Tennessee head football coach Derek Dooley. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:19 PM
Taking stock, we see that among Southeastern Conference teams two have already whacked their head coaches, one other coach has had his last cigarette and yet another is ordering his last meal.
That’s almost 30 percent of the conference, with Kentucky and Arkansas involved in open coaching searches, while Auburn and Tennessee are probably doing theirs on the sly to get there before the good stuff has all been picked over.
So, yeah, it’s a tough conference to survive in. Dirty business as usual.
Of the remaining 10 teams, six are ranked in the Bowl Championship Series’ top nine, with at least two of them (Alabama and LSU) not shy in grumbling and blaming coaches that they’re not No 1.
Of the remaining four, which are apparently granting coaching amnesty despite being out of the loop, one (Ole Miss) has a popular first-year coach, one is happy to still be ranked in the Harris poll (Mississippi State), another is bowl-eligible Vanderbilt and the other (Missouri) hasn’t figured out yet how to behave in the SEC (brashly, with panic aforethought).
Yeah, tough crowd.
It’s no place for the meek or the faint-hearted, probably with more championship-caliber teams occupying a small space near the top than in quite a while.
To my eyes, it’s as tough from top to middle as its ever been (the bottom, not so much).
And yet it has all but been proclaimed that this is the year that the SEC’s streak of six consecutive BCS national titles comes to an abrupt halt.
This, of course, will cause great anguish in the SEC, with calls that you can’t win a championship without knocking out the champ — especially a six-time champ with few of the title games having been much more than glorified victory laps.
Yet, as it stands today, the SEC would not even put an entrant in the BCS final game.
Of course, today is not tomorrow or the next week, and certainly not the second day of next month when this all sorts itself out.
So not so fast.
It looks as neat and orderly right now as Oregon looks unstoppable, as cut and dried as Kansas State looks unshakable, as made to order as Notre Dame looks …
OK, bad example, but the Irish do keep winning … ugly.
But the SEC needs at least two of them to lose before Dec. 2.
Underachieving Southern Cal is probably the key, which puts SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in the awkward position of having to root for the former court agitator to his throne, Little Lord Lane Kiffin, head of the Trojans.
Slive will just have to swallow hard, grin and bear it.
USC still has Notre Dame to play and, with a victory over UCLA this week, could get another shot at Oregon.
History tells us something will turn up, things will turn the SEC’s way.
All of the top three have reasonable chances to lose and open the door.
But history also tells us they need not be that reasonable, or explainable. And it can’t be all because the BCS formula was designed by former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer.
Go back to the start of the six-pack streak, 2006, when Florida got in only because USC lost to a 5-6 UCLA team.
The next year, LSU’s last title, was really crazy. The Tigers, who took the field for the SEC championship game with Tennessee ranked No. 7 in the BCS, got in only after Oklahoma beat No. 1 Missouri (not unthinkable) and 10-1 West Virginia lost to 4-7 Pitt (that afternoon, after squeaking by the Vols, the Tigers did not even bother to wish the Panthers well in their night game before leaving the Georgia Dome).
The following year Florida leapfrogged Texas after beating Alabama for the SEC title.
And, of course, last year Alabama got to be LSU’s title opponent only because Oklahoma State inexplicably lost to Iowa State.
Kansas State still has Texas to play but gets Baylor this week. That actually sounds more like Oklahoma State-Iowa State hiccup.
I guess you could say it’s far from over.
Failing that, there is one last avenue for the SEC.
It could go knocking on the door of The Associated Press, trying to make points in the writers’ poll, which isn’t beholden to the BCS even for the final.
It’s been done successfully before.
Of course, before the SEC could pursue that course, LSU would have to sign a legal affidavit swearing to quit complaining about USC’s claim of a share (the AP half) of the 2003 championship.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org