There are two schools of thought on what lessons we can take from the BCS/bowl results.
You can argue that bowl game results are about nothing more than team matchups, and which school comes in with better preparation and motivation:
… Nor do I use the bowls as conference barometers. If we do, how can we place so much importance on Florida beating Ohio State while ignoring an unranked Penn State making Tennessee look ugly or Wisconsin having no problems with Arkansas?… If last night’s win is a fundamental statement by the SEC, what was it last year when the SEC champion fell behind 28-0 to a team from the Big East? I guess I just put a lot more value in matchups than geography.
The win much more than anything else just means that Florida was better and more prepared than Ohio State. It’s amusing that every SEC team on Florida’s schedule came closer to Florida than Ohio State did, but that doesn’t make the Buckeyes on par with Vanderbilt. Those extrapolating that Ohio State would be an 8-4 SEC team (and I’ve seen that very line) are reading way too much into a single game…
On the other hand, you can see the results as more – as an indication of the strengths and weaknesses of the conferences that are represented by the winning and losing schools:
… Despite all the claims by pro-Michigan sports pundits prior to the bowl games that the poll voters were being deceived and the SEC was overrated, it seems as if the opposite was true. They claimed the Big Ten was top heavy while the SEC was just a bunch of good but not great teams. In the end Big Ten seems to have been the overrated conference last year as the perceived strength of its top two teams proved to be false…
I’m not entirely unsympathetic to either point of view, although I lean more to the team matchup camp. Ohio State was so spectacularly unprepared on the defensive side of the ball to handle Florida’s scheme that you have to wonder what the Buckeye defensive coaches were doing for the past month and a half or so. How is that a reflection on the quality of the Big 10 or the SEC this past season? And does anyone really want to argue that the Fiesta Bowl means something about the relative strengths of the Big XII and the WAC?
On the other hand, don’t we have to consider that part of what goes into a team’s mental preparation and emotional state for a bowl game builds from what has happened to it during the regular season schedule? How much does the confidence that Florida displayed Monday night result from being tested with a very tough SEC slate? And what does Georgia’s (probably the fifth best team in the conference in ’06) win against Virginia Tech (according to the polls, the best team in its conference) say about how down the ACC was in 2006?
But on the other hand (I know, I know) the Fiesta Bowl is the game that fascinates me the most from this post season. You really can’t argue that BSU was tested during the regular season – the Broncos did destroy a then ranked Oregon State, but I can’t help but think that pretty much every team ranked in the top 10 would have gone through their slate of games undefeated – but, just like their game against Georgia in 2005, they drew up a game plan that they expected would minimize the talent differential and were confident that their desire would take them the rest of the way.
The important differences for BSU in those two games were that they were much more composed, which was clearly reflected in the turnover margin (-6 in Athens; +1 in the Fiesta) and the play of the opposing quarterbacks (which was big because BSU on defense loads up to stop the run). Did Oklahoma take them for granted more than did Georgia (even a little bit)? No doubt, but BSU hung in there against the Sooners when it looked like things were going south and deserved the win.
In the end, Boise State was the perfect storm of D-1 football this past season. Also, this blogger is right to suggest that the bloom is wearing off the Bob Stoops’ rose a little bit as a big game coach.