The villains of the SEC
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Without villains, would there be any such thing as heroes?
College football has spawned its share of legendary villains, those players, coaches, officials, anybody or anything that has made a living out of making life miserable for your team.
I've put together a team-by-team look in the SEC at some of the most "dastardly" villains this conference has ever known. Keep in mind that the word "villain" can be a relative term.
As you might imagine, the viewpoints on something like this are extremely varied. So let's hear your input, too, and I'll produce another list Tuesday based on who you think has caused your team the most grief.
Here are my picks:
Current villain: Tim Tebow. If Tebow doesn't take matters into his own hands and make one clutch play after another in last season's SEC championship game, Alabama would have been the team facing Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game.
All-time villain: The NCAA rulebook. Alabama finds itself on NCAA probation ... again. It's the third time the Crimson Tide have been in the NCAA's doghouse since 1995. They're appealing their latest sanctions, which vacated 21 victories from 2005-2007.
Current villain: Houston Nutt. Never mind that he's one of their own and coached the Razorbacks for 10 seasons, taking them to two SEC championship games. The divorce was a messy one, and he's now heading up Western Division rival Ole Miss.
All-time villain: James Street. Arkansas fans still wince when they think back to the 1969 showdown in Fayetteville featuring No. 1 Texas vs. No. 2 Arkansas. The Hogs built a 14-0 lead and looked to be on their way to a national championship, but Street rallied the Longhorns thanks to a pair of improbable plays, sending the Hogs to a crushing 15-14 defeat.
Current villain: Nick Saban. In a little more than two years, Saban has completely changed the landscape in that state. The Crimson Tide are recruiting like gangbusters and ended Auburn's six-game winning streak in the Iron Bowl with a 36-0 rout last season, which wound up being the final blow for Tommy Tuberville at Auburn.
All-time villain: Bear Bryant. The guy with the Houndstooth hat was hard on a lot of teams in the SEC, but he really did a number on Auburn. Bryant was 19-6 against the Tigers as head coach at Alabama and won nine in a row from 1973-81.
Current villain: Lane Kiffin. The day he was introduced as Tennessee's coach, Kiffin called out Urban Meyer and the Gators. But he became Public Enemy No. 1 in Gainesville when he accused Meyer of cheating ... and was wrong.
All-time villain: Lindsay Scott. It's debatable what galls Florida fans more, the footage of Scott running down the sideline in that 1980 game on his way to the winning 92-yard touchdown or Larry Munson's legendary call?
Current villain: Urban Meyer. The Bulldogs won the SEC championship in 2002 and again in 2005, but they've gone the last three years without getting to Atlanta. Meyer's arrival at Florida has changed the landscape in the Eastern Division. Think he may save a few timeouts for the final seconds this season?
All-time villain: Steve Spurrier. Not only did Spurrier beat up on the Bulldogs when he was at Florida, but he rubbed it in. Who could ever forget the 52-17 debacle in 1995? Bulldog Nation sure won't. The game was played in Athens that year, and Spurrier tacked on a late touchdown just for good measure. He only lost once to the Bulldogs in 12 meetings.
Current villain: Eastern Division rivals. Rich Brooks has done a terrific job of getting Kentucky's program up to respectability with the three straight bowl victories. But there's been little progress against the Wildcats' East counterparts. They are just 1-23 against Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee since Brooks arrived in 2003.
All-time villain: Kentucky hoops. There's just no way around it. No matter how well the football program does, it will always be dwarfed by Kentucky basketball. They grow up dreaming of playing hoops in the Bluegrass. Their heroes are former UK basketball players. And if they have time, they might check in on the football team.
Current villain: Nick Saban. The guy just keeps on showing up on different villain lists, which tells you that he must be pretty good at what he does. They once loved him on the Bayou after he won a national title at LSU in 2003. But now that Saban is at Alabama, he's perceived as nothing more than a traitor.
All-time villain: Archie Manning. Back when the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry was at its peak, Manning beat the Tigers two of his three seasons in school and went on to become a legend in the state of Louisiana after a long career with the Saints. But when it came time for Peyton and Eli to go to college, neither chose LSU.
Current villain: Jevan Snead. The Bulldogs are probably still seeing footballs flying through the air in their sleep. Snead threw four touchdown passes last season in Ole Miss' 45-0 shellacking of Mississippi State, the most lopsided Egg Bowl since Ole Miss' 48-0 rout in 1971.
All-time villain: Rich Johanningmeier. He was the lead NCAA investigator in the case against Mississippi State, which ultimately sent Jackie Sherrill packing following the 2003 season and landed the Bulldogs on four years' of probation. Sherrill accused Johanningmeier of unethical conduct in his investigation.
Current villain: Atlanta travel agencies. "Huh," you say? The chatter around Ole Miss about getting to the SEC championship game this season in Atlanta is deafening. The Rebels just need to make sure they don't spend more time talking about it than doing something about it. In other words, hold off on the reservations.
All-time villain: Billy Cannon. His legendary punt return for a touchdown on Halloween night in 1959 ruined what would have been a perfect season for John Vaught's Rebels. They only gave up three touchdowns all season, and Cannon's was one of them in that 7-3 loss to LSU. It remains the most infamous play in Ole Miss history.
Current villain: That other school in the state. Clemson might not be in the SEC, but the Tigers have and continue to be the Gamecocks' biggest pain in the you know where. Since 1980, Clemson is 21-7-1 against South Carolina, and Spurrier is just 1-3 against the Tigers
All-time villain: The Chicken Curse. Ask anybody who's remotely tied to South Carolina football, and they will fill you in on the dreaded Chicken Curse. Basically, it's a curse that has doomed the Gamecocks to mediocrity, which explains why they've won more than eight games in a season only twice in school history.
Current villain: In-state talent. Unlike the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, Tennessee isn't loaded with great high school football talent. It's gotten better, but pales in comparison to some of the Vols' rivals. What's more, some of the best players have gotten away the last few years.
All-time villain: Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach might have grown up in Johnson City, Tenn., but he's anything but a
favorite son. Remember the "You can't spell Citrus without a U and a T" jokes? He owned the Vols when he was at Florida and delighted in needling them.
Current villain: Admissions office. Coach Bobby Johnson would never use the rigid academic standards at Vanderbilt as an excuse. In fact, he embraces them. But getting players into school at Vanderbilt is a whole different animal compared to the rest of the SEC, meaning the Commodores are forced to recruit from a different pool.
All-time villain: Gen. Robert Neyland. Before Neyland was named head coach at Tennessee in 1926, Vanderbilt had dominated the rivalry with its neighbor from the eastern part of the state. But Neyland was hired to beat Vanderbilt, and that's what he did. It hasn't turned around much for the Commodores ever since.