In Pete Carroll’s defense, “Stop doing heroin” is pretty good advice.
After Alabama trucked Notre Dame for the national title, it took only a matter of hours for some of the national CFB pundits to downshift from “OMG Alabama is incredible” to “SHUT UP REST OF THE SEC THIS DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU.” One of those folks is a favorite writer of mine and stand-up guy Pat Forde, who said this:
Alabama is in full-on dynasty mode, winning its third title in four years. Florida, LSU and Auburn have all contributed to the SEC’s crystal football haul as well.
(You fans of Tennessee, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas? Shut your mouths. Your teams have contributed nothing to this historic run. Stop bragging on other teams’ work.)
Forde repeated a similar sentiment a couple days later on Twitter. Look, I get it: The conference solidarity thing can be a little much. It’s even getting to be a little much for me as an SEC alum; lord knows it’s got to be like nails on a blackboard for fans of any of the other nine FBS leagues. Full disclosure, I was fully prepared to put aside SEC loyalty and not give a crap who won the national title game until Notre Dame started in with the same tired-ass redneck-baiting we have to deal with the other 11 months of the year. That type of shit will get me yelling “Roll Tide” in a hurry.
And no, Georgia doesn’t get to put an asterisk beside Alabama’s national championship because we played the Tide closer than Notre Dame could’ve dreamed of doing, and Texas A&M doesn’t get one either for beating Alabama in the regular season. Stipulated: The 2012 title is Bama’s and Bama’s alone.
But give the rest of us some credit. Georgia, by Nick Saban’s own admission, was five yards away from knocking off Alabama on a neutral field; LSU led Bama for much of the game and lost by only four; Texas A&M beat Bama in Bryant-Denny; even Ole Miss had a lead on Alabama at one point — and yet Notre Dame, the top-ranked team in the country, the last remaining undefeated, couldn’t hang with them for even five minutes. Doesn’t that say something about the level of competition in the SEC? Like maybe we’ve had a point all along about how deep this league is?
It wasn’t just this past season, either. Consider:
- 2010: Auburn gives up 27 points to South Carolina, 34 to Kentucky, 43 to Arkansas and 31 to Georgia in the regular season — but in the national title game, they hold Oregon, the nation’s No. 1 offense, to only 19.
- 2009: Alabama beats South Carolina by 14 points, LSU by 9, Auburn by only 5, Tennessee by only 2 — yet beats undefeated, No. 2 Texas by 16 in the Rose Bowl.
- 2007: LSU ekes out wins over Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee by a touchdown or less and loses to Kentucky and Arkansas in triple-overtime — but beats No. 1 Ohio State by two TDs (and it would’ve been three if not for a cosmetic Buckeye touchdown with 73 seconds left in the game).
- 2006: A Florida team still struggling to adapt to Urban Meyer’s spread offense beats Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina by 15 points combined, and loses to Auburn on the road — but annihilates No. 1 Ohio State in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game. (This after having to hear for a solid month how Ohio State and Michigan were clearly the two best teams in the nation and the BCSNCG should’ve been a Buckeyes-Wolverines rematch. Ohio State rolled up 503 yards and 42 points on Michigan; they managed 82 total yards and 14 points.)
It’s practically become an annual tradition: SEC teams beat each other up in the regular season, the pundits grouse about how a single dominant team really hasn’t emerged from the fray and maybe the conference just isn’t that good this year … and then the SEC champion advances to the national championship game, faces an opponent everyone thought was respectable, and makes them look like they don’t even belong on the same field. Again, I can understand the rest of the country getting tired of this, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie.
Think about it. Saban has won a BCS crown in four of his last eight seasons as a college coach. He and Alabama have now won back-to-back national titles. But they haven’t repeated as SEC champs during that run. No one has since Tennessee won the league in consecutive years in 1997 and 1998.
Again, think about that. It’s literally easier to win the BCS championship than it is the SEC championship.
