For years, one conference has ruled over the rest. No conference in the last 10 years has won as many national championships and had two teams featured in one at the same time. Since I’m writing this piece in Arkansas, it’s no mystery which conference I’m describing. It’s regarded as king among college ball; it’s the SEC.
But what if I told you the once crowned conference has become nothing more than a sub-par group of OK teams meandering around trying to hold on to their former greatness? This isn’t a rags to riches story. It’s quite the opposite. The SEC no longer stands for Southeastern Conference. SEC is simply now an acronym for Same as Every Conference.
Now, before the Hogs fans reading this riot into the newsroom and complain that the referees have cheated the conference out of everything, let’s break this down team by team.
Tennessee, once regarded as a golden boy in the conference, has long forgotten their Peyton Manning days. Now coached by Butch Jones and led by a grouping of players that had massively underwhelmed their recruiting ranking, they sit firmly at the bottom of the conference. What makes them so special is their ability to do just enough at the end of every season and summer to demand a top 25 rating. After about two games though, those who sit at Neyland Stadium are always left with a frown on their face. But don’t worry Volunteer fans. It could be worse. You could be these next teams.
Kentucky and Vanderbilt are two teams that have historically performed about as well as a Division II team would fare against an SEC team. Unfortunately for these schools, they aren’t in Div. II, they’re in the SEC. For them, it’s not about making it to a national championship, it’s about clawing their way to six wins and dragging themself into the lowest bowl game on the totem pole.
Now we move to Arkansas. Yes, surprise surprise, as great as Razorbacks fans think their team is going to do, they never seem to follow up. Razorback football is like ordering a pizza with 30 toppings and waiting patiently at the door for it to get there. When you open the door, however, all that’s waiting in its place is a Little Caesar’s, devoid of cheese, crust and tomato sauce. All that’s left is a box. Just enough to go into next season with a little bit of greasy cardboard hope.
Georgia is another team that has fallen prey recently to the mediocrity bug. After a few years of being a top 10 team on the brink of the national championship, Georgia has fallen flat; constantly being the third or fourth team in the conference just doesn’t cut it. As we saw with the firing of their incredibly successful and talented coach, Georgia doesn’t want to stay mediocre. After a few games of almost losing to lower tier Div. I and Div. II teams, Georgia looks like they’ve taken one step forward and fifty steps back.
LSU is an interesting case study. For years they’ve sat at the top of the rankings. For years their coach has eaten the grass of whatever field they play at, supposedly bringing magic to their Tiger team. As we’ve seen the past few years, though, an inability to recruit an even slightly competent quarterback has held them back and even let them drop their first game this season to an unranked Wisconsin Badger team.
Tim Tebow, sir, if you’re reading this, close your eyes. Your once glorious team is merely a mess of blue and orange arrest warrants and six-win seasons. Tim Tebow once brought Florida into the spotlight with an insanely powerful couple of seasons. What we see now, though, is a team filled with primed five-star talent barely beating teams in the also weak AAC or struggling with their first game Div. II cupcake.
Auburn, the one true love of our great former Editor-In-Chief, Dixon Land, came painfully close to losing to Jacksonville State. Spoiler alert, JSU is a Div. II team, and an average one at that. No more needs to be said.
Lastly, I point to Alabama. I can’t actually break them down too much. What I can say, though, is the reason every other team in this conference is still viewed through crimson-tide colored glasses is their continued success.
This is where I must make a request. Most fans of SEC teams have to do something when their team loses. After their team goes down before the national championship, most will cling onto the team they’ve supposedly hated all year long: Alabama. You’ve heard the phrase ‘if you love something let it go’? Well in the SEC, if you hate something, bring it close. A conference that has become so mediocre across the board has its fans fleeing into the arms of its best team.
Even if your team isn’t as good as it once was, or it says it will be year after year, stay with it. Love them. Support them. Hope for the next year, within reason, of course. But remember, your team isn’t a conference, and that conference isn’t what it once was.
By: Ian Craft, Sports Editor