An old coach once said, "you're never as good as you think you are." SEC fans, the media, and coaches could all learn something from that statement.
It's amazing that a region which is the worst in nearly every measurable statistic regarding schools and education has done such a marvelous job of pulling the wool over the entire country's eyes. Remarkably, the entire sports media world has been convinced that outside of the SEC, everyone plays pansy football. Well done. The best move so far? ESPN, which has more involvement with college football than anyone, has bought in, literally, with their SEC TV deal. Now the noise praising the SEC as National Football League Jr. has reached deafening levels. If you played a drinking game on a college football Saturday and took a swig of beer every time you heard the phrases "SEC style defense" and "outside of the SEC" or "best non SEC (insert) defense, secondary, defensive line, etc" you would die. When the worldwide leader in sports is financially invested in you, it's a knockout blow from the wonderful part of our country that is home to a "museum" of cavemen riding dinosaurs and a university that brought the term "buttchugging" to the rest of the pansy football playing world.
So SEC, how have you done it?
First of all, you schedule the worst teams in the country out of conference.
It's criminal the pass that the media gives the SEC on its garbage out of conference scheduling. The wily folks at the SEC preach how difficult it is to win games in the conference, so the party line is there's no need to schedule tough out of it. Here's your non conference scheduling model courtesy of the SEC. Play one team from the Sun Belt and one decent but not too challenging FBS team, but only if you're feeling up to it. Preferably, you play a bottomfeeder from the MAC or Conference USA for win number 3. Then, to really make sure all goes according to plan, you pay an FCS team for a guaranteed home win. Unfortunately, you might be unlucky enough to have a non conference rivalry game, one you just have to play, but if you luck out like Alabama or LSU then you get to schedule a second Sun Belt team. Heck, with these kind of scheduling smarts, you might as well start giving out the trophy for winning the Sun Belt to whoever wins the SEC.
Just to avoid any embarassing questions from the media who won't ask them anyway because they have a financial interest in the SEC's success, have Alabama play Michigan-at a neutral site obviously, let's not get crazy here. Your high football IQ fanbase can defensively point to the monumental win when they have to prove that they do indeed schedule tough out of conference. Michigan isn't good, but that's not the point when you are a blind SEC homer, what you like is that they have the name brand. Then call in to Finebaum's show and talk about what garbage football every other conference plays and point to the Michigan victory as proof.
There's even more scheduling genius at the hands of another top SEC team. After last years respectable slate which clearly did so much harm to LSU's national title hopes, this year they follow the foolproof SEC model with games against North Texas, Washington, Idaho, and Towson. Booya! Heck, Idaho is so bad even the Sun Belt won't take them once the WAC folds. What else do you do? Play all these games at home. Only 9 SEC non conference games will be true away games. That's 14 teams in the conference playing 9 away games. Brutal.
Yes, I know, plenty of other powerhouse teams from other conferences play cupcake out of conference schedules, but none of those conferences preach about being the best in college football. Relentlessly. Apparently, when you are the best, the best bet is to stay in your bubble, never leave it for a good team unless you absolutely have to, and follow the next bit of genius...
Repeat over and over how deep the SEC is and how strong your conference is from top to bottom.
The good thing is that with awful out of conference scheduling, no one will have embarassing losses. Uh oh, like Kentucky losing to Western Kentucky? Or powerhouse Arkansas losing to Louisiana Monroe? That's right, I called Arkansas a powerhouse, because you don't just get to use them when they've got Petrino. When you're so strong from top to bottom, you get them post motorcycle crash and everything. Then there's Vandy, who SEC fans love to point out is "our worst team which is even good now," losing tragically to a Northwestern team from the vaunted BIG10. Oh, and South Carolina barely beat Vanderbilt, but no one needs to know that.