So no, rest of the world, as a Georgia fan I don’t demand a share of Alabama’s title just because my team actually gave the Tide a game and Notre Dame couldn’t. But I think my guys are deserving of some respect just the same — as are LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and all the other SEC teams who at least bothered to show up against Alabama and play them more competitively than the so-called No. 1 team in the nation could manage. You may not want to admit it, but maybe the SEC really is that much better than the rest of the country, and maybe that’s why a team like Alabama (or LSU, or Florida) can face a grueling schedule week in and week out in the regular season and then blow through their national-championship opponent like it was a JV scrimmage.
Yeah, it hurts that there’s a crystal-football-sized empty space in Georgia’s trophy case right now. But we’re certainly closer to filling it than anyone outside the Southeast is. And as long as we have to earn our stripes against the toughest competition in the country, I expect that’ll continue to be the case.
sec power poll: and the dust finally clears
Due to a restructuring and re-strategizing at SB Nation’s local hubs, I’m not writing for SBN Atlanta anymore. (Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything to piss anyone off, and I haven’t thrown any toasters. Any more toasters.) But ballots are due for the final SEC Power Poll of the 2012-13 season, which will be tallied up at Team Speed Kills on Wednesday, so here’s mine. All sales are final and no exchanges or refunds will be allowed.
1. Alabama — Decades from now, we may find out that Nick Saban has been genetically engineering superhuman linebackers, offensive linemen and running backs in a state-of-the-art laboratory many miles beneath Bryant-Denny Stadium. But he may win another dozen titles between now and then.
2. Georgia — By Saban’s own admission, the Dawgs came within five yards of beating the team that just unleashed hell on the top-ranked team in the country. But yeah, they should totally be ranked below a Notre Dame team that trailed Alabama 35-0 before scoring a couple purely cosmetic touchdowns. Man, I hate this sport sometimes.
3. Texas A&M — Alabama is such an overdog at this point that people will start to get bored picking them to win the SEC again probably by the end of February. When that happens, the Aggies will be soooo many people’s trendy dark-horse pick to win the SEC West.
4. South Carolina — Won’t have Marcus Lattimore next year; will still have Jadeveon Clowney. So while they may lose some games, they’ll still murder your ass either way.
5. Florida — Walked a fine line all season between “team that throttles teams like LSU and Florida State” and “team that needs a miracle to avoid overtime against UL-Lafayette.” I guess it’s obvious which one showed up in the Sugar Bowl.
6. LSU — Blowing an 11-point lead in the Peach Bowl was an uninspiring way to end the season even before they lost like their entire starting defense to the NFL.
7. Vanderbilt — May have done a lot of it with smoke and mirrors, but nine wins at Vanderbilt is at least 13 at any other program in the country.
8. Ole Miss — Which is the bigger achievement: getting to seven wins a year after flaming out at 2-10, or getting a bigger crowd to show up for the fricking BBVA Compass Bowl than there was at the Sugar Bowl? Legion Field hasn’t seen that many people since Ruben Studdard did a free concert there, and maybe not even then.
9. Mississippi State — When you gift-wrap a bowl win for a Big Ten team that hadn’t won a bowl game since the Truman administration, nobody’s gonna care that you started the season 7-0.
10. Missouri — Weren’t so much bitten by the injury bug as they were taken into a back alley and beaten with lead pipes by it, but unfortunately we don’t do “sympathy” in the SEC.
11. Tennessee — Making the switch to a 3-4 defensive front in a make-or-break year for his job security was Derek Dooley’s way of saying “Hey y’all, watch this” and throwing a bottle of Everclear on the campfire.
12. Arkansas — No worries about the new head coach sneaking around with a hot blonde this time, Hog fans: Bielema’s already married to one. Your bigger worry is working your way back to a point where you can challenge Alabama and LSU (and now Texas A&M) in the West Division.
13. Auburn — From “Chizik was a terrible hire!” to “Holy crap, Chizik’s actually really good!” to “Wait, no, yeah, he’s awful” in only four years is a pretty amazing emotional roller coaster, Aubies. Kind of amazed your entire university isn’t motion-sick at this point.
