Actually, I'm a little concerned that Penn State fans -- many of whom have written in to me with similar sentiments -- are setting themselves up for disappointment by falling for the age-old bowl-win trap. It happens with at least one team every year. They go out and beat a purportedly superior opponent in a bowl game and suddenly everyone forgets about the 12 contests before it. The only problem is, most non-BCS bowl games are reflective of absolutely nothing. Case in point: Which would you say was the more accurate measuring stick of Florida State's offense last year -- the 12 regular-season games in which it struggled to gain a first down or the 'Noles' 44-point outburst in the Emerald Bowl?
When dismissing the SEC's claims to superiority, bowl games are critical evidence:
We've heard it. We get it. We've put it in bold type across the cover of Sports Illustrated: The SEC is the toughest conference. Florida proved that in the title game.
But it's not like the league is indisputably head and shoulders above everyone else. Perhaps Miles needs a reminder that two of his league's best teams last year, Arkansas and Tennessee, lost to the third- (Wisconsin) and fourth-place (Penn State) teams from the Big Ten in their bowl games. Or that the year before that, the SEC's champion (Georgia) lost its bowl game to the Big East's champion (West Virginia).
So, in case you're keeping score, the Capital One Bowl result is important in showing that the SEC wasn't that good last year, but it is not important in showing that Penn State could actually beat a good team. Penn State's victory means nothing, but Tennessee's loss is very important.
For the record, Mandel's article is useful in highlighting the boner that LSU fans have for USC and I don't disagree with him entirely that SEC fans (myself included) bang the drum a little too hard for the conference's superiority. The SEC was indeed the best conference in the country last year, but by any objective measure, USC played a very difficult schedule. The only way to conclude otherwise would be to dismiss a number of quality teams outside of the SEC, as well as the SEC West Champion. SEC fans are conditioned to media darling programs being overrated (read: Notre Dame and [often] the upper tier of the Big Ten), so they assume against all evidence to the contrary that USC must also fall into that category as well.
As for Miles's motivation for attacking USC, he's simply playing to his supporters in the same way that he did when he referred to "f***ing Alabama." The danger is that he's already setting expectations towards a match-up with USC, which is not what a good Southern coach would do. If Miles was cut from the Bryant/Dye/Dooley cloth, he'd be fretting about how he can't sleep at night worrying about the Mississippi State passing attack, or that LSU fans are excited about the Virginia Tech game, but Middle Tennessee State is going to be very challenging the next week. Instead, he has his electorate dreaming about welcoming Snoop Dogg to Canal Street, which will lead to some pissed off Cajuns if they end up in the meaningless bowl in Orlando.