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Hobbs: Much of college football world battling SEC Fatigue

Last Modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 9:47 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

ATLANTA — LSU’s Josh Dworaczyk has given the matter some careful thought, kind of figured out what the perfect end to his six years of college football would be, and it’s not the answer that most of the rest of college football really wants to hear.

Or endure.

“I can’t get a seventh year,” Dworaczyk said Friday. “So this is it.”

It would involve an LSU victory over Clemson, of course, in Monday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. But when you’ve been around as long as Dworaczyk has — “he’s been here longer than I have,” head coach Les Miles joked —it goes beyond that.

“If there’s an ‘S-E-C’ chant going on after the game,” Dworaczyk said, “it would be nice.”

Oh, of course, that again.

Going to play that SEC card.

The bowl season is about to hit its stride this weekend, with much of the college world outside the deep South desperately searching for a cure to the malaise known as SEC Fatigue.

They’re all sick of hearing about how dominant the league has been, to the point a lot of staunch anti-Golden Domers who would not normally root for Notre Dame if it played the Taliban will be swallowing hard and hoping against all hope the Irish can bring down Alabama before the SEC wins is seventh straight BCS national championship.

Mainly, they’re sick of hearing that gosh-awful, annoying chant — “S-E-C ... S-E-C ... S-E-C” —  a taunt, really, that has become to the conference’s bowl victories what Red Auerbach’s cigar was to the Boston Celtics.

If anything the SEC does strikes a nerve with the wannabes, that’s it — that incessant chant.

As the rare-sixth-year guy, Dworaczyk has been on the cutting edge of what afflicts them.

He was a young redshirt whippersnapper when LSU made it two straight for the SEC following the 2007 season, and he was redshirting again with an injury last year when it all came to head with both LSU and Alabama in the title game, assuring that one of them (Bama, if I recall) would make it six straight.

The next day college football’s movers and shakers met and started thinking seriously about the impending four-team playoff that may or man not slow things down but certainly can’t hurt things.

But that’s still two years off.

Clemson, it turns out, has been anointed as this year’s Great Hope to put the SEC in its place among the Non-BCS games.

Just by proximity and some traditional rivalries, the ACC that Clemson represents has taken a lot of the brunt of the SEC’s dominance.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, scoffed at by many LSU fans, will have no effect on the SEC’s streak of BCS titles.

But it is viewed as a possible big feather for the much-maligned ACC, which hasn’t fared well in the conference musical chairs game either.

Florida State got stuck with Northern Illinois in the ACC’s Orange Bowl appearance, the BCS game, so the Seminoles can’t do much about it.

But Clemson gets an LSU team that, but for the technicality of no conference getting more than two BCS bowls, is viewed as BCS-quality.

It may be a bowl LSU fans would like to ignore, but it’s the ACC’s best chance to make amends.

“I think that those teams do look at the (playing the) SEC...as an opportunity to show that they can compete with it.”

Safety Eric Reid called it a “chip on their shoulder” when the Tigers play to non-SEC teams.

The ACC and SEC already had something of a Ryder Cup football format on the season’s last playing date, and the chance for the ACC’s best teams to rise up and make a statement did nothing to slow down the SEC’s runaway bus.

Clemson was involved. The Tigers lost convincingly to South Carolina. The ACC show pony, Florida State, got hammered by Florida. And Georgia Tech was spent well before halftime against Georgia. Just to rub it in, perhaps, Vanderbilt whipped Wake Forest in the Egg Head division.

Clemson, though, is an odd choice to be defending the bruised feelings of the ACC.

To my way of thinking, at least, Clemson has always been more SEC than ACC, at least in spirit.

Clemson doesn’t buy into the Tobacco Road thing with the ACC. It’s a school that has always, with no apologies, put football first and let the basketball fortunes fall where they may, que sera sera.

It’s a good old, way-out-in-the-sticks country football school, with an athletic department and reputation built on the same ideals — nutty, crazy, insane, unrealistic, demanding, occasionally delusional — that was the business model for the SEC long before its dominance kicked in.

To my of thinking, back in the day Clemson would have been a far more natural fit to join the SEC than South Carolina was when it joined in 1992.

Clemson had the SEC mentality at the time —ready to fire coaches at the drop of the hat, complaining about the aesthetics of victories, obsessing over recruiting, etc. —  while South Carolina always seemed just content to watch their lads play each Saturday and cheer them on regardless.

It took Steve Spurrier four or five years to educate the Gamecocks to the point they finally quit applauding hard-fought losses.

Clemson could have joined the SEC and wouldn’t even have needed to go to orientation classes. Nobody would have noticed any difference.

“We might as well be in the SEC,” Clemson coach Dabo (a perfect SEC name) Swinney said, noting that Clemson opened this season against Auburn, will finish it with South Carolina and LSU, and open next season with Georgia.

But that’s where he lost his way.

“We don’t really spend a lot of time talking about the conference or any of that other stuff,” Swinney said when asked about the opportunity. “That’s just a side part of it. We just want to be the best Clemson team we can be.”

Maybe that’s the problem.

The SEC can’t wait to chant it up.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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