NFL alums of SEC ponder end of title streak

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
10:52
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Nick SabanMarvin Gentry/US PresswireWill another season end with an SEC coach holding holding up the BCS National Championship trophy?
SAN DIEGO -- God save us from the SEC. No one else can, it appears.

For the seventh straight year, football's crystal trophy is Waffle House-bound.

The tired truth was revealed, my fellow Americans, when I quizzed a dozen SECessionists, as the proud football-mad souls from the South are known here in the great state of California.

My few days as a pollster didn't take much legwork. During training camp, sixteen players from SEC schools populated the locker room of the San Diego Chargers, who may want to stock up on grits and gumbo.

The findings: Even if the media darlings in Los Angeles can throw it a little, neither they nor any other foreigners will be manly enough to halt the SEC's run of BCS titles.

"I don't think anybody can beat the SEC," said Auburn-proud Tyronne Green, San Diego's starter at left guard. "I think the streak will keep going and going."

Asked who is best equipped to knock off the next SEC champion, former South Carolina wideout Jason Barnes mulled the field for 15 seconds.

"Can't think of anybody," he said.

Now if USC or Oregon had grizzlies for linemen, allowed Jacob Hester, the former LSU tailback, they might have a fair chance of outlasting the SEC champs.

"Until somebody proves they can do it, I won't vote against the SEC -- nobody has the linemen the SEC has," said Hester, who listens to Elvis Presley before games and ran through Ohio State's defense five years ago in New Orleans.

Reasoning that it'll take an SEC man to beat an SEC champion, Brandon Taylor, LSU's starter at strong safety last year, said Urban Meyer would be his first choice to topple the SEC in the BCS title game.

I'd asked Taylor to name a school, so let it be known that Ohio State is Urban Meyer Tech.

The SEC boys weren't snickering about Ohio State last year when the chronically overrated Buckeyes hired Meyer, although he's not a threat to them this year because the school is bowl-ineligible.

"Urban Meyer isn't dumb; he went to Ohio State because he believes he can win there," said tackle Phil Trautwein, a blocker on Meyer's two national championship teams at Florida.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesFormer LSU QB Jarett Lee says Matt Barkley and USC could give the SEC a title run.
If nothing else, Trautwein expects the SEC-hardened Meyer to apply ice to Ohio State's overly swollen ego. "I think Ohio State came in there way too overconfident," he said, remembering Florida's 41-14 victory in the Arizona desert, which started the SEC on its BCS streak.

Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan drew mention from our unofficial handicappers, but it was another longtime powerhouse -- although not its coach, even if he's a former SEC head man -- that garnered the most respect. USC, helmed by Lane Kiffin and rated No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll, poses the strongest threat to the SEC's streak, said several of the players.

"USC, there's a lot of tradition there; they know how to win, they've won a lot of big ballgames," said Jarrett Lee, the former LSU quarterback.

But what truly scares the SECessionists isn't any other football team, even the one with Matt Barkley throwing or handing the ball to NFL-caliber talent.

What frightens them down to their collective gizzard is this scenario: SEC teams cannibalizing each other during the season, thus allowing two pretenders to play for the crystal next January.

To hear Hester, a SEC football player's autumn is far more bruising than any other college player's and should garner the SEC extra points in the rankings.

"One week you might play LSU," he said, "and next week you might play at Florida. Or Alabama. Arkansas. Georgia..."

"Yes, yes," said Ronnie Brown, the former Auburn running back.

"Well," I interjected, "I've always said you guys were underpaid in college."

Hester and Brown laughed. "Go on, man," said Brown.

Saving a valuable history lesson for another day, I decided against telling several players that Southern California played a role 42 years ago in creating the football monster that is SEC football. To learn more about Sam "Bam" Cunningham and his Trojans friends, boys and girls, click here.

I did see fit to ask Brown what he thought of USC in 2003 after the Trojans went into Jordan-Hare Stadium during his junior year and whomped sixth-ranked Auburn 23-0. USC went on to win the AP national championship, which to this day sticks in the craw of LSU fans, whose team won the BCS title.

Brown said LSU, which whipped Auburn in the same year 31-7, was "probably" better than USC in 2003.

"We lost to Georgia Tech that year, too," he said. "Georgia Tech wasn't that good. I don't know if USC was that good, or we were that bad."

Brown respects USC, saying the Trojans usually "seem to accumulate a lot of guys who are double threats, not only with size but speed at all positions."

Curtis, the Gamecock-proud receiver, added that the Trojans "aren't the real USC" and that "South Carolina is the real USC because it's been around longer than USC."

In an NFL stadium set on a charmless patch of swampland in South Florida, college football will decide its next champion. Heeding my friendly experts, I'm suggesting Kiffin lease out some NFL beef if his Trojans qualify for the big game. While he's at it, he and his dad, Monte, USC's defensive coordinator, may want to bone up on smash-mouth football unlike that played in the Pac-12.

"I've seen those kids at Alabama face to face," said linebacker Jarret Johnson, a Bama man. "You'd better bring a bunch of grown men if you're going to beat those boys.

"LSU and Alabama play a different style of football," Johnson said. "Everybody else is going to the spread -- wide open. Alabama and LSU run a lot of two-back, two-tight end formations. They're going to play to the clock. They're going to wind the clock down. And they're going to beat the crap out of you."

Tom Krasovic is the creator of West Coast Bias, sports as seen from the West. He is the Chargers' blogger for UT-San Diego, and he blogs way too much about the Padres at Inside The Padres.

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