14. Kentucky — Insert joke about basketball season here. Sorry, Wildcats, but somebody’s got to be the Vanderbilt, and Vanderbilt decided they didn’t want to be it anymore.
I’m not pulling for Bama in the title game, and I can’t imagine any Auburn fans would either…but surely none would actually pay money for this thing on a t-shirt?
There’s a word for people who spend more energy and ingenuity hating on their arch-rival than actually rooting affirmatively for their own team. We call those people “Georgia Tech fans.”
Don’t be Georgia Tech fans, Auburn.
Les Miles needs his own sitcom.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who love Les Miles, and assholes. And the former love him not in spite of the fact that he is borderline insane, but because.
Just so you’re aware, most of the football-related stuff I post here this fall will be of the trolling/trash-talking variety. But if you want, like, actual commentary on what’s happening on the field, you can head on over to SB Nation’s Atlanta hub, where I’ll have articles a few times each week. Including the Manic-Depressive Preview, which will go up every Thursday.
On that note, what a drag-ass game on Saturday. I would say “BRING ON THE REAL TEAMS, ARGGGHHH,” except at this point who knows whether we’d be ready for them.
why the rest of the sec hates you 2012
Though all of us football idiots down here in the Southeast love to take pride in the fact that the Southeastern Conference has won the last six national titles, it’s important to remember than 11 out of 12 (actually, now 13 out of 14) of the teams in that conference openly loathe the individual teams that won them. Conference pride is like having pride in your children: It’s fine to bust out when someone else insults your children, but you reserve the right to insult your own children whenever you want, even loathe them openly if necessary.
So I thought I’d put this list out there just to remind my fellow SEC fans, no matter which team they root for, that nobody holds you in nearly as much esteem as you think they do. Sure, we’ll ride your coattails, but beyond that we wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, less’n we could piss gasoline. So to speak.
Just to prove there’ll be no bias or pulled punches here, I’ll start in on my own team first. Yes, we love to brag about how we have the greatest college town in the country, the hottest girls, a fantastic tailgating scene, and one of the most profitable athletics programs in the country to boot. Know how many points all that stuff is worth in a football game? Not even one, which brings us to the uncomfortable realization that Georgia has been sitting on the outside fringes of relevance for nearly 30 years now. Yet somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that the rest of the country regards us with something approaching awe. You know whom they regard with actual awe? Alabama, which is in a fun town and is stuffed to the gills with pretty girls but also deigns to win an actual meaningful football game every once in a while. Until we lock up that last part, Dawg fans, we’re just the SEC’s Great Gatsby: People come to our beautiful house, eat our food, drink our wine, talk to gorgeous women, have the time of their lives … and then go back home laughing about what posers we are all the same. (Meanwhile, we invariably end up face-down in a swimming pool, bleeding from multiple wounds.)
“We’re lovable ‘cause we’re drunks!” Oh, right, like nobody’s ever gotten drunk at Auburn or Florida before. Seriously, get a new shtick, and while you’re at it, get over this idea that practiced, obnoxious sociopathy is somehow excusable because it’s all alcohol-fueled and not at all how you act when you’re sober; that’s the exact same thing abusive husbands say. It’s gotten to the point where your own students think you’re embarrassing.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
In some conferences, you could earn a pat on the head and a “bless your heart” for being as godawful as Missy State has been for the better part of 70 years. But we don’t do the “lovable loser” thing in the SEC, guys, and we damn sure don’t do pity. Instead, we’re just pissed at you for having sucked wind all these years without even doing us the benefit of pulling up our academic standards the way Vanderbilt has.
