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South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. (Associated Press)<br>

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Time for SEC to show world it truly is the best conference

Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 5:30 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Time for the big boys to show us what they’ve got.

After a season of high rankings and low-ball competition, the SEC’s elite will finally get tested.

No, not Alabama or LSU, they seem to have relatively easy rival games this weekend.

The Tigers play Arkansas, Bama takes on Auburn. Neither of those foes are going to even the lowest of bowl games. So, it is up to a few of the other old faithful to decide the fate of this conference.

Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, all in the top 12 of the BCS rankings, have rivalry games against ACC opponents.

The ACC is considered the SEC’s little brother in the world of college football, so one would be led to believe that the big boys should roll.

However, since 1998 the SEC is just 42-36 against the lesser thought of conference during the regular season. Of course, the SEC has won the last six BCS championships.

Now let’s talk this year.

If the SEC, which has three of the top four teams in the nation according to the BCS computer system, is really the best conference, then it is time to show the world.

While I don’t believe the SEC is best from top to bottom, I do think from top to middle there is no league any better. But just the top?

That we will find out this weekend.

Granted, Georgia Tech is no real match for Georgia, having lost 10 of its last 11 to the Bulldogs. While Tech is going to play for the ACC championship, it is not the league’s second-best team.

So any talk of a Georgia loss would be a major upset. I think we can pencil that one in as an SEC victory.

It’s the other two games which I believe will go a long way in deciding just what the BCS bowl picture will look like.

Florida will get its biggest road test of the year. The Gators have played only sparingly outside the Sunshine State, and while Saturday’s game is still in Florida, it will be on hostile ground.

The third-ranked Gators, who have looked more over-ranked than anything of late, will play at No. 10 Florida State. A win by Florida and all seems right in the world of the BCS.

In fact, a break here or there and Florida might be able to use this win to get a shot at the national championship. A long shot, maybe, but still a shot. This from the team that needed a last-minute blocked punt to beat UL-Lafayette.

Thus, if Florida loses, a lot of questions can be raised about those darn computers that love the SEC.

With a win Florida State could lay claim to being the best one-loss team in all the land, especially if it routs the Gators.

Yes, that is a bad loss, but it is just one loss. Florida State would now have a win over a top-3 team on its résumé.

Then comes the other game, where No. 12 South Carolina and Clemson will do battle. Winner gets bragging rights, but for Clemson much more is on the line. The 11th-ranked Tigers could claim a BCS bowl spot with a win, an impressive victory would all but guarantees such a thing.

Here’s the thing: both Florida State and Clemson have one loss but are ranked behind a pair of two-loss SEC teams, No. 9 Texas A&M and seventh-ranked LSU. That’s hardly proof of greatness.

There is no question the SEC is better than the ACC, especially this year. Just how much better we will find out.

If these three SEC teams run the table this weekend, then in fact the conference might deserve six teams ranked in the top 12. But if they lose two of three, that opens the door to a few questions.

After all, the only nonconference win the SEC has over a BCS top-20 team is Alabama’s season-opening victory over Michigan in Dallas, and the Wolverines are ranked 19th.

That leaves us with this weekend, time for those for the SEC and those against to shut up and watch. I will do the same, and if the conference wins all three, I will stop questioning the BCS system once and for all.

Maybe.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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