Will it be 8 in a row? That is the only real question surrounding SEC football this season. The conference that has won the last seven national championships is once again at the forefront of college football. Whether it’s the Alabama Crimson Tide going for a third straight national championship or the Ole Miss Rebels making a statement with their recruiting class this offseason or Johnny Manziel‘s off-the-field issues or the Mississippi St. Bulldogs getting penalized for recruiting violations, there’s plenty for people to talk about regarding the SEC.
Simply put, the SEC is the best, most talked about and most hated conference in college football. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This season could turn into a flashback for Steve Spurrier, head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. When Spurrier was coaching the Florida Gators, he ran a two-quarterback system that constantly produced results. Currently, Spurrier has two quarterbacks to choose from with the Gamecocks: Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.
Shaw has seen more starts over his collegiate career, but Thompson seized his opportunity when Shaw missed some time early last season due to injury. The end result was the two sharing time during most of the rest of the season once Shaw came back. Shaw was still the starter, but Thompson never had what could be considered a poor outing. Even going 8/20 for only 83 yards against the Gators isn’t what I would consider a poor performance because the game was already out of reach for the Gamecocks when Thompson came in.
If Spurrier can channel some of that Fun & Gun magic into his current offense with the Gamecocks and the quarterbacks that run it, maybe that will be the final piece to the puzzle (winning the SEC East) that Spurrier & the Gamecocks have been trying to put together the last two seasons.
An offseason story that hit close to home for me (a Wisconsin native) involving the SEC was Bret Bielema leaving his position as head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers to take the same job with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Money drove this decision, no doubt. The SEC pays better than any other conference and with that advantage, the Razorbacks got the man they wanted. It wasn’t a monumental increase in salary for Bielema and his people, but it was big enough to convince them to head down south. Don’t worry, I’m not a Wisconsin native who’s bitter about Bielema leaving. I’m fully aware of the influence of money on collegiate coaches. It’s not that Bielema wasn’t happy in Madison (success will many anyone happy anywhere), but his current job is simply a new job that pays more than his previous one.
My issue is that Bielema has been one of the larger creators of anti-SEC comments, mainly about recruiting. The problem, and I guess irony, is that Bielema is now part of that conference and will have to go against other SEC coaches when attempting to recruit top talent. Bielema may use the tactic of portraying himself as the white knight in a dark world, but if it were that easy, somebody would have done it already.
The hard truth for Bielema is that he is good as a recruiter, but those in the SEC are great. Just look at the recruiting class that Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze helped put together this year, and that was for a team that went 7-6 last year. I view the change that Bielema is going to experience in recruiting going from the Big Ten to the SEC to walking in a forest and ending up in the jungle.
At the end of the day, the SEC title race comes down to the Gators, Gamecocks and Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Eest and the Crimson Tide, Texas A&M Aggies and LSU Tigers in the SEC West. That’s it. The games that involve any combination of these teams will be the games that determine who will be playing in the Georgia Dome for the conference title.
This is the way it has been for almost all of the SEC’s near-decade dominance with the only exceptions being the Auburn Tigers‘ 2010 national title season and the fact that this is only the second season the Aggies have been in the SEC. Other than that, there is a monopoly at the top of this conference, and it is those teams that have driven the non-stop locomotive known as the SEC these past seven seasons.
Will this year see the locomotive come to an immediate halt or be knocked off the tracks? I don’t think so.
2013 SEC Title Game prediction: Alabama Vs. Georgia
2013 SEC Champion Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide
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