SEC won because they weren't playing Texas or Utah.
As a Bama fan I'll say that Utah is a good team and really took it to us in the first quarter, then again sealed the deal in the 4th. Bama underestimated them and thought they were coming in for a repeat of UGA's whipping of Hawaii like last year. Instead, Utah was really fired up, Bama was flat, and Utah were definitely the better team on the field that night in the Sugar bowl.
As someone that has followed Bama very closely this season, I'll also say that Utah exposed a very thin, young Bama team for whom everything went just right this year. We managed to get through the regular season with no injuries at critical times and finished unbeaten. Before the season, most folks who pay attention to the Tide were hoping for a 9-3 season, realistically expecting to go 8-4.
Bama was 7-6 in 2007 and barely hung on to win against Colorado in our bowl game. The 2008 season was supposed to be another rebuilding year for Bama and, with the exception of UF, the rest of the SEC's down this year. This year the stars aligned and, when firing on all cylinders, Bama was better than everyone they played except for the Gators who we hung with for 3 1/2 quarters but couldn't quite close the deal.
Four days before the Surgar Bowl our Jr. All American and likely first-round draft pick Andre Smith got suspended for talking to an agent. Our OL got shuffled and the best linemen were moved around to try to maximize the talent. Then in the second series, a second OL starter got taken out due to injury and a true freshman went in. Even clueless Fox Network was aware that only 2 of the OL were playing in their regular positions against Utah. We got exposed for our lack of depth here and the Utes took great advantage of it, bringing the house against the flailing OL, taking Bama to 3 & outs and forcing an interception in that first quarter. Our D got caught flat footed, wasn't even getting set up before Utah's no-huddle scheme was snapping the ball, and then was rattled when we went down so quickly. Good job Utes on taking it to us.
The Tide team that was out there was not the #1 ranked team that you saw at the end of the season, and certainly not the team that got beat by UF and dropped to #4. We'd probably have been beaten by Oklahoma, USC, Texas, or even Ole Miss, LSU, UGA or Texas Tech, and certainly again by the Gators.
Utah is good but in no way deserves to be #1. If they're as good as some folks think, they should start ranked higher next season and have a chance to make a run at the NC. Good luck to them. Bama's still rebuilding and developing the young talent we're bringing in. Hopefully we'll have a similar season next year.
If beating Bama makes a #1 team, UF who beat a fully functional Tide, and went on to beat the Sooners, should be #1. Texas barely hung on against OSU.