John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
4 months of football taught me a few lessons...
From the WAC I learned: The power of a small regional conference. The WAC had 4 teams with 8 wins, UTSA which is investing a ton in their program and has a big market with only 1 competing pro team in the area. Louisiana Tech with an explosive offense that almost bested Texas A&M. San Jose State and Utah State, both of whom won 11 games and were better than their PAC 12 equivalents at Berkeley and Utah.
From the Sun Belt I learned: Malzahn is real. Chizik was Shizik without Malzahn, same for Todd Graham. Malzahn was still good calling the shots, Auburn will be back soon. Also learned how unique Chris Petersen is. Malzahn an Arkansas legend, abandoned the small state team just like everyone else would have.
From the SEC I learned: The SEC hype machine is what I thought it was. Mississippi State played no one and climbed the charts, only to lose every game against real competition. At the top, 6 teams found themselves highly ranked, yet no one really knew how good these teams were. Out of the 6 top teams, LSU played 4 went 2-2, Florida played 4 went 3-1, TAMU played 3 went 1-2, USC played 3, went 1-2. There is no surprise that the two teams with the weakest schedule faced off in the SEC Championship game. Georgia and Bama both played only 2 of the top 6 SEC teams and both went 1-1.
The SEC trumpeted their severe schedule, however there was only 9 meaningful games on the SEC conference schedule. TAMU is proof of the hype machine a program that went 19-22 in the the previous 5 years in the Big 12, goes 6-2 and is the next big thing. REMEMBER they went 1-2 against the top 6 programs in conference. If TAMU went 6-2 in the Big 12 and 1-2 against K State, Oklahoma and Texas, they would be ranked between 20 and 25, not between 5 and 10.
That said, Alabama IS all that is advertised and more, the 13 other teams will brag and boast about the SEC while Bama continues to just dominate. Last year LSU was my national champion, this year, Alabama is without a doubt.
From the Pac 12 I learned: The greatest coach was not Graham or Kiffin or Kelly or RichRod, it was Shaw all along. Shaw's father Willie coached at Stanford for 6 years, (74-76 as LB/DB coach, 89-91 as DC) compiling a 28-16-1 record in conference and a 0-1 bowl record. Willie Shaw's final season at Stanford was David Shaw's first season at the University. Willie Shaw was a finalist for the job, but job was given to Bill Walsh. While a student, David Shaw went 14-16 in conference and 1-1 in bowl games.
Shaw went on to coach under John Gruden, Brian Billick and Jim Harbaugh and in 14 years of major football has amassed a 122-83 record, 37-17 in the PAC 12 and 2-2 in bowl games. This year Shaw proved he was not just a beneficiary of Andrew Luck, wining the PAC-12 with a Sophomore QB. The Rose Bowl win by Stanford was their first appearance in 13 years and their first Rose Bowl win in 41 years. The PAC 12 is on notice, it's Shaw's conference now.
From the Mountain West I learned: Nice guys don't always finish last. The Mountain West was destroyed by BYU, Boise St, Utah and San Diego State. Until the Big East died, Boise came back, BYU might come back, Utah isn't doing so well in the PAC 12, and SDSU can come back if the Mountain wants them. In addition, they get San Jose State and Utah State, previously undesirable targets, both coming off 11 win seasons. The Mountain West could be the 4th or 5th best conference in the nation in 2013.
From the B1G I learned: My lesson was sanctioned and my memories vacated.
From the Big East I learned: How a conference let other people tell them what to do, and then died.
From the Big 12 I learned: When you refuse to play defense, you get more respect, (see also: MACtion)
From the ACC I learned: I hate the ACC, they whine too much. Florida State, Clemson, good bowl wins, you both still lost the games that mattered, (Florida/South Carolina) and do not deserve to be a title contender.
Finally from the MAC I learned: Solich gone Solich. NIU doesn't rebuild, they reload. If you make up a funny slogan trademark it, before the MAC does. I learned the coaching carousel has a positive, it creates it's own mini SEC...top heavy teams lording over awful teams. Instead of 5-3 or 6-2 division champs, we get 8-0 division champs, which gives us prestige and BCS money. The MAC I contend purposely, took advantage of Temple/Akron, to make it happen. But that's smart I guess. I also learned to hate Kirk Herbstreit #1 enemy of the MAC, and I can't wait to hear his "OSU doesn't get a preseason, they were rusty" speech after our Buffalo Bulls defeat his Ohio State Buckeyes in a couple hundred days.