers added a final, meaningless touchdown. Tennessee beat up Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl. And Georgia held a three-touchdown lead against Penn State before the Nittany Lions rallied and eventually lost 24-17. The lone blemish on the SEC’s slate against Big Ten clubs came from Florida, which surrendered 34 unanswered points in a 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
Best performances: LSU running back Leonard Fournette delivered arguably the two best performances against Power 5 opponents (244 rushing yards and two TDs against Syracuse and 212 yards and four TDs against Texas Tech), but there are several others that deserve a mention.
How about Skai Moore's 11 tackles and two game-saving interceptions against North Carolina? Or Daeshon Hall's four sacks and two forced fumbles in Texas A&M’s season-opening win against Arizona State? Or Chad Kelly (21-33, 302 yards, four TDs, INT, 73 rushing yards) and Laquon Treadwell (three TD catches) teaming up one more time in Ole Miss' bowl win against Oklahoma State?
A couple more: Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott vs. N.C. State (25-42, 380 yards, four TDs, INT, 47 rushing yards); Alabama’s Derrick Henry vs. Wisconsin (13 carries, 147 rushing yards, three TDs); Arkansas’ Alex Collins vs. Kansas State (23 carries, 185 rushing yards, three TDs); Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk vs. Arizona State (6 catches, 106 receiving yards, TD, 79-yard punt return for a TD).
Best game: This one was painful for Butch Jones, but Tennessee’s double-overtime loss to eventual playoff team Oklahoma was one of the games of the year for any conference. The Volunteers carried a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield sent the game to overtime with a touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard with 40 seconds to play. Shepard’s touchdown catch in the second overtime period proved to be the difference in the game when Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs tossed an interception at the Oklahoma 5 on the final play of the game.
This looked familiar: Much like in its season-opening drubbing of South Carolina to open the 2014 campaign, Texas A&M deceived us by routing No. 15 Arizona State 38-17 in the 2015 opener. John Chavis' defense harassed Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici. Freshmen Kirk and Kyler Murray looked like future superstars. All was right in Aggieland. Then, just like last season, the bottom fell out about midseason and Texas A&M wrapped up 2015 with a thud.
Where did that come from? Missouri had lost four straight SEC games, was in the midst of major campus turmoil and had just learned that Coach Gary Pinkel would retire before traveling to face independent BYU in the Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium. Somehow the Tigers managed to beat a BYU team that would finish 9-4, getting 117 rushing yards from Russell Hansbrough and its typical strong defensive effort.
Bowl excellence: Nine of the SEC’s 10 postseason matchups thus far have been against Power 5 teams (the lone exception was Auburn-Memphis) and the SEC is 7-2 in those games. Alabama and Ole Miss got the job done in marquee games, and Arkansas (against Kansas State), Georgia (against Penn State), LSU (against Texas Tech), Mississippi State (against N.C. State) and Tennessee (against Northwestern) mostly won comfortably. Florida (to Michigan) and Texas A&M (to Louisville) were the two losing teams.
Alabama: 2-0 (Beat Wisconsin 35-17, Beat Michigan State 38-0)
Arkansas: 1-1 (Lost to Texas Tech 35-24, Beat Kansas State 45-23)
Auburn: 1-0 (Beat Louisville 31-24)
Florida: 0-2 (Lost to Florida State 27-2, Lost to Michigan 41-7)
Georgia: 2-0 (Beat Georgia Tech 13-7, Beat Penn State 24-17)
Kentucky: 0-1 (Lost to Louisville 38-24)
LSU: 2-0 (Beat Syracuse 34-24, Beat Texas Tech 56-27)
Mississippi State: 1-0 (Beat N.C. State 51-28)
Missouri: 1-0 (Beat BYU 20-16)
Ole Miss: 1-0 (Beat Oklahoma State 48-20)
South Carolina: 1-1 (Beat North Carolina 17-13, Lost to Clemson 37-32)
Tennessee: 1-1 (Lost to Oklahoma 31-24, Beat Northwestern 45-6)
Texas A&M: 1-1 (Beat Arizona State 38-17, Lost to Louisville 27-21)
14-7 overall against Power 5 teams (plus independent BYU)
7-2 in bowl games
4-1 vs. Big Ten
3-2 vs. Big 12
5-4 vs. ACC
1-0 vs. Pac-12
1-0 vs. Independent