Three-Point Stance: SEC struggles, title droughts, Group of Five

National columnist rivals Mike Farrell is here with a look at the SEC’s postseason fights, a breakdown of five programs that have experienced long title droughts, and a list of the best defensive players in the Group of Five.


Mike Leach (USA Today Sports Images)

Ah, the mighty SEC. It doesn’t look that good so far in bowl season. While the conference’s eventual success or failure will largely be judged by how Alabama and Georgia perform in the CFB playoffs, the SEC is 0-4 in bowling games so far with some nasty losses.

After all, a SEC team shouldn’t lose to one of the military academies like Missouri did to the military, right? And the league certainly shouldn’t lose to a supposedly inferior Group of Five program in the state like Florida did with the UCF, right? Put Auburn blowing the match against Group of Five Houston and Mississippi State getting punctured by a Texas Tech team led by an interim manager and so far it hasn’t gone well.

There are some imminent possibilities for the SEC to return to respectability if South Carolina can upset North Carolina or if Tennessee wins as planned against Purdue on Thursday. Arkansas, Kentucky and Ole Miss are all favorites even on New Year’s Day. But maybe the SEC is a little down this season? I doubt Alabama lose to Cincinnati, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Georgia lose to Michigan.

At this point, it seems likely that the league will record a record of overall losses this postseason. Of course, SEC fans will say second-rate boules don’t matter to their favorite teams, but how long does that excuse last?



Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh (USA Today Sports Images)

The Michigan run this season made me think of other ailing fans who deserve a playoff run like Jim Harbaugh is giving the faithful Wolverines. Here are five with a look at Michigan too.


Last national championship: 1997

The Wolverines are in the playoffs this year, so they got their first crack from one of these teams to finally get over the hump. The most successful program in college football history, Michigan has been completely dominated by their rival Ohio State for the past 20 seasons, where the Buckeyes have a 17-3 lead in head-to-head matches. But by winning this year and making it to the playoffs, perhaps the situation has finally changed and Jim Harbaugh will be able to bring this legendary program back to the top of the college football mountain.


Last national championship: 1998

Things have been very gloomy on Rocky Top for a while now, going through five different head coaches (plus two interim) since then. Phil Fulmer retired in 2008. I’m 80-80 in those 13 seasons, but Josh Heupel seems to have found something with this team that takes the attack around and takes this team to a game of bowls despite losing more transfers than anyone else in the country. It will be very difficult to defeat Georgia in the east in the coming seasons, but they have the resources and the will to do whatever it takes to get there. And the fan base would go crazy to be relevant again.


Last national championship: 2001

There was a time when it felt like The U was going to be a contender every season forever. With an apology to the 2019 LSU team, Miami 2001 was the most talented team in college football history and we all thought it would stay that way given the amount of talent in the “State of Miami”. But amid some questionable coaching hires and the university’s lack of investment in the program, they are back to being an intermediate level team in the ACC. Mario cristobal it’s a really good hiring, and if there’s anyone who can bring them back to national prominence, it’s him.


Last national championship: 2005

Asking if Texas is back has become a joke at this point. Since when Mack Brown retired, they made two hires that turned out to be poor and now in Steve SarkisianIn their first season, they lost six straight games for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower’s first administration term, including a terrible loss to Kansas. The Longhorns will always have a huge budget and as many state-of-the-art talent as anywhere in the nation, but with the impending move to the SEC, they will have to make big strides soon if they are to compete for a conference title, much less a national title.

Penn State

Last national championship: 1986

The Nittany Lions have one of the most passionate fan bases in the country – seeing a White Out at Beaver Stadium should be on any college football fan’s wish list. But it’s been a minute since they were really relevant to the national championship match. Joe Paterno turned them into a national program and they are able to recruit anywhere in the country, but they haven’t put it all together in a while. However, they brought their best recruiting class into the James Franklin it was for the 2022 cycle and if they can maximize that talent, they should be able to make it to the playoffs in the near future.


Last national championship: 1997

Scott Frost should have brought the Huskers back to the fore, but so far it has been a colossal failure and Nebraska seem further away from the playoffs than anyone else on this list. Without the recruiting base of others, the Huskers will have to do it with less talent than everyone else. Cincinnati gives them some hope, but the Big Ten is a tough toboggan. The days of Tom Osborne they look a long way off, but can you imagine the fan base if they returned to the title photo?



Ahmad Gardner

Ahmad Gardner (USA Today Sports Images)

Finally, earlier this week I named my group of the five All-American offenders. Here is the defense.

DL: Elijah Chatman, SMU – The best home defender in the PFF, Chatman, is as good as he is against running. Not only can he occupy more blockers, but he regularly enters the backfield to stop opponents running backs before they even reach the scrimmage line.

DL: Jonah Tavai, State of San Diego – The Aztecs had one of the best defenses in the country this season, and their first seven, led by Tavai and Cameron Thomas, were the definition of disruptive. Tavai was the best defensive linesman in the country in almost all quick passing stats, but he was also outstanding against running.

Edge: Andre Carter II, Army – Carter finished the season with 14.5 sack, first of all Group of Five players, and was the best edge rusher in the Group of Five according to the PFF. It accounted for more than half of all army bags as a squad.

Edge: Cameron Thomas, State of San Diego – Another great pass rusher, Thomas had 12 sacks during the season for an Aztec defense that was among the best in the country. He also led the country in quarterback wins and was second in haste while he was first in Group of Five in loss tackles.

LB: Chad Muma, Wyoming – The best tackler in the nation, Muma is the definition of sideline to sideline linebacker. He finished the season with 142 tackles and three interceptions, including two pick-sixes, earning PFF’s seventh-best mark among all defenders in the country and the best defender in the Group of Five.

LB: Ivan Pace Jr., Miami (Ohio) – A thumper in the middle for the RedHawks, Pace has been great all season. He led Miami to a surprising bowl appearance, finishing with 125 tackles, 13 TFLs, four sacks and three interceptions. He just did it all.

CB: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati – “Sauce” is not only the best cornerback in the Group of Five, he is probably the best in the country. He only allowed 47.2 percent of passes thrown at him to complete and he didn’t give up a single touchdown by recording three interceptions.

DC: Ja’Quan McMillan, East Carolina – Despite its small size, McMillan is a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. His five interceptions were the best in the country and he surpassed PFF’s coverage rating for all players in the Group of Five.

S: Teja Young, FAU – Young was one of the few positive points for an unsuccessful FAU team. He finished his second season in the red jersey with 57 tackles, three interceptions and two pick-sixes, and achieved the highest overall rank and highest degree of coverage from the PFF among Group Five safeties.

S: Quindell Johnson, Memphis – Group of Five leader in scrambled passes, Johnson played as good a midfielder as anyone else in the country. The junior also added over 100 tackles, proving he can really do it all from a safe position.

Flex: Marcus Jones, Houston – It’s not just about Jones’ cornerback game, which is excellent, but it’s also the best comeback in the country, bar none. He reported two kickoffs for touchdowns with an average of 34 yards per return and also two points for touchdowns. Oh, and it’s also PFF’s third most voted cornerback in the Group of Five.

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