Love how Iowa State beat Oklahoma State to move Alabama back into the #2 position. I've already made the switch to rooting for what is best for the SEC family.
When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, one of the reasons Auburn was placed in the West rather than in the geographically-appropriate East was a desire to maintain competitive balance in the league. So the conference split up the six schools that had traditionally had the best football fortunes — Alabama, Auburn and LSU went to the West… Florida, Georgia and Tennessee to the East.
But for anyone who’s been barking that Missouri and Texas A&M won’t be able to compete consistently in the SEC — and that includes everyone from SEC fans to national media types — it might be time to check out the recent fortunes of three of those “big six” schools listed above.
At 6-4 (Auburn), 5-5 (Florida), and 4-6 (Tennessee) this season, the Tigers, Gators and Vols have combined for a grand total of 15 losses. The last time those three schools combined for 15 losses in a season?
Well, it hasn’t happened in the 2000s. And it didn’t happen in the 1990s, either.
Nope, you’ve got to go all the way back to 1980 to find the last time those three traditional powers combined for 15 losses in season. (Florida finished 7-4, while Auburn and Tennessee each finished 5-6.) Don’t forget, there are still games to be played (and possibly lost) over the next two weekends, too.
The lesson? For all the talk of Mizzou and A&M not being able to win “consistently” in the SEC, the fact is — no team wins consistently in the SEC. Let’s look only at the 2000s:
* As good as Florida has been in the 2000s — winning two BCS titles — the Gators are currently in the middle of back-to-back five-loss seasons. That makes five five-loss seasons since 2002. That’s six seasons of four losses or more in the last 10 years. That’s hardly the image the national media paints of the Gator program. And their not alone in hype…
* Alabama is rolling at the moment, but the Tide lost 13 games combined in 2006 and 2007 (not counting NCAA penalties). Since 2000, Bama has ended seasons with nine losses (2003), eight losses (2000), seven losses (2006), six losses twice (2004 and 2007) and five losses (2001).
* LSU has been by far the SEC’s most consistent winner in the 2000s. The Tigers have already scored two national crowns and are well on their way to playing for another. But fans weren’t so happy when the Tigers lost five games in 2008 and another four in 2009. As recently as last season’s bungling win over Tennessee, there were many on The Bayou who wanted Les Miles evicted. LSU also averaged four losses per year from 2000-2002. Four losses are a disappointment only at a few select programs nationally. As well as at darn never every school in the SEC.
* Want proof of the SEC’s over-the-top expectations? Georgia‘s program had been the model of consistency under Mark Richt. From his first season in 2001 through the 2008 season, the Bulldogs had had two four-loss seasons, three three-loss seasons, two two-loss seasons and one one-loss season. Then came back to back 8-5 and 6-7 campaigns and Richt was forced into a corner. Most believe he was coaching for his job just a couple of weeks ago against Florida. Twelve losses in two seasons will do that to you in the Southeastern Conference.
* Auburn has had two undefeated seasons and a BCS championship since 2000. But the Tigers have also had eight seasons of four or more losses and four seasons of five losses or more. Tommy Tuberville lost just nine games between 2004 and 2007, but when he logged a seven-loss campaign in 2008, he was ousted.
* Along with Florida, Tennessee was consistently dominant in the 1990s. In the 2000s that hasn’t been the case. UT is in the middle of its seventh-straight season of four or more losses (a streak spanning three head coaches). The Volunteers have now lost five or more games six times since 2002 and need to win out to avoid their third losing season since 2005.
Texas A&M and Missouri are walking into a juggernaut conference. There’s no doubt that both will have their struggles.
But as you can see above, despite the idea that this schools and that consistently dominate in the SEC, the league is pretty tough on those schools already housed in it.
Mizzou and A&M will learn that. But they’re not the only ones in need of the lesson.
It’s time for fans and media pundits to realize that in a mini-NFL like the SEC, well-funded, well-coached and well-stocked teams tend to whip up on one another. No one stays on top for long.