The Askew Slant

Wade Askew and Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

41-14. If the SEC was looking for a statement game to prove to any remaining skeptics that it is unquestionably the nation’s best conference, they found it on college football’s biggest stage.

After hearing about how they should not be in the championship game, how Urban Meyer’s whining was all that got them there, how the SEC just had a superiority complex, Florida gave Ohio State and the rest of America 41 reasons to be quiet.

Or maybe it was 82 reasons,as in the number of total yards the Buckeyes had. Or four, the number of passes Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completed.

But the Gators’ statement was only one of many for the SEC as the power conference went 6-3 in bowl games, giving it more wins than any other conference. In the Chick-fil-A Bowl there was Georgia dominating Virginia Tech throughout the second half en route to a 31-24 win. LSU revealed Notre Dame as a pathetic BCS fraud in the 41-14 blood-bath known as the Sugar Bowl. Even traditional SEC doormat Kentucky knocked off Clemson in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (which just so happens to have won the “most unfortunately named bowl game” award, beating out strongcompetition from the San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl).

More impressive than the SEC’s bowl record is the fact that most SEC teams typically play opponents with better conference-rankings. For example, Georgia was the SEC’s sixth-ranked team whereas Virginia Tech was the highest nationally-ranked team in the ACC and finished third overall in the conference. Kentucky was seventh in the SEC, Clemson was sixth in the ACC; South Carolina, who beat Houston 44-36, was eight in the SEC, Houston won Conference USA; LSU was fourth-yes, the third-ranked team in the country finished fourth-in the SEC, Notre Dame was…well, you get the point.

Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss, who finished the game with two sacks and a forced fumble, said, “Honestly, we’ve played a lot better teams than them. I could name four or five teams in the SEC that could probably compete with them and play the same type of game we did against them.”

Fellow defensive end Derrick Harvey, who finished with three sacks, a recovered fumble and MVP honors,teamed up with Moss to epitomize why Southern football is superior to any other brand in the country.

Teams everywhere have speed at the skill positions-nobody will argue that Florida’s receivers were faster than Ted Ginn Jr. or their running backs faster than Antonio Pittman-but the SEC is unique in that speed is found at literally every position. Moss and Harvey were virtually untouched by Ohio State’s sluggish offensive line as they swarmed Smith like a pack of middle-aged women at a post-Christmas sale.

Safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Brandon Siler barely lifted a finger because of the efforts of the Florida D-line, but if needed the two could seemingly cover the entire field in one bound. Mix that with eleven of the most punishing tacklers in the country and you have your prototypical SEC defense. And, just for the record, Florida’s defense was ranked third in the SEC.

Finally, the oft-used argument recited before Florida’s win argued that SEC top teams are inferior, evidenced by no consensus national champion since Tennessee in 1998. However, this point actually works against itself; the reason SEC teams are not given the chance to compete for titles is the simple fact that SEC teams beat up on each other all year. It is unimaginably harder to run the gauntlet of the SEC unscathed as upposed to stroll through the Pac-10, as USC has done with consistency in the past five years.

As Moss said, I would give at least the top four teams in the SEC (this year: Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Auburn) a legitimate shot to beat any team in the country, whether it be Ohio State, Michigan or USC. So how can Florida be expected to win every one of their games when they had to play all three of those teams and other consistent powers such as Georgia and Tennessee?

Easy: they can’t. That is why Auburn is still the 2004 national champion in my mind, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush be damned.

Florida beat 11-eleven!-bowl teams this year, eight of which played in the SEC. Ohio State played six. And you’re telling me the Big Ten can compete with the SEC?

Am I biased? Of course. I’m from Atlanta. I’ve followed Georgia since birth. I eat, drink and breathe SEC football. But I am also reasonable. It is time for the rest of the country to be reasonable, too, and admit that yes, Southern teams are faster. Yes, they hit harder (an SEC safety hits like any other conference’s linebackers. Don’t believe me? Just watch some tape of Nelson, LSU’s LaRon Landry, or ex-Georgia stars Thomas Davis and Greg Blue.) And yes, they are consistently tested against the toughest competition, making a 9-4 season in the SEC the equivalent of a 11-2 season elsewhere.

So while you may hate us for gloating, we won’t stop until you finally accept the supremacy of the SEC. After all, Florida gave us at least 41 reasons to keep talking.

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]