- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — The wildest college football season in the Back Judge’s memory ended in predictable fashion — with an SEC team running roughshod over a visibly inferior opponent en route to yet another title.

“Man, everybody saw this coming,” LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson said after the Tigers’ 38-24 victory. “They were a talented team, but I’d say we played five teams as good or better this season in the SEC. They hadn’t seen anything like us. That’s our advantage coming from the SEC. How much more proof do you need that the SEC is the game’s best conference? No one else is even close.”

It’s hard to argue with that logic after Dixie’s latest top crop poured 31 unanswered points on Ohio State’s top-ranked defense to bury the Buckeyes early in the third quarter. It’s an old saw by now, but the disparity in speed and athleticism between the Tigers (12-2) and Buckeyes (11-2) was as obvious as a $2 toupee.

LSU’s defensive front lived up to its superhyped billing. The Back Judge gives the duo of Glenn Dorsey and Ricky Jean-Francois a perfect 10 on the disruption meter at defensive tackle. There aren’t five NFL teams with a better pair in the middle. With those two punching holes in the Ohio State front, the Tigers forced OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman into three outcome-cementing turnovers.

But the most noticeable difference between the squads came in the secondary. LSU’s receivers and tight ends ran unchecked through the Ohio State secondary all night. Not only did the Buckeyes not manage to cover them, it seemed like they simply weren’t physically capable of checking their LSU counterparts. Ohio State’s receivers, on the other hand, couldn’t breathe without first asking permission from the LSU secondary. That helps explain why LSU was 11-for-18 on third-down conversions and Ohio State was 3-for-13.

In fact, only one Ohio State player impressed on Monday night: tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells. OSU’s sophomore star showcased both his speed and his power in gaining 146 yards on 20 carries against the best defense the Back Judge saw this season. Wells ran away from All-SEC LSU safety Craig Steltz on his game-opening 65-yard touchdown burst. And he emasculated LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson with the sit-down stiff-arm of the season in the second quarter.

Wells is proof that punishing power football never goes out of style. But both the Buckeyes and the Big Ten simply need a few more Beanies to get it done against the stud-stocked SEC … or Appalachian State for that matter.

With LSU’s victory, three different SEC teams have won four of the first 10 BCS title games. Among the five other major conferences, only the Big 12 boasts multiple BCS winners (Oklahoma and Texas). Incredibly, nine of the SEC’s 12 teams made appearances in the Top 25 at one time or another this season. And one of the two that didn’t was bowl winner Mississippi State. Throw in the SEC’s conference-best 7-1 bowl performance and there’s little question it’s the most dominant “division” in any sport.

That doesn’t look likely to change next season with No. 2 Georgia returning 20 starters from the 11-2 squad that steamrolled overmatched Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. If that game had lasted six quarters, Colt Brennan would have left the Superdome on a stretcher.

Two-minute drill

• The two most trumpeted coaches in the college game (Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops) are both 1-2 in BCS title games. The Back Judge still thinks they rank 1-2 on the college coaching ladder, but their recent big-game hiccups do represent an odd disconnect for coaches who are a masterful 122-19 (.865) in regular-season contests over the last six years.

• The Back Judge would like to toss an unsportsmanlike conduct flag toward the one Associated Press voter who had the unforgivable gall to cast his first-place vote for USC. For the last time, the Trojans (11-2) lost to Stanford … a 41-point underdog … a 4-8 team … at home. That’s not just a bad loss, it’s so abysmally unthinkable that USC fans should file a class-action suit against coach Pete Carroll. By the way, USC plays host to Ohio State next season. Good times.

• The Big Ten has taken a beating in the media of late because of Michigan’s Carr-lapse and Ohio State’s back-to-back BCS bungles. But it’s time to redirect some of that backsliding venom toward the conference that deserves it far more than the Big Ten. The ACC has become almost irrelevant on college football’s title landscape over the last several years. The once game-defining programs at Miami and Florida State have spiraled into stunning states of disrepair. Both Boston College and Virginia Tech disappointed down the stretch. And only Virginia and Wake Forest actually outstripped expectations this season.

• Finally, the Back Judge would like to thank Notre Dame for being the one constant in this maddeningly unpredictable college football season. The most arrogant institution in the sports universe kept the Back Judge smiling from the first week of September until LSU’s victory-formation kneel-down in New Orleans.

2008 TOP 10

Georgia earned three first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll. And with tailback Knowshon Moreno returning as top ‘Dawg, Georgia almost certainly will begin next season with the poll pole. The Back Judge’s top 10 for next year looks like this:

Team2007

1. Georgia11-2

2. Oklahoma11-3

3. West Virginia11-2

4. Florida9-4

5. Ohio State11-2

6. USC11-2

7. LSU12-2

8. Missouri12-2

9. Tennessee10-4

10. Virginia Tech11-3

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