We know it’s hard to exist in the same state with Alabama, guys; lord knows it’s tough to exist in the same state as their fans. But like I said, we don’t do pity in these parts. Instead, we roll our eyes at you for using your little-brother syndrome as an unspoken excuse to run a program every bit as filthy as Alabama’s, and usually more so. And honestly, it’s not even the dirty-program stuff that bothers us, because again, this is the SEC, and you know a certain degree of malfeasance is always going to be winked at down here. But you can’t just own your treachery the way Bammers do. Instead, you pull out this “All In” crap and wipe away crocodile tears as you talk about how gosh-darn blessed you are to have a program that’s just, well, as much of a family as yours is. (Which I guess is supposed to explain how Cam Newton just magically flipped from Mississippi State to you guys at the drop of a hat.) Thirty years from now, that out-of-nowhere national title you won behind the likes of Gene Chizik and Ted Roof — honest, officer, it fell off the back of a truck — is going to look even sketchier than it already does.
(Update: As if to prove my point, Auburn fans, I tweeted a link to this post this morning and fans of nearly every school took their lumps in good humor. The only people — on Twitter, at least — who got huffy with me about it were Auburn fans. The only ones! Some sincere unsolicited advice, Barners — learn to laugh at yourselves, or other people are going to do it for you.)
(Update II: Whoops, now I’ve also gotten a testy response from an Ole Miss fan who’s pissed that I’m not gonna do any better on the “Colonel Reb Trivia” category on “Jeopardy.” So, apologies, Auburn fans, you’re not the only humorless fan base in the SEC, just the most humorless fan base in the SEC. Mea culpa.)
Playing “Rocky Top” after every first down. The continuing reliance on Neyland’s Seven Maxims. (“The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win?” OH, PLEASE BLESS US WITH MORE OF YOUR WISDOM AND INSIGHT, FOOTBALL CONFUCIUS.) And the orange — oh, God, the orange. “But it’s based on a certain type of flower that grew on the — ” It’s road worker construction vest orange. Christ, I’m colorblind and I can tell that. Basically, you guys are like 4-year-olds who’ve just discovered a piano — you find two or three notes and you pound away at them incessantly because that’s all you know how to do. Honey, honey, please, go play with something else. You’re not very good at this, and you’re really annoying everyone in the room.
If Georgia is the France of the SEC — a one-time powerhouse that refuses to admit nobody really gives a shit about them anymore — then Florida is North Korea. A dump of a program for decades, and then all of a sudden some wee tiny megalomaniac returns home to lead them and they just start erasing history like it never happened. Nope, never had a football program before 1990, sir. Don’t know what you’re talking about! We’ve always been good! That’s nice. South Carolina called, they want to know where they can submit their application for membership in the If It Weren’t for Steve Spurrier, We’d Pretty Much Be Mississippi State Club.
OLE MISS REBELS
As a son of the New South, I bristle whenever anyone just assumes that Southerners are racists. Except when they’re talking about Mississippi, ‘cause for reals, y’all some racists. Even the Alabama fans I know are like, “Yeah, we got some racist fans, but those people … whoooooo.” I know, I know — “Don’t say that, we’re not all like that” — but if you can’t quiet down that segment of the fan base that wants to pass statewide legislation bringing back a Confederate plantation owner as the mascot, there are clearly more of “those” people than you’d like to admit. How racist is Ole Miss? James Meredith went in there as their first African-American student and came out talking shit about the civil rights movement — and then later went to work for Jesse Helms! I’d be in awe if that weren’t so, you know, horrible on every single level. Forget the Rebels, guys, just change your mascot to the Ole Miss Fightin’ Young Black Guys We’d Never Let Our Daughters Date and be done with it. It’s a bit clumsy, yeah, but it’s honest.
Umm — what are you doing here? You’re in the Big 12. No? You left? Then clearly you meant to go to the Big Ten. There’s no way you could — no, I know somebody probably told you that, but I assure you we don’t have any room for any additional schools right now. Thank you for your interest, but — sir, I said no. No. You’re not supposed to be here! THIS IS NOT YOUR HOME!
The Kentucky football fans I’ve met — the few who can be bothered to give a crap about their football team, at any rate — are mostly excellent folks, surprisingly knowledgeable and genuinely grateful for any success that comes their way on the gridiron. The problem is that their basketball fans are complete cocksuckers, to the point where you don’t want to root for any of their athletic teams for fear that you’ll just be feeding the beast. In my experience, UK hoops fans are just as bad as, if not worse than, Alabama football fans, and just as we can’t have Alabama basketball being good because it would then create a singularity of sports-related obnoxiousness, we can’t allow Kentucky football to amount to anything either. Sorry, Wildcat fans, but y’all brought this upon yourselves.
