Shane: The SEC after nine weeks

By Shane from Centerpoint

This league is definitely no place for the weak. On the other hand, it may be even more dangerous for the strong. On any football Saturday in the SEC, the weakest team can rip the strongest team’s chance to play for the national title away in a split-second. Actually, overall records and poll recognition do suffer because each gridiron battle ends up being a violent war of attrition.

Basically, the talent level of all twelve teams is very close – the resulting outcome of recent games serves as a testament to that statement. Unlike most of college football, the heavy physical toll extracted from the players who compete in the SEC almost resembles the NFL’s.

Accordingly, team depth and the quality of that depth play a major part in the success rate of a program over the course a tough, demanding schedule.

Therefore, my assessment of every team’s performance to-date is based on the understanding that, although SEC teams brutalize each other week-in and week-out, the best teams from most conferences couldn’t beat a middle-of-the pack Southeastern Conference squad having a bad day.

I’m continually amazed by the pundits who think that USC, Texas, or some other team from a non-southeastern brand could really survive the “gauntlet” faced by every SEC team during some of their tortuous runs through the conference.

Let’s take a look at the two strongest SEC programs: Alabama and Florida (alphabetical order, not rank). There’s a very good reason why they’re ranked in the top-three positions of most polls. Both teams have championship caliber defenses and enough offensive firepower to manhandle any team in the country – period! Each squad has the luxury of being able to incorporate very talented young athletes on special teams as well.

In the game of football, speed kills. Want speed? The Gators and the Crimson Tide both have defensive linemen with enough of it to chase down running backs. They also have a stable of their own running backs that can’t be caught from behind. Simply put, Florida and Alabama are the fastest two football teams in America.

Throw in the fact that no team has been able to run the football with any consistency against their defenses, and it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to see that either team is almost impossible to beat.

Meanwhile, the second-tier teams in the conference are caught in the typically viscous cycle that SEC fans have grown familiar with after years of watching the cannibalism take place.

At this point in the season, only LSU has a realistic shot to unseat Alabama from the long-predicted match-up between the Tide and Gators in the SEC championship.

Evidently, Florida has established itself as the eastern division champion.

However, several of the second–level SEC programs will have a chance to climb the ladder in the rankings. They get the unique opportunity to face Alabama and/or Florida, which offers each a window to impress the bowl committees, if they can beat either of the best two teams in the nation. For example: A win over Alabama by Auburn would probably catapult the Tigers into the Peach Bowl. Or, if South Carolina could defeat Florida they might steal that invite from Auburn.

Most of the experts acknowledge that it is an overwhelming task to produce consistent, winning performances as you rumble through the SEC jungle.

Truthfully, I intentionally focused on Alabama and Florida in this article because they are the “big dogs” in the SEC right now. But, there are a few other teams that have a chance to be considered highly successful.

LSU is still alive in the hunt for the national crown. They control their own destiny. All they have to do – to continue forward toward the championship – is beat Alabama on the road this week!

Auburn, as I mentioned above, plays the Tide as well. By the way, they do have a pretty fair chance to win their other games.

And once again, Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks could earn a New Year’s Day bowl bid by beating the team (Florida) that he coached for twelve years. Winning the remaining games before and after that would finalize the deal.

Not much to ask for the second-tier teams to be successful, huh?

As I said previously, only the strong survive; and that may very well be all they do – survive.

Bottom line: Southern athletes make the best football players. They flock to the SEC powerhouse teams in mass. This year, two programs are exceptional and about three are very good. Throw in a couple more that could upset the best two (if they forget to bring their A game), and you are looking at the strongest, most dangerous conference in the nation.

In my opinion, it’s not even close!
—Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.