Coach Carter - Bowls, Brady, and Other B.S.

     Writing has also been a favorite hobby of mine, so I think it’s about time my old sports column “Coach Carter” makes a comeback. By happenstance, it is also one of my favorite times in sports: where the NFL, NBA, college football, and college basketball are all boiling in the pot at the same time. This week we can recap the college bowls, project the NFL playoffs, assess how NBA teams will need to improve following the all-star break, and lastly, discuss the disparity between conferences in college basketball. 
     Every year we hear about how much better the SEC is compared to the rest of college football. Normally I would argue that the gap may not be quite as far as they make it seem, but this bowl season takes away any defense I may have. The only two teams to lose their bowl games were Mississippi State, and Auburn. Auburn matched up against a gritty Minnesota team that needed to prove themselves in the Big Ten after missing out on the championship just so Wisconsin could get wasted by Ohio State a second time. Mississippi State got out to a 14-0 lead, but couldn’t contain Louisville and showed why they barely earned a bowl game in the first place. 
     As far as wins go, even Kentucky scraped one out with some trickery on a last second play that you should check out if you haven’t seen it yet. Alabama falling from the top hasn’t meant that the SEC has fallen from its throne on top of the college football world. Georgia controlled Baylor, LSU thumped Oklahoma, Alabama outlasted Michigan, and Florida paced Virginia. The only team that needed luck to win was Tennessee in their stunning, come from behind win against an Indiana team that lead by double digits with seven minutes left in the game. 
     On the other end of the spectrum, the Pac12 saw only 3 teams at or above .500 within the conference. The order of the power five conferences from top to bottom is as such: 
  1. SEC 
  2. Big Ten 
  3. Big 12 
  4. ACC
  5. Pac-12 
     While the Big Ten has more ranked teams, and even more teams with more than 10 wins than the SEC, I do feel that certain Big Ten teams needed to win their bowl games to make the case as the best conference. Michigan needed to beat Alabama, Wisconsin blew the game to Oregon, and Indiana lost focus and couldn’t close out Tennessee. While the rest of the Big Ten won their games, these three teams falling short kept the Big Ten out of contention as the best conference. Oklahoma and Baylor brings attention to the Big 12, but without a single other team having more than 8 wins they don’t compare to the SEC or Big Ten. 
     Sticking with football, but moving over to the NFL, the best current quarterbacks in the league are both out of the playoffs now. The goat according to wins and legacy, Tom Brady, lost to the Titans in a wild card race, throwing an interception as his final pass of the season. Brady, if you need comfort, talk to Winston of the Buccs. The goat according to statistics, NFL records and leadership, my favorite active quarterback this season, Drew Brees, was eliminated for the third straight postseason on the final play of the game. Conspiracy against the Saints? Perhaps the Super Bowl and college football champion both hailing from the same city would be too much for sports. Perhaps three rings and a head to head Super Bowl victory against Brady would make Brees too much a threat to Brady’s goat status (in addition to the records). Money controls everything in this world; if you can buy the presidency, you can buy a Super Bowl (Patriots would much rather see the Rams, and their mostly comfortable win proved that). Either way, I don’t imagine Brees or Brady will decide to retire after this season. 
     The teams left without the best chance to make it to the Super Bowl? 
The Seattle Seahawks, only because of the addition of Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers will be an obstacle, but I believe the Seahawks defense can contain the scoring enough to let the dynamic duo of Russel Wilson and Lynch to create a clutch fourth quarter performance. The Ravens will likely meet Seattle in February due to having a well rested quarterback. 
     As far as other b.s. goes, basketball will begin to thicken up as we get to the Super Bowl. The NBA has shown such a different landscape with the balance of power more evenly spread. College basketball had a great non-conference run, but with conference play starting I feel that the top 25 will become even more watered down than it already is. So far it’s all speculation at who’s good: no teams have separated themselves. Only a handful of teams play a tough schedule, so it’s even harder to see who’s good. Solid conferences will beat up on each other, adding losses, while good teams in mediocre at best conferences will seem to stand out. This disparity will cause difficulty in how to rank teams when there are no teams that appear head and shoulders above the rest. Right now I can tell you this, there are some overrated teams: Gonzaga, Ohio State, and Arizona. I can also give you a few underrated teams to look out for leading up to March: Texas Tech, Dayton, Illinois, Marquette, Creighton, and even Georgia. 
     Next week we will delve into why these teams are listed as either overrated or underrated, take a look into who will win each conference, and look at what players are looking to increase their draft stock. More NFL and NBA talk on the way as well.