Alabama's loss was a humbling blow for the league, but the rest of the bowl season was certainly impressive. Boasting the national champion is always a plus, and LSU suddenly lived up to its potential with adequate quarterback play, Georgia stoned Javon Ringer and Michigan State and even Vanderbilt beat an upper-level ACC team in Boston College. SEC fans always believe their league is best. This year, they're right.
The Big 12 had a phenomenal year, by any measure. The bowl season provided the Big 12 North, the league's forgotten division, an opportunity to flex its muscles with wins by Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. But outside of Texas, which escaped Ohio State in the final seconds, the Big 12 South didn't shine when the lights were brightest. OU managed just 14 points in the national-title game, Oklahoma State couldn't get past Oregon and Texas Tech lost to Ole Miss in a telling matchup between the two leagues. The Big 12 can hold its head high, but not quite as high as the SEC.
The ACC was underwhelming during bowl season save for Virginia Tech's Orange Bowl win and Florida State's beatdown of Wisconsin. The league had a nation's-best 10 bowl teams, however, and had more BCS+ wins than any other league for the season. The ACC earned a solid third after a slow start in September.
Utah, you've earned all the praise you've received since whipping up on Alabama. And TCU went out and battled past undefeated Boise State in an exciting Poinsettia Bowl. Had BYU beaten Arizona and made it a clean sweep for the league's Big Three, the MWC may have jumped up to No. 3; but the Cougars were stopped by a 8-5 Pac-10 team. This league gained unprecedented credibility this year, which will only hope in future polls.
5. Pac-10 (19-16,11-13; 5-0, 5-0)
The Pac-10 salvaged a lost season with a spectacular postseason, but it could not jump the MWC by virtue of a 2-6 final record against their neighbors. Still, all five bowl victories were against legit teams, and USC once again looked All-World in the Rose Bowl. Almost makes you forget that Washington and Washington State were the two worst teams in BCS leagues this year.
6. Big Ten (33-18, 7-15; Bowls: 1-6, 1-6)
As good as the Pac-10 was over the holidays, the Big Ten was as bad. Iowa prevented a dreaded bagel with an easy win over South Carolina, but there was no other good news to be found. Michigan State looked overmatched against Georgia. Ditto for Penn State against USC and Wisconsin was rolled by Florida State. Northwestern and Ohio State lost at the buzzer, but good teams know how to close.
Cincinnati failed to show against a four-loss Virginia Tech team in the Orange Bowl, and Pittsburgh failed to score in the Sun Bowl. Other than that, there was good news in the bowl season, especially out of West Virginia. The Mountaineers pulled out an entertaining 31-30 win over North Carolina. The Big East did have a respectable 11-9 BCS+ mark for the season, but the league is not going to finish the year with a team in the top 15, and the league isn't exactly deep.