Except for the Army-Navy game, college football's "pre-bowl season" came to an end yesterday...and I still have not come down from my SEC Championship Game high.
I am not surprised that my Auburn Tigers beat South Carolina, but the way they did it was something nobody could have predicted. I was expecting a tightly contested nail-biter that would go down to the last minute, but Auburn throttled 'em from the beginning. The defense was strong all the way through, making big stop after big stop in both the passing and running game after having been questionable through the season. The 56-17 final represented the largest margin of victory in SEC Championship Game history, and it would have been even larger if not for three dropped passes that killed second quarter drives.
Aside from that game, I was happy that Oregon knocked off Oregon State to clinch the Ducks vs. Tigers match-up everyone wants to see for the national title. And I was happy to see games being played in the snow in places as far apart as Cincinnati, OH and Boone, NC.
I had mixed emotions about Oklahoma and Nebraska squaring off for the Big 12 title. I am 39 years old, which means I have been around long enough to remember the days when Oklahoma-Nebraska was one of the biggest annual rivalries in all of sports. For 71 consecutive years, up until the mid-1990's, those teams ended the season against each other on national television. The championship of the old Big Eight Conference was almost always on the line, as was a bid to the Orange Bowl. On multiple occasions, an opportunity to play for the national championship depended on the outcome. Look at the names of players who participated in that rivalry, and you will see the names of legends: people like Lee Roy Selmon, Brian Bosworth, and Broderick Thomas on the defensive side of the ball; and people like Johnny Rodgers, Irving Fryar, and Billy Simms on the offensive side. It was bad enough when the game was relegated to an every-several-years event, but now that it has been snuffed out almost entirely by Nebraska's departure from the Big 12, it feels like there is a gaping hole in the spirit of college football.
One more thing about Oklahoma-Nebraska, or, more precisely, the Big 12. Based on media coverage you probably think Texas has dominated the conference for the past decade, but in reality, with the Sooners' 23-20 win last night, Oklahoma has won seven Big 12 crowns since 1999 while Texas has won only three. That's one more reason you should impose a hefty discount on any impression the American media gives off.
Now it is time for the Stanton's Space Top Twenty. First I feel compelled to say that based on the way Auburn has played over the past few weeks, I think they deserve the #1 spot. However, since Auburn and Oregon are destined to play each other in 37 days and settle everything on the field, I will not downgrade an outstanding Oregon team that has never been beaten. My hope is that my alma matter will drop an indisputable downgrade on the Ducks by defeating them on January 10th...but until that date comes and goes, here is the college football landscape as I see it:
5. Ohio State
7. Michigan State
11. Virginia Tech
12. Texas A&M
16. Boise State
17. Oklahoma State
18. South Carolina
20. Mississippi State