AUBURN – The Big Ten dominated Saturday, and the SEC joined the old Big East (American Athletic Conference) as the big losers of the day. The Big Ten not only went 4-0 against other BCS teams, but won three of the four by more than 10 points more than expected to lay out the case that the long SEC dominance that started in the 2007 Bowl Games could be at an end. The following are all BCS match-ups, with how much better or worse each team did than the predicted result at www.masseyratings.com:
|BCS Wins||BCS Losses||Non-BCS Losses|
|AAC||None||USF 6, MSU 21 (+6); Cincy 17, Illinois 45 (-41); Memphis 14, Duke 28 (-7)||None|
|ACC||Duke 28, Memphis 14 (+7); Miami 21, Florida 16 (+12)||Syracuse 27, NW 48 (-13); UVa 10, Oregon 59 (-32)||None|
|Big 12||None||None||Texas 21, BYU 40 (-22)|
|Big 10||MSU 21, USF 6 (-6); Illinois 45, Cincy 17 (+41); Northwestern, 48, Syracuse 27 (+13); Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30 (+14)||None||Indiana 35, Navy 41 (-13)|
|Pac12||Oregon 59 , UVa 10 (+32)||None||None|
|SEC||None||Florida 16, Miami 21 (-12)||None|
The Big Ten was last viewed as the best conference before the 2007 BCS when Michigan and Ohio State were viewed as the top two teams in the country, and Urban Meyer had to talk Florida into the title game over the objections of Lloyd Carr to avoid an Ohio State-Michigan rematch for the title. Not only did Florida hold Troy Smith to 35 yards of passing and two turnovers for the 41-14 blowout, but LSU crushed Notre Dame and Auburn beat Nebraska to start a string of dominance that included every BCS title since.
In many seasons over the past three decades I made the case for the SEC’s dominance, but that simply has not been the case this year. The SEC was better in last season’s bowl games, including winning two of three against the Big Ten, but Ohio State was ineligible last season. The one big positive for the SEC Saturday was that a Washington State team that Auburn handled last week then beat a ranked USC team, so the SEC could still emerge as the best conference for the seventh straight season.
However, with most SEC teams beating up on easy early season opponents, the Florida Gators upset loss to Miami 16-21 Saturday was significant. Florida was the second best team in the SEC last season, finishing ranked No. 3 – ahead of Georgia and behind Alabama – before being destroyed by Louisville. The fact that they would be upset again in their next game against a non-SEC BCS team (that had not beaten a ranked team since 2009) a week after Georgia was upset by an ACC team calls the SEC’s dominance into question. If South Carolina had emerged from Saturday as the next best SEC team the SEC could argue it has four national contenders, but the fact that Georgia would be upset by the ACC (Clemson) one week and then handle South Carolina gives the ACC a huge edge over the SEC so far.
If the ACC were suddenly beating up on everyone, that would be one thing, but the fact is the Rose Bowl conferences both drubbed ACC teams with surprising ease Saturday. Northwestern (Big Ten) beat the ACC’s Syracuse by 13 points more than expected, 48-27, and Oregon (Pac-12) beat UVA by 32 points more than expected, 59-10.
So far this season the SEC is resting on its laurels. While Alabama looks like by far the best team again this year, Kentucky has been the best basketball team many years and that does not make the SEC the best basketball conference.
Certainly LSU will join the winner of next week’s Texas A&M-Alabama game with a big shot at the national title, but when Missouri and Tennessee are the only two undefeated teams in one of your conferences after just two weeks, questions are legitimate.
In basketball, the Big Ten has started to win the ACC-Big Ten challenge after years of ACC dominance to make it clear it had the better basketball conference the past two years. The SEC and Big Ten are not going to schedule direct show downs during the regular season, but when the Big Ten dominates teams from the American Athletic-old Big East (Michigan State over South Florida and Illinois over Cincinnati), ACC (Northwestern over Syracuse) and Notre Dame, and the SEC struggles against the ACC, you have to give the Big Ten the edge so far this season.
While some will argue that it is a long season, the fact is most non-conference games happen in the early season so conferences can only be judged based on the early season when they are playing each other. The Big Ten comes out of Saturday way up, and the SEC down.
Here in Auburn the Tigers beat Arkansas State, but that along SEC wins over Miami-OH, Toledo, Western Kentucky, Alcorn State, Samford, SE Missouri State, Sam Houston State, UAB and the team with the best rallying chant in sports (Austin Peay with “Let’s go Peay”) do little to help the SEC on a Saturday in which the only other games were Florida being upset by Miami and South Carolina losing to a Georgia team that just lost to Clemson.
Next week the SEC has three tough battles with Kentucky hosting #8 Louisville, Tennessee traveling to #2 Oregon and Old Miss traveling to play a Texas team that will drop from #15 after being drubbed by BYU.
But if the SEC does not have an upset in any of those three games, then the winner of three big Pac12-Big Ten match-ups can claim early bragging rights as the top conference. The three big games are #21 Wisconsin vs. Arizona State, #20 Washington against a Illinois team that looked surprisingly good Saturday in crushing Cincinnati and the Nebraska (#22) vs. UCLA (#18) game.