To trumpet the Southeastern Conference as powerful in the college football scene isn’t groundbreaking stuff. Especially around these parts.
After all, the SEC holds the last three national titles, with LSU as the crème filling to Florida in a BCS Oreo.
However, just take a moment to look at the league’s 6-2 run in the bowl season and concentrate on the three teams that wheezed their way into bowls — LSU, Vanderbilt and Kentucky — yet came up with victories.
- Vanderbilt, which had lost six of its final seven games after a 5-0 start, had its first bowl win since 1955 and its first winning season since 1982, when the Commodores last played in a bowl.
With a key fumble recovery in the end zone, Vandy beat No. 24 Boston College 16-14 in the Music City Bowl.
- Kentucky, which had lost six of its final eight games after a 4-0 start, has won three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.
With a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half and a 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown as the game-winner with 3:02 to play, Kentucky beat East Carolina 25-19 — after trailing 16-3 at halftime — in the Liberty Bowl.
- And LSU, which had lost five of its last eight games after a 4-0 start, won its fourth straight bowl game, all under Les Miles, in a run that includes last season’s BCS title-game win and a Sugar Bowl win.
The Tigers, who have won 10 of their last 12 bowls, put up 28 points in the second quarter and destroyed No. 14 Georgia Tech 38-3 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
What does all this mean? The SEC, 7-2 in bowls the previous season, is good. You knew that, right? Then again, last year is so last week.
ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach has LSU, which went 8-5 and finished unranked this season, at No. 9 in his day-after-the-title-game top 25 preseason poll.
Of SEC teams, Florida is No. 1 and Alabama No. 5, with Ole Miss checking in at No. 12, Georgia at 15.
That ranking reflects how much LSU did to earn back respect with that Chick-fil-A Bowl. Plus, true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s performance, coupled with the hiring of defensive coordinator John Chavis, provide hope LSU can fix its glaring problems at quarterback and on defense.
Had LSU not collapsed against Arkansas, the Tigers would have finished in the final top 25 this season. (As it was, they were effectively 28th).
Is No. 9 too lofty? The suspicion here is LSU won’t be in the top 10 when the preseason polls surface in about seven months. Look for a start in the top 15.
Ole Miss — given a six-game winning streak to close the season, a blowout win over former No. 1 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, a demolishing of LSU in Tiger Stadium and that one-point win at Florida in September — probably will begin ahead of LSU.
Either way, that’s two teams in the top five and five total in the top 15. Yep, the SEC will continue to be powerful.
Congrats to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators on the 2008 National Championship!!!
Congrats to the LSU Tigers on their rout of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets! Jordan Jefferson had a great game and I'm looking forward to seeing him next year at the starting QB position... and what do you know, his favorite receiver, Brandon LaFell, decided not to head off to the NFL after-all! Things are definitely lookin' up for next year!!!
Be sure to check out SECSportsFan.com.