Thirty-five random two-line thoughts for you on a rare day off from MrSEC.com…
1. Auburn deserves it’s BCS Title Game show as, once again, the BCS system works out in the SEC’s favor. Sure it took a last-game loss by Ohio State, but once more Mike Slive’s league will get its shot.
2. The biggest storyline of the Auburn/Florida State matchup? In a break from the norm the SEC brings in the high-powered offense while the opponent features the big, bad defense.
3. Will the SEC win the title again? Or will the crown once more go to the team with the best defense?
4. Early verdict: I took the better defense in the SEC Championship Game and watched it get run over, around and through. Currently, I’d take Auburn by a hair.
5. Some teams that win on Hail Marys and last-second kick returns are lucky. Others — and I’m beginning to think Auburn fits this bill — are “teams of destiny.”
6. More than the SEC’s streak of seven BCS titles will be on the line when Auburn faces FSU. An AU victory would give the state of Alabama five straight BCS championships (Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012; Auburn in 2010 and — possibly — 2013).
7. So who deserves the SEC’s Coach of the Year award? After Saturday that question is an easy one — Gus Malzahn.
8. But can we please stop comparing Malzahn’s one-year turnaround on the Plains to the first-year rebuilding work going on at Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee? Malzahn returned to a team built with top 10 recruiting classes; Bret Bielema, Mark Stoops and Butch Jones are having to restock the cupboards at UA, UK and UT.
9. Due to two-team-per-conference limit, Missouri gets the short end of the stick bowl-wise. The Tigers deserve to be in a BCS bowl after their 11-2, division-winning season.
10. The Tigers were rewarded for their season with a trip to Texas — where they no longer recruit quite as hard — to play a former Big 12 (and Big 8) rival in Oklahoma State. Some Mizzou fans weren’t thrilled with such a matchup.
11. South Carolina fans will feel left out, too, after finishing with two losses and beating Mizzou on the road. But, oh, doesn’t that inexplicable last-second loss at Tennessee loom large.
12. The Gamecocks will head to Florida for the third-straight year to face a Wisconsin they’ve yet to play. It just seems like they’ve played in the Outback or Capital One before because the SEC and Big Ten share too many bowl tie-ins.
13. We still say it’s a shame the SEC didn’t cut a bowl deal with a game outside its footprint (New York City, Las Vegas) for the next cycle of games. There will be no Pac-12 matchup, either.
14. And no, we don’t count the Belk Bowl as an out-of-territory bowl. Charlotte’s metro area reaches into South Carolina.
15. Congrats to Vanderbilt. Birmingham in January isn’t anyone’s idea of a tropic paradise, but it beats staying in-state for yet another bowl game.
16. Alabama and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Oregon might have been more interesting, but this ushers in the next era of Sugar Bowl — SEC versus Big XII — a year early.
17. Bob Stoops has flapped his gums about the SEC being overrated since last summer. Now his Sooners can put up or shut up.
18. What’s it say about Bama’s season, however, that a date with Oklahoma in New Orleans is viewed as a disappointing arrangement. Only a last-second lost to Auburn could cause such disappointment.
19. Speaking of Auburn, kudos to Nick Saban for voting the Tigers #2 in his final USA Today Coaches’ Poll ballot. You can be sure some Tide fans wouldn’t have been gone there.
20. LSU draws Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Those two schools met in the Capital One Bowl in January of 2005 in what turned out to be Saban’s final game as the Tigers’ coach.
21. The Tigers haven’t been to Tampa for a postseason game since it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl back in 1989. It’s just the second time a West Division team has played in the Outback game since January of ’98.
22. Don’t expect Les Miles to be leaving the Bayou anytime soon. That puts him in the same category with Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin (both of whom recently inked contract extensions.)
23. The Saban rumors won’t go away, however. Some sites claimed last week that a Saban-to-Texas move was imminent while others claimed Bama’s coach had already reached a new deal in Tuscaloosa.
24. We don’t believe Saban will move, but we do believe he and agent Jimmy Sexton know how to turn rumors into gold. Their brand of alchemy will likely earn the coach another raise to say put.
25. In further proof that the SEC needed to branch out bowl-wise, Georgia will face Nebraska in this year’s Gator Bowl. A year ago the Dawgs and Huskers met in the Capital One Bowl, about two hours away.
26. Yawn. Double-yawn.
27. On paper, Texas A&M versus Duke looks to be a mismatch. But with A&M’s defense on the field, it’s a good bet that the Blue Devils will be more competitive than they were against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
28. Question: Will Aggie fans make the trip to Atlanta to give Johnny Manziel a maroon-colored send-off? Or is the distance from East Texas to North Georgia just to far to travel for a date with a basketball school?
29. No offense to Duke, but A&M has drawn one of the dreaded “so what?” opponents this bowl season. Win and you were supposed to… lose and you just fell to a hoops school.
30. Mississippi State is in the same boat as they’ll face Rice in the Liberty Bowl. Of course, the Fighting Pilafs are exactly the type of team Dan Mullen’s squad tends to devour.
31. While he’s made a living off of beating weaklings and Ole Miss — which counts for a whole lot in the Magnolia State — let’s give credit where credit’s due. There’s a proliferation of bowls these days, sure, but no other Bulldog coach has ever taken the program to four consecutive bowl games.
32. Ole Miss, meanwhile, will be involved in one of the more interesting SEC bowl games. Georgia Tech’s triple-option versus Hugh Freeze’s hurry-up should make the Music City Bowl one to watch.
33. The SEC finished the regular season with seven teams in the BCS top 25 standings — Auburn (#2), Alabama (#3), Missouri (#8), South Carolina (#9), LSU (#16), Texas A&M (#21) and Georgia (#22). It was an unusual, offense-driven season around the league, but end of year results look awfully normal.
34. Last week we took a bit of grief for daring to suggest that strength of schedule should play a role when deciding who plays whom in the BCS title game. Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State — it’s first game versus a top 10 foe in two years — seems to bear out the old adage: Pressure busts pipes.
35. The loss had to be a blow to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and everyone in his league hoping to be the ones to unseat the hated SEC. Well, the SEC’s streak might end against Florida State, but it won’t be the Buckeyes of the couch-burning, rioting fans of the upper Midwest who’ll get to do the postgame bragging.