Last Modified: Friday, August 15, 2014 10:53 AM
Serious football analysts were taken aback at SEC Media Days last month when, amidst all the back-slapping, it came to light from the preseason poll that somebody had voted for Arkansas to win the Southeastern Conference championship.
Though no formal investigation was convened, it was never proven to be a practical joke or a blatant misprint.
So perhaps that just goes to show you that, in the SEC, there’s something to be said for everybody.
I tend to take the other tact.
Maybe, just feeling negative today, but I can also give you solid reasons AGAINST any team in the SEC winning even a division title, let alone the whole thing.
So let’s do it. I’ll show you how it works.
Alabama: Nothing like tackling the easy one first.
The Crimson Tide, you may have heard, are the overwhelming choice by the media to win the title. Apparently this is based on the notion that Bama has the best players, the strongest players, the fastest players, the best head coach, the best assistants, the best vibe, the best history, the best fans, the SEC Office in its back pocket and, for that matter, the Tide don’t really need a quarterback or his girlfriend.
Well, uh … sometimes that’s overrated. Really, work with me here. Saban & Co. had all of that last year, and more, even a quarterback and his girlfriend, and didn’t win a single championship.
Bottom line: If Oklahoma can beat them without fluke plays, it’s definitely doable.
Auburn: First of all, Auburn got a lot of love and first-place votes for a team that still has to prove that it wasn’t a one-hit wonder that caught lightning in a bottle and Saban with his pants down.
Now, if you can guarantee that, in back-to-back games, Georgia defensive backs will knock each other out of a play and Alabama’s field goal team will stand around and watch history, OK, I’m all in.
Bottom line: It’s a leap of faith to think you can count on two of the flukiest (luckiest) plays of the season again.
LSU: So here’s LSU’s spin on things: Yes, the Tigers are going to be ridiculously young, but — not to worry — the brain trust anticipated this well in advance and the incoming freshman class was recruited specifically to be battle-tested ready to compete for titles immediately.
Never mind that this defies football sense. It probably breaks several known laws of physics.
Bottom line: Good luck with it anyway, especially at quarterback.
Miss: Oh, gosh, we’ve heard this one before, although the Rebels haven’t made this much noise since back in the days of Eli Manning.
But the Rebels are really, really ready this time — and, unlike most of the rest of the SEC, they have a proven and talented quarterback. And they did win three conference games last year.
On the other hand, Ole Miss is still the only SEC West team never to represent the division in the title game.
Bottom line: Again, we’ve heard this before and nothing much ever came of it.
State: You can almost group the two Mississippi schools together — although it would be wise to have ample security on hand.
The Bulldogs also have a proven quarterback and unusually high expectations.
Pardon me while I nod off.
Bottom line: At some point Dan Mullen has to win a game against the SEC’s upper tier.
A&M: The Aggies have been surprisingly tough and unfazed in their first two years of SEC play, have recruited like crazy and seem to have Saban’s number.
Oh, and they also had the most dynamic football player in a generation, and Johnny Football doesn’t live here anymore.
Bottom line: Most of that awful defense is, in fact, returning.
Arkansas: Sure, the Razorbacks went 0-8 in the SEC last year, but Auburn went 0-8 the year before and look at that turnaround. So you’re saying it’s possible …
Auburn also had a new coach with a dynamic offense that was a shock to the system of the staid old SEC.
Bottom line: The offense Bret Bielema runs has been around since the Stone Age.
Carolina: Steve Spurrier has changed the culture in South Carolina to where it’s no longer enough to just show up and play hard.
But, though little known outside the state, the Curse of the Chicken still casts a long shadow and forboding dread over the program.
Bottom line: Gamecocks still have to prove they’re good enough to be more than just a nuisance.
Georgia: On paper, this is the best team and it’s ready to bounce back from all the injuries last year.
But Georgia always finds a way to slip up somewhere unexpectedly.
Bottom line: Still hard to believe the Dawgs are one of the few SEC teams not win the BCS title.
Florida: The Gators hit rock bottom this year and got a new offensive coordinator to keep Will Muschamp from getting fired on the spot. Besides, it makes absolutely no sense for Florida to be that far down.
Bottom line: Gators, shockingly, still don’t have any wide receivers.
Missouri: The Tigers won it last year, remember? Me either.
Bottom line: Nobody has ever fully explained how Mizzou ended up in the SEC title game, although a perfect storm is suspected. No way it happens again.
Tennessee: The Vols been down long enough and Butch Jones has been recruiting up to Big Orange Standards.
It’s only a matter of time, they say.
Bottom line: Now is not that time.
Vanderbilt: This isn’t your father’s cuddly old Vanderbilt. James Franklin changed that and new coach Derek Mason seems even more dynamic.
Bottom line: It’s still Vanderbilt. Even under Franklin the Commodores were upgraded to competitive, not contenders.
Kentucky: Really now, think about it. Does Kentucky actually need another reason not to win the East? Didn’t think so.
Bottom line: Next question.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
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