For most of the 21st century, the SEC has dominated college football. They win most of the National Championships and they normally win bowl games by the basket full. For the rest of college football conferences it has been frustrating to watch. But no more.
Take the Alabama Crimson Tide out and the SEC is pathetic. How bad are they? The Sugar Bowl had to take the Auburn Tigers who were pasted in their last two games of the season by the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tide. Getting waxed by the Tide isn’t so bad, but UGA? We’re talking about a team here that lost to the Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at home.
If you thought that maybe the SEC is just tough from top to bottom, which is often the case, the bowl season has ruined that thought. The SEC is laying more eggs than a prize hen since Christmas ended. It started the very next morning when the Mississippi State Bulldogs were outplayed by Miami…of Ohio for most of the game at Tropicana Field in the St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulldogs beat the Red Hawks, a 6-6 team from the MAC, by one point. From there it just got worse.
First Vanderbilt went down in flames to a 6-6 North Carolina State Wolfpack 41-17 in a game that never was close at the Independence Bowl. Then Texas A&M lost to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl 33-28. Kansas State is a middle of the pack Big 12 team and A&M was actually ranked #4 in the first CFP rankings when they came out.
The next day, on Thursday, the SEC was further embarrassed when the South Florida Bulls gashed the defense of the South Carolina Gamecocks to take a 39-21 lead in the third quarter. To USC’s credit, they rallied to tie the game at 39-39 and send the game to overtime. But on OT, the Bulls needed only one play to score a touchdown, then stuffed the Gamecocks offense even after they gave them a first down on a facemask penalty.
If you thought it couldn’t get worse, think again. Right after that game, the Arkansas Razorbacks took on the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Belk Bowl. Finally, the SEC team looked like an SEC team as the Hogs got out to a 24-0 halftime lead. Arkansas was whipping Tech physically at the line and looked like they could score at will. Then came the second half.
Tech looked like a totally different team in the second half and so do Arkansas. By the time there was 12:00 to play, Va Tech was up 28-24. Perhaps this was not so surprising as the Hogs did pretty much the same thing in their last game at the Missouri Tigers.
All season we heard it was the East that was weak but the West was still one of the best divisions in college football. But the West is just as bad as the East if you take away Alabama.
What has gone wrong in the SEC? It’s really simple. Urban Meyer is gone. Steve Spurrier is gone. Mark Richt is gone. Phil Fulmer is gone. Les Miles is gone.
Will Muschamp spent four failed years as Meyer’s replacement at Florida and somehow wound up as Spurrier’s replacement at Carolina. Kirby Smart has only had one year at Georgia but so far it doesn’t look too good. Tennessee has had one failure after another since Fulmer and LSU replaced Miles with Ed Orgeron, who has already had a failed tenure at Ole Miss.
All this is because of one man. Nick Saban. He has turned Alabama into such a juggernaut that other great coaches want nothing to do with the SEC. Tom Herman could have come to LSU, but instead went to Texas. Several coaches opted not to come to South Carolina so they had to settle for Muschamp.
And now coaches like Bret Bielema and Butch Jones are being held on to even though it looks pretty clear they just are not that good. This is because their schools realize they won’t get a better coach to come just so he can get drummed by Alabama every year.
Until Nick Saban either retires or moves on to the NFL, it will not be getting better for the rest of the SEC.