SEC on everyone's front burner
Nebraska's Bo Pelini might want to get in line if he's genuinely sick and tired of hearing about the SEC's dominance.
Of course, beating somebody in the SEC would help, too. The Huskers have lost to SEC teams (not named Alabama, mind you) each of the past two seasons in the Capital One Bowl. Georgia beat Nebraska by two touchdowns last season, and South Carolina pinned a 17-point beating on Pelini and the Huskers two seasons ago.
Still, as I listened to Pelini opine last week about teams in the SEC that aren't Alabama wishing they were Nebraska, wishing they were Michigan and wishing they were Ohio State, I found myself humming the words to Stephen Stills' hit single "Love the One You're With." Hey, it's what all coaches do, not just Pelini. They love the one they're with, and you can't really blame them.
Pelini has had a front-row seat in the SEC. He was LSU's defensive coordinator when the Tigers won their last national championship in the 2007 season.
You think it's any coincidence his name was mentioned in connection with the Arkansas and Auburn head-coaching vacancies last season? Coaching football in the SEC is the equivalent of swimming with the sharks off the tip of South Africa.
If you can win in the SEC, you can win anywhere.
But there's always a little revisionist history going on depending on where coaches are at that particular time.
For example, it wasn't too long ago that Bret Bielema made it sound as though the SEC were a four-letter word. Remember his comments after Urban Meyer joined the Big Ten and brought with him his SEC scorched-earth approach to recruiting?
"We at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form," Bielema said before his final season at Wisconsin.
About 10 months later, Bielema was singing a different tune after being hired at Arkansas for more than $3 million per year.
The SEC shark tank was suddenly right where he wanted to be.
"This is the best conference in all of college athletics," Bielema said. "It's a state and a platform that allows you to reach anywhere for recruits, allows you to play the game at the highest level possible, and if you win this conference, you have a chance to win it all."
When Meyer was at Florida, he would always point to the grind of the SEC when explaining what separated it from all the other conferences.
"Everybody talks about a playoff," Meyer would say. "In the SEC, we have a playoff every week."
Is that merely propaganda, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops suggested this offseason?
And is the SEC really as ordinary in the bottom half of the league as Washington State's Mike Leach recently suggested? Leach, who also once coached in the SEC, as Hal Mumme's offensive coordinator at Kentucky, claimed that the bottom teams in the Pac-12 could beat the bottom teams in the SEC.
The opening weekend will go a long way toward proving or disproving Leach's assertion. Washington State plays at Auburn on Aug. 31. The Cougars and Tigers both went 3-9 last season.
But regardless of what happens on the Plains to open the season, what everybody in college football will be tracking is whether the SEC can make it eight national championships in a row.
More specifically, can anybody catch Alabama?
Therein lies the rub with everybody outside the SEC's borders. They contend that the rest of the SEC is cashing in on Alabama's success under Nick Saban and that the league's balance is overblown.
There's probably some truth to that, but let's not forget that Alabama has lost at home each of the past two Novembers to league foes and held off Georgia in the final seconds last season in the SEC championship game.
So, yes, everybody's chasing Alabama, but it's not as if the Crimson Tide have lapped the field.
And something says, stealing Pelini's thunder, that there are a few teams in the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC right now wishing they were Georgia, wishing they were LSU, wishing they were Texas A&M, wishing they were Florida and wishing they were South Carolina.
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