The best part about being an SEC fan is the beautiful hypocrisy of it. The media praises the conference's top to bottom strength (which always is used to explain the cupcake scheduling) but when one of those teams loses, you can just point out that "they're not that good this year." It's a perfect strategy. If anyone was to point out that a team like, say, Florida State is 3-0 against the SEC the last two years, all you have to do is say, yeah, but that was against South Carolina and Florida and they weren't even that good. No one will point out that South Carolina was the SEC runner up when they lost to FSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2011. ESPN certainly won't. Obviously, when questioned by an SEC outsider about which teams are great from "top to bottom" an SEC fan will point out all the strong teams in the conference, including South Carolina, and Florida, but what they've done recently doesn't matter. The top to bottom strength of the conference is the party line. That's all that matters. Tennessee is a name brand, they were a powerhouse, their recent run of misery isn't important, it's the name Tennessee that makes the SEC so tough. And Georgia too; don't worry that they lost to Boise State last year. Or that Alabama lost to Utah in a BCS game. As an SEC fan you get them all, but they only count at their best. From Top. To. Bottom.
Next step, repeat "SEC style defense" a billion times.
Is the SEC really a conference of elite defenses or has the rest of the SEC been riding the coatails of the best-coached team in America? LSU plays good defense, but I couldn't include them in the sentence with the best coach in America without laughing a little. LSU wins in spite of Les Miles, not because of him. But I digress. LSU is a top program that hasn't had solid QB play for years, and this season they have a Georgia reject taking the snaps who is one plea bargain away from being a sex offender and, worst of all, doesn't seem to be putting any effort into not looking like one. Only in the SEC.
South Carolina's best option for three (and a half) years was Stephen Garcia. Stephen Garcia, for almost four years, was the best option Steve Spurrier could come up with for the Gamecocks. Jevan Snead, who couldn't beat out Colt McCoy at Texas, looked like an All-American at Ole Miss for years. Is the "SEC defense" something that truly deserves this mythical status, or is this a conference of poor offenses with marginal ability to score points making decent defenses look like world beaters? In 2010 Auburn had Gus Malzahn running the Cam Newton show. They ran the table in the SEC because they could score points, and they were far from a dominant team. Clemson, from the lowly ACC, gave the 2010 National Champs all they could handle and nearly ruined their season.
Do I think the SEC features the most talented players in the country? Absolutely. The number of SEC players taken in the NFL draft is evidence enough. Does that mean the best college football teams are only in the South? No, absolutely not. And that's the problem when the SEC puts themselves in their conference bubble, half asses their out-of-conference games against cupcakes, and then every loss in their conference is "proof" of how difficult it is to win in the SEC. The overwhelming bias towards the SEC means we may find ourselves with "the SEC and then everybody else" situation for a long time to come. It's not realistic to blindly believe year in and year out that a one loss SEC champ is superior to everyone else in college football. That's not doing the sport justice. Neither is relying on the new joke of a "playoff" to help solve this situation. We had a chance to get some sort of an answer at the end of the 2011 season with a National Championship game featuring an explosive Oklahoma State offense against an offensively inept, but great defensive team in LSU. That would have been far more intriguing than a rematch with Alabama, but I guess after that 9-6 thriller in the regular season, we had to see them go at it again, and in no small part due to the media hype machine and SEC bias.
It's not so far outside the realm of possibility that like every other conference, the SEC is made of a few top teams, and then everybody else. This "top to bottom" schtick is crazy. The SEC has plenty of ugly losses, regardless of whether or not ESPN wants to talk about them. There's the possiblity that head to head, the SEC isn't all that good. A very real possiblity. How real? Well, it's fact actually. Since the BCS was formed, the SEC has a losing record against, wait for it, the BIG EAST. That's right, the conference that is struggling for survival and might not be around in a couple of years. In fact, the SEC has a losing record against the PAC-12 too and only a slight edge in wins against the rest of the conference. Since the BCS was formed, here's the breakdown (stats courtesy of
SEC vs. PAC-12 regular season: 10-12
SEC vs. PAC-12 bowl games: 1-0
SEC vs. Big 12 regular season: 6-10
SEC vs. Big 12 bowl games: 21-8
SEC vs. ACC regular season: 42-36
SEC vs. ACC bowl games: 16-9
SEC vs. Big 10 regular season: 7-4
SEC vs. Big 10 bowl games: 19-19
SEC vs. Big East regular season: 16-15
SEC vs. Big East bowl game: 3-8
When you look at those records, 19-19 against the BIG10, does the SEC really deserve the hype? Of course not. The SEC is a conference in a bubble, with the largest sports network in the country financially invested in its success.