Last Modified: Sunday, August 17, 2014 1:11 PM
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The Southeastern Conference not only didn’t win the BCS championship last season, one could make the case that the conference briefly lost its bearings, if not totally losing its mind.
It never felt like an SEC year.
No matter the creepy inroads that the spread offense continues to make into the league, it’s still a conference that, at heart, likes to think that defense still matters. It’s a league that still looks down its nose at the pop-gun styles of, say, the Big 12 for playing two-hand touch, and would probably welcome Stanford in from the Pac-12 just for the effort.
So the SEC had some explaining to do.
It is, after all, the conference that once turned the “Game of the Century” into a 9-6 LSU-Alabama slugfest, one that couldn’t get to double figures even with overtime.
And most everybody was proud of it — real football, they retorted to the adrenalin junkie naysayers.
So last year’s SEC title game, the big showcase for traditional football values, ended up: Auburn 59, Missouri 42.
And it wasn’t far from the norm. The regular season wasn’t much different.
Those were some strange unexplainable curiosities that kept popping up on Deep South scoreboards last season.
You can blame some of it on spread offenses, particularly the never-ending, hot-foot mischief of Texas A&M, which scored 42 points against Alabama and 41 against Auburn and lost both games.
At least the Aggies could blame a truly dreadful defense — and, in the case of Auburn, going up against another über-tempo spread attack.
But what of LSU and Georgia? Proud defenses, both of them, and wear their old-school offensive styles like a badge of courage.
Final score: Georgia 44, LSU 41.
Explain that one — the most points LSU ever scored in regulation without, as Les Miles would say, “achieving victory.”
Had the whole conference gone nuts?
And there was more where that came from.
It’s a wonder Bob Stoops didn’t take to his Oklahoma pulpit for an hour-long exposé.
Fortunately there has been a thorough investigation, and most serious analysts seem to blame it more on a perfect storm than on the demise of defense as we know it.
There were some rebuilding defenses at play.
But most point the finger at perhaps the greatest collection of top-flight quarterbacks ever to play in the league in the same year.
Not to worry.
LSU isn’t alone in trying desperately to fill the void of a quarterback capable of running up moon-shot scoreboards.
Zach Mettenberger may be gone, but so is Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, South Carolina’s (vastly underrated) Conner Shaw, Missouri’s James Franklin, Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels, not to mention to force of nature that was Johnny “Football” Manziel at Texas A&M.
That’s a lot of firepower for one conference to replace overnight.
But maybe defensive coordinators will sleep easier this season. Perhaps the scoreboards will stay in double digits.
It’s also why Ole Miss (with Bo Wallace) and Mississippi State (with Dak Prescott) can claim to be contenders without being horse-laughed out of the joint.
They have legitimate quarterbacks returning with experience. Particularly early in the season, that could be just the advantage they need.
There’s also defending champion Auburn, with hybrid quarterback Nick Marshal. He is mostly a runner but has been threatening the entire offseason to learn how to throw the ball, which would be dangerous indeed.
But that’s about as far as returning SEC quarterbacks who really scare anybody.
LSU probably has the diciest replacement job, given the applicants’ youth, and the auditions are being staged in secrecy normally reserved for nuclear warfare. So it’s anybody’s guess how it’s going, let alone whether Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris is your man.
Alabama has proved it doesn’t really need a quarterback, but got a convenient transfer anyway in Jacob Coker from Florida State. Whoever the quarterback is, he no doubt will look just like every other Tide quarterback (game manager) for the last 20 years. Bama clones them.
Georgia and South Carolina have dependable, longtime backups who had waited patiently for their shot, even started an odd game or two as injury fill-ins — Hutson Mason for the Dawgs, Dylan Thompson for the Gamecocks. Sometimes that works, sometimes you realize why they never started before.
Missouri’s highly touted Maty Mauk got thrown in earlier than expected due to Franklin’s injury and might be the most talented.
Only Texas A&M is attempting anything similar to what LSU is doing with seldom-used sophomore Kenny Hill and blue chip freshman Kyle Allen.
Hill probably got a leg up on the job in the spring when he was suspended from the team.
It reminded the Aggies of Manziel.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
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