Looking at how SEC teams performed in the postseason, noticing the body language and intensity, it looked to me like the ones that came out on top in their bowls won because they wanted to win more than the teams they were playing against while the teams that lost didn’t play with that type of desire. That is the unseen part of football. You can see it when it is taking place on the field during a game, but often you can’t see it before the game and it doesn’t have to be a lot to make a big difference in the outcome.
The past two seasons at Auburn offer a good example of what I am talking about. The 2013 Tigers won a lot of close games because they finished plays. Even though that SEC Championship team wasn’t great defensively, in a lot of the games the Tigers won the defense stepped up and made stops in critical situations. That happened against Mississippi, against Texas A&M, against Georgia and against Alabama. I really don’t think it was because the defense was more talented in 2013 than it was in 2014 other than not having a marquee pass rusher, but not having a great pass rusher shouldn’t have affected how this past season’s defense struggled in stopping the run.
I like the new SEC Network, but think it may have had a negative effect on the league teams in this year’s bowl season because of all of the recognition, the hype, glory and accolades that were going to the SEC players and teams. The mommas and daddies had to be caught up in it. The players’ girlfriends, their fellow students, the players themselves, the coaches and the fans heard it on a regular basis and when you hear it enough you start believing it.
For everybody else across the country, the extra attention the SEC received was a great motivator and the league faced a lineup of opponents determined to make a name for themselves by knocking off a team from the top league in college football.
I think what happened in the bowl season is something that teams in the SEC need to use as a great learning experience. I certainly don’t think the lack of success in postseason, compared to the regular season, has anything to do with a lack of ability on the SEC teams that lost their bowl games.
For example, when Mississippi played TCU I didn’t see any Landsharks like I did when that defense lined up against Auburn and Alabama. Another example is Mississippi State. Losing to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, the Bulldogs didn’t show the same intensity they played with when they defeated Auburn in Starkville. It just didn’t look like the same football team.
Florida is a team that struggled through the regular season, but played differently, in a positive way, during its bowl victory. The Gators’ defense did an excellent job vs. a good East Carolina offense that featured an outstanding receiver who set the school record for receiving yardage. The Florida defensive backs, coached by Travaris Robinson, did an outstanding job in that game and it will be a great thing for Auburn if the guys he coaches in his new job with the Tigers can do the same thing.
Watching Oregon and Ohio State, the teams playing for the national championship on Monday night, you couldn’t see one guy on either roster who wasn’t locked in and on a mission to beat Florida State and Alabama. They are there in the title game because they deserve to be there.
My message to the conference is it is time to get back to work and take care of the intangibles that are a big part of the game like developing leadership and all of the qualities that the great teams have. As a former coach and college football fan the message the postseason left on me was clear and that is what glitters is not always gold.
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