Monday, November 5, 2012
It's never been about style in the SEC
By Chris Low
The SEC haters will continue to hate.
That’s what happens when a conference has won six straight national championships and receives the kind of national publicity this league does.
There’s a point where enough is enough, and the rest of college football reached that point three or four national championships ago.
Is the SEC so dominant that nobody else in college football compares? No.
Does the SEC catch a bit of a break because it plays just eight conference games? Yes.
Is the SEC’s national championship streak going to last forever? No.
Alabama is one of several SEC squads that would much rather get physical than flashy.
But while the college game is constantly changing and evolving, one thing won’t change in the SEC: It’s a line-of-scrimmage league where generating stops on defense, particularly in the red zone, far outweighs generating basketball scores on offense.
We were reminded of this yet again Saturday night.
While Oregon and USC were busy jacking up 3-pointers, fast-breaking at every opportunity and scoring so fast that the scoreboard couldn’t keep up, Alabama and LSU were locked up in one of those classic, hit-‘em-in-the-mouth affairs that has come to define the SEC.
It’s not always pretty, especially if you’re into gaudy statistics, but it’s a proven formula for winning national championships.
Moreover, if you’re going to make it through the grind of the SEC, you'd better be able to run the ball, stop the run and find ways to get it done in the fourth quarter.
And when you play in the SEC, it’s a style -- be it old-man football or grown-man football -- that’s ingrained in you.
“I’m not publicly knocking anybody else’s style, but this is a game I like to play in, a physical game, great defense and running the ball,” Alabama senior center Barrett Jones said after the Crimson Tide’s 21-17 victory over LSU.
“Those guys played their hearts out. They came with a great game plan. I knew Coach (John) Chavis would have an excellent game plan, and they really play physical. It just doesn’t get any better than playing in these types of games.”
Everybody likes a shootout from time to time, even the SEC purists. And there have been a few in this league already this season.
Georgia beat Tennessee 51-44 back in September. Texas A&M stepped outside the conference and outlasted Louisiana Tech 59-57. South Carolina beat Tennessee 38-35 two weeks ago.
But trying to win like that every week in the SEC is a losing proposition.
The Aggies are as hot on offense as anybody else right now, and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has put up mind-numbing stats.
Their matchup with Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa should be awfully compelling, particularly when you consider the physical and emotional toll that the LSU game had to take on the Crimson Tide.
But it’s also worth noting that both of Texas A&M’s losses this season came against the two best defenses it has faced. Florida shut out Texas A&M in the second half and won 20-17 the second week of the season. LSU, after giving up nine early points, put the squeeze on Texas A&M the rest of the way and won 24-19.
So in two games against defenses ranked in the top five nationally, Texas A&M failed to score 20 points.
The Aggies get a third shot against one of the top defenses in the country on Saturday.
Everybody wants to know how Oregon would fare against Alabama or, for that matter, how Kansas State would do against the Crimson Tide.
My guess is that the Ducks would have a better chance than the Wildcats because of all the explosive playmakers the Ducks have on offense and their ability to generate big plays.
But Alabama hasn’t given up more than 17 points to an FBS team since losing to Auburn at the end of the 2010 season.
Maybe we’ll see an Alabama-Oregon matchup in January. Maybe we won’t. Both teams still have some work to do to get there, and the computers in the BCS standings aren’t giving the Ducks much love right now.
Whatever happens, it’s up to the rest of the country to figure out that you’re not going to end the SEC’s reign by short-circuiting scoreboards. That’s just not the way they roll in these parts.
Some may call it boring. They tend to call it effective in the conference everybody loves to hate.
It’s why five of the top eight teams in the BCS standings this week are from the SEC.