Wednesday, October 28, 2009
SEC Not Living Up to the Hype
SEC football is overrated, and this is a dangerous position for me to take. Dangerous, because CBS has a working relationship with the SEC. At its highest levels, my company pays a lot more money to broadcast SEC football than it pays to publish me. Between SEC football and myself, one of us is expendable. And it's not Tim Tebow.
That said, I can't do it. Not for a second longer. I can't carry the water for a football conference that can't carry its own jock.
No. 1? Some pollsters might think Terrence Cody's Crimson Tide and the SEC are tops, but not Gregg Doyel. (Getty Images)
SEC football 2009 is not what it once was. It's certainly not SEC football 2008, when it had the best team in the country. That team was Florida, which laid a 24-14 whupping on Oklahoma in the BCS title game.
SEC football 2009 has been living off its past all season, and the backlash is coming. Maybe it's here already. Maybe, as I channel my inner Barack Obama, I am the change we've been waiting for.
It's certainly not the other 'Bama.
Alabama? That's the superpower we're tired of waiting for. Just like Florida.
Overrated, both of them.
Pollsters agree with me on this point, but pollsters being pollsters, they don't have the guts or independence of thought to come out and vote how they really want to vote. So they keep flip-flopping Florida and Alabama from one to two to one to two, unimpressed on a weekly basis with the Gators and Crimson Tide but still conditioned, in their Pavlovian heart of hearts, to believe SEC football 2009 is what everyone said it would be.
And it's not.
Our first clue came on Sept. 24, when No. 4 Ole Miss went to South Carolina and laid a rotten egg on national television. It wasn't the Rebels' fault they were ranked about 20 spots too high. They were undefeated, and they were an SEC team, so they were given the benefit of the doubt by pollsters who have been conditioned to believe SEC football is the best in the country without question amen.
SEC football 2009 was exposed that day, but only Ole Miss paid the price. The Rebels went hurtling down the rankings, never to be seen in the top 10 again. Which is fine, but not enough.
SEC football 2009 needs to go down the rankings, too. All of it. Every SEC school in the top 10? Yes. Every school.
Florida doesn't deserve to be No. 1. Alabama doesn't deserve to be No. 2. LSU doesn't deserve to be No. 9.
This isn't the preseason anymore. College football has a lot more to go on than hype and talk. We're almost into November, for crying out loud. College football has actual results, and the results for Florida and Alabama are not the results of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.
Both schools keep winning, yes, but they keep winning unimpressively. They keep scraping by other teams in their own league, ugly wins against ugly teams -- with Florida winning on officiating mistakes as much as anything -- but it has been enough to keep the Gators and Crimson Tide on top. It's like a black hole in reverse: The vortex of SEC football has sucked Florida and Alabama into the top spots, and it won't let them go.
So Florida gets rewarded for barely beating bad Tennessee and Arkansas at home, and for barely beating even worse Mississippi State on the road.
And Alabama gets rewarded for the flukiest -- along with Iowa's opener vs. Northern Iowa -- home victory of the season, a 12-10 squeaker on Saturday against Tennessee in which the Crimson Tide blocked two field goals in the fourth quarter. Alabama is No. 2 in the country today for one reason, and one reason only: Because Tennessee doesn't have a kicker who can lift a field goal over zero-jumping Terrence Cody.
Look, nothing against Tennessee. The Volunteers have been better under Lane Kiffin than I suspected they would be, but the Volunteers played Florida and Alabama as closely on the road as they played UCLA at home. And UCLA sucks. UCLA is 3-4. But UCLA beat Tennessee as easily as Florida and Alabama beat Tennessee.
Who should be No. 1? Maybe UCLA! Well, no. But how about Texas? The Longhorns are beating everybody, and they're beating the crap out of almost everybody.
If not Texas, maybe Southern California. Yes, genius, I know. USC lost to Washington. But the Trojans lost that game without their most important player, quarterback Matt Barkley, and he's back. If the goal of the BCS is to place the best two teams in the title game, well, USC with Matt Barkley deserves as much consideration as Florida or Alabama.
Hell, at this point, I'll listen to arguments for Cincinnati ... and I'm the guy who said the Bearcats were one half of the Boisinnati phenomenon that didn't belong in the BCS title game. I'm not changing my mind on Boise State -- not even a top-10 team, if I had a ballot -- but the Bearcats are destroying everybody they play, and if we want to compare apples to apples, Cincinnati beat Oregon State by more points on the road (28-18) than USC beat Oregon State at home (42-36). How 'bout them apples?
Cincinnati still has a lot of work to do. They'll need to demolish No. 20 West Virginia and No. 16 Pittsburgh, but the Bearcats could do it. And if they do, it should mean more to voters than Florida's last-second field goal to beat unranked Arkansas, or Alabama's last-second field-goal block to beat unranked Tennessee.
The wind's blowing, and it's up to the human element in the BCS system -- the voters -- to feel it blow. Or they could use another of their five senses. They could use their smell.
Because compared to its hype, the SEC stinks.