FAYETTEVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference might wind up winning its 10th college football championship in 13 years Monday night when No. 1 Alabama squares off against No. 2 Clemson for the fourth consecutive year.
But the SEC cannot finish with the best bowl record among conferences. Conference USA has already clinched that with a 4-2 record, a .667 win percentage. C-USA teams did not face a member of a Power 5 conference, but Louisiana Tech thumped Hawaii 31-14 in the Hawaii Bowl and Marshall downed South Florida 38-20 in the Gasparilla Bowl to notch impressive victories.
How leagues fared in bowl games
Conference USA;4-2;.667;La. Tech, Marshall post best wins
Independents;2-1;.667;Army, BYU scored 119, Notre Dame 3
Mountain West;3-2;.600;Utah State blasted North Texas 52-13
Sun Belt;3-2;.600;Arkansas State could have vaulted league to top
Big 12;4-3;.571;3 of 4 victories came vs. SEC squads
Big Ten;5-4;.555;Iowa salvaged 1-3 mark vs. SEC teams
SEC;6-5;.545;East went 2-4, West 4-1 with Bama up for title
ACC;5-5;.500;Clemson carrying league banner once again
Mid-American;1-5;.167;Ohio’s shutout kept a bagel off the board
Pac-12;3-4;.429;Victories came over teams who went 22-18
American;2-5;.286;Central Florida among the 5 losers
The SEC is 6-5 this postseason, bouncing back from a 5-6 record a year ago, including Alabama's 26-23 victory over Georgia for the Crimson Tide's fifth national title in a nine-year span.
Coach Nick Saban can win his seventh national championship in 16 years if his favored Crimson Tide can beat Clemson for the third time in the last four playoffs.
Alabama has carried the SEC's banner in the postseason for most of the last decade -- since Florida, LSU and Florida went back-to-back-to-back as national champions in 2006-08 to begin the league's unprecedented run of seven consecutive titles.
The SEC West is 4-1 this postseason, with only Mississippi State's 27-22 loss to Iowa keeping the division from a perfect mark.
Auburn and Texas A&M had big victories, with Auburn crunching Purdue 63-14 and the Aggies routing North Carolina State 52-13.
LSU denied Central Florida of the notion of staking claim to a share of a second consecutive national title and ended the Golden Knights' winning streak at 25 games with a 40-32 victory on New Year's Day. The Tigers did it with their entire starting secondary out for most of the game, either through targeting ejections, injuries or to avoid injury due to the NFL Draft, as was the case with cornerback Greedy Williams.
The SEC East fared much worse at 2-4, though Florida's 41-15 splattering of Michigan in the Peach Bowl was a league highlight.
The Big Ten, last year's bowl sweepstakes winner with a 7-1 mark, came back to the pack with a 5-4 record, thanks largely to a series of SEC spankings. In addition to the Purdue and Michigan routs, Penn State fell 27-24 to Kentucky despite a late rally.
Mississippi State could have made it a clean sweep for the SEC over the Big Ten, but the Bulldogs struggled in the red zone against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
The Pac-12, a miserable 1-8 in bowl games last season, improved slightly to 3-4.
Here's a look at the best and worst of the SEC during the bowl season.
Auburn's blowout win over Purdue was impressive, but Florida's mauling of Michigan carried more weight because the Wolverines were one game removed from a chance to lock up a spot in the four-team playoff.
The Gators held a 13-10 lead at halftime before going on a rampage. Florida won the turnover battle 2-0, including Chauncey Gardner-Johnson's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, and out-gained Michigan 427-326 in total yardage.
Purdue's claim to fame was being the only team to beat Ohio State, which the Boilermakers did in resounding fashion with a 49-20 rout on an emotional night in West Lafayette, Ind.
But Purdue was a 6-6 bowl team and Auburn treated the Boilermakers like also-rans, beating them like a drum in the Music City Bowl. Auburn had 586 total yards to Purdue's 263 yards, and Jarrett Stidham passed for 373 yards and 5 touchdowns.
South Carolina lost 28-0 as a favorite against Virginia in the Belk Bowl to give the ACC three consecutive victories over the SEC in Charlotte. The Gamecocks had were outgained 413-261 in total offense and an embarrassing 42:35 to 17:25 in possession time.
Biggest 'Doh!' Moment
Mississippi State receiver Stephen Guidry had his hands on a Nick Fitzgerald pass not once but twice in the end zone with about 8:40 left in the game and the Bulldogs trailing Iowa 24-22. Guidry not only didn't catch the pass, but he knocked the ball in the air where it was intercepted by Jake Gervase, who returned it 28 yards. The Hawkeyes would drive down to kick a field goal and go up 27-22.
Best performance (offense)
Texas A&M tailback Trayveon Williams had 19 carries for 236 yards, an average of 12.4 yards per carry, and scored 3 touchdowns as the Aggies routed North Carolina State 52-13 in the Gator Bowl.
Best performance (defense)
Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson intercepted two passes, including the 30-yard touchdown return, in the Gators' 41-15 rout of Michigan. Gardner-Johnson became the first Gator with multiple interceptions in a game since he did it in Florida's victory over Iowa in the 2017 Outback Bowl, including a 58-yard return for a touchdown.
Georgia Coach Kirby Smart was asked if his team wasn't focused on the Sugar Bowl, perhaps because the Bulldogs thought they belonged in the College Football Playoff.
Smart said, "Our team was motivated to play Texas. Texas outplayed us, outcompeted us. They outcoached us. They outphysicaled us. They did a lot of things better than us, and I think you give Tom [Herman] a lot of credit."
Sports on 01/03/2019
Print Headline: SEC BOWL ANALYSIS: West enjoys better success than East