Georgia and Alabama are buying into the disclaimer often heard on mutual funds advertisements. Past performance is no indication of future results.
In this case, the performance is that of Southeastern Conference teams in bowl games, at least to date.
The SEC got off to a slow start, dropping its first three before Mississippi State’s surge to beat Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday.
With a back-loaded bowl schedule, the SEC can change the narrative in three games before the Bulldogs meet Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and the Crimson Tide takes on Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Those winners play for the College Football Playoff championship on Jan. 8.
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But based on results to date, the Sooners’ Big 12 and Tigers’ ACC have fared better. And there has been meaning in postseason conference success.
Last year, the ACC had the best bowl record (9-3), helped by Clemson’s national championship. The SEC had the top record (9-2) in 2015 and Alabama won the title.
In 2014, the CFP’s first season, the Big Ten went into bowl season with each of its teams as an underdog. But the league finished 6-5 and Ohio State won the championship.
Heading into Monday’s games, the Big Ten — omitted from the national semifinals for the first time — is 7-0, with the Buckeyes, Penn State and Wisconsin winning major bowls. The Big 12 is 5-2 after a 0-2 start. The ACC is 4-5 and SEC 1-3.
Lagging at the bottom is the Pac-12 at 1-8, with its teams having surrendered an average of 35 points per game. That’s the most losses ever by a Power Five conference in the postseason, but some extenuating circumstances hit the league hard. Starting quarterbacks Josh Rosen of UCLA and Washington State’s Luke Falk didn’t play, and the Bruins, Oregon and Arizona State played through coaching changes.
This season is proving it’s possible to have the strongest and deepest conference by bowl results and not be represented in football’s Final Four, something the Big 12 has wrestled with in basketball as a top three-rated league over the past few years.
Also true is that four years into college football’s new playoff, the system works better than the BCS.
Some years, most actually, BCS championship game matchups came off without much controversy. But when the BCS got it wrong the blame game was easy to play, with computer rankings and pollsters to finger.
The CFP selection committee has had to make some tough calls _ Alabama over Big Ten champ Ohio State this year for instance. But the chairman explaining the decision moments after the announcement diffuses the contention and the sport moves on anticipating the national semifinals, and talking about such things as Baker Mayfield’s flu.
Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, declared himself healthy enough — “I’m not dying” — at Saturday’s media gathering, the team function outside of workouts and meetings he added during the week. The game’s top player who engineers a fast-paced offense against a stout Georgia defense and a freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm is the Rose Bowl’s compelling storyline.
Then it’s off to New Orleans and college football’s new best rivalry. Clemson and Alabama have split the last two title games and become the first pair or meet in the postseason for a third straight year since Southern California and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl from 1973-1975.
Clemson enters this meeting for the first time without quarterback/hero Deshaun Watson, and now Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts will attempt to follow the same path, a title-game loss followed by a victory. Hurts even called Watson a week or so after last year’s game for some advice.
“He told me to be fearless and go get it,” Hurts told reporters this week.
That’s Hurt’s objective. And if he’s successful, his team, along with Georgia, can help the SEC forget about its earlier record in the postseason.