Y’all inflicted Jerry Jones and Bobby Petrino on us. Not only that, but Bobby cheated on his wife, scored his mistress a cushy job in the athletic department, lied about the whole thing — and y’all threw a shit fit when he got fired! “OK, yeah, yeah, he has no morals whatsoever and may have done tangible harm to our football program by giving his blonde bimbo an unearned position that had actual responsibility for recruiting … BUT THE BALLS ARE SO PRETTY WHEN HE MAKES THEM GO UP IN THE SKY.” And you wonder why the rest of us think you’re so weird. This is why you can’t have nice things, Arkansas.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Nobody was more righteously indignant over Auburn’s bought-and-paid-for national title than Bama fans were, and Lord knows they had their reasons, but here’s the thing, Bammers: Y’all bought your title(s), too, by backing that dump truck of cash up to Nick Saban’s door back in 2007 — only that just happens to be legal in the NCAA’s eyes. And no, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a mercenary to lead your troops, particularly when he’s that good, but when Saint Nick won you that first title in 2009, y’all didn’t even have the bare minimum of social graces to act grateful for it. No, y’all just sat back with that smug “Order has been restored” grin on your faces, as if your program was chosen by God for riches and success and the preceding 30 years or so had been an aberration. You sorry, sidewalk-ass, entitled motherfuckers. Y’all are the people who throw hissy fits at the Burger King drive-thru window when they only put 10 little packets of ketchup in your bag rather than 11.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
We were almost rid of Steve Spurrier, you dumb bastards. We were almost rid of him, but you brought him back, and now we have to hear that nasal voice cackling at us every week. “Oh, you just hate him ‘cause he’s a badass and we’re good now.” Well, first of all, ‘Cocks, you’re not that good — where’s your SEC title ring at? Thought so — but second of all, Spur Dog’s not that big a badass, either. Don’t get me wrong, he was hilarious back in the ’90s when he was shit-talking other coaches to their faces and making wisecracks at Media Days, but now all he does is whine. Whines about his schedule, whines about the media, whines about how everyone else disciplines their players. The fact that you think this bitchy little church biddy is such a tough guy speaks volumes about the standards your football program has set, and the problem is we can’t even laugh about it because now we’re all stuck with him.
Second verse, same as the first. “You just hate us because now we have a good coach who’s not afraid to talk smack to people!” Again, Vandy, you’re not that good — a losing record is a losing record, even if it’s a damn sight more respectable than what y’all usually accomplish — and what y’all see as the rest of the conference shaking in its boots at the sight of James Franklin is really just the rest of us trembling as we try to keep from laughing. Franklin may see General Patton when he looks in the mirror every morning, but I promise you, Vandy fans, what the rest of us see is a guy who looks like Humpty Hump from Digital Underground and has the gravitas of Steve Urkel. (Maybe even less at this point — have you seen Jaleel White lately? Motherfucker is cut.) Yeah, he got y’all to play a number of tough teams close last year, but then he’d invariably ruin it all by throwing a tantrum at the end. And as with South Carolina, if that’s what passes for toughness in your neck of the woods, that really says more about your program than it does about anyone else’s.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
You threw a tantrum because Texas was the hot one all the boys liked, and nobody would pay attention to you and tell you what a pretty pretty princess you were, and this caught the attention of Mike Slive because Mike Slive apparently has a thing for insecure divas, and he got hard at the thought of all that TV money he could get by having a foothold in the Texas TV market, and … here we are. That’s the only reason you’re here, Aggies — nobody else, and I mean nobody, wanted you. We were fine, we were already the premiere conference in the country, and now we have 14 teams and a fucked-up schedule and you’re making some of us drive out to College Station every other year. YOU’RE THE SEC’S YOKO, TEXAS A&M. YOU RUINED EVERYTHING.