To paraphrase Dennis Green, The SEC are who we thought they were. No one in my circle of friends thought this would be ease. We all knew this was," big boy football" and we were at a disadvantage in talent depth to compete on a weekly bases. Mizzou has played in big games before but not week in and week out. Although as fans we did not have a say in joining the SEC most of us looked forward to it and are glad to be a part of the conference. As I told you last Summer we were not going to set the conference on fire. We would have to take our lumps but hopefully in time we can get up to speed.
Missouri and Texas A&M will be just fine — yes, in football — in the Southeastern Conference long-term. Both programs entered the league on more solid ground than did Arkansas or South Carolina back in 1992. We’ve written/said that many times here at MrSEC.com and on radio. Just wanted to float it out there again before fans of both schools started firing off emails about this post.
While we see bright days for both programs ahead, MU and A&M supporters are still learning a couple of things about the new league they’ve joined. All summer we heard that their teams weren’t coming from the high school ranks and that was true. The Big XII has been the second-best conference of the BCS era. Still, it hasn’t equaled the SEC in terms of success. That’s because the SEC is defense-first, tougher and strong from one end to the other:
On Saturday, Florida and LSU battered each other for 60 minutes. The first half belonged to the Tigers, but as usual — and thanks in part to some more injuries at LSU — the second half belonged to Will Muschamp’s Gators. As we tweeted Saturday — follow us here — America was probably yawning during the low-scoring affair, but the smashmouth brand of ball being displayed is exactly why Mike Slive’s conference continues to win BCS titles.
Good defense beats good offense. (Ask a Georgia fan about that one today.) And the SEC has good defenses. Moan, groan and scream that it’s bad offense, not good defense, if you like… but that’s what fans from Ohio State to Oklahoma to Texas to Oregon have said the past few years, too:
2007 BCS title game: Ohio State enters averaging 36.3 points per game. Florida beats them 41-14.
2008 BCS title game: Ohio State enters averaging 32.0 points per game. LSU beats them 38-24.
2009 BCS title game: Oklahoma enters averaging a ridiculous 54.0 points per game. Florida beats them 24-14.
2010 BCS title game: Texas enters averaging 40.6 points per game. Alabama beats them 37-21.
2011 BCS title game: Oregon enters averaging 49.3 points per game. Auburn beats them 22-19.
Just from the fans and radio hosts and contacts this writer talked to from Missouri and Texas in the preseason, I really believe a lot of Aggie and Tiger fans thought, “Yeah, yeah, better defense… we know” No. It’s much better defense.
If one of them makes it, Oregon or West Virginia will learn that fact in January’s BCS Championship Game. Missouri and Texas A&M fans are seeing it up close already. And if they’re honest, I bet they’ll admit the top o’ the line defenses in the SEC are a little bit better than they even expected.
Whether it’s Kentucky playing 22 freshmen already, Missouri losing one O-lineman after another as well as its star quarterback, or LSU losing bodies like a bad funeral home… the SEC is a meat grinder league.
Mizzou has already banged heads with Georgia and South Carolina, lost to Vanderbilt — to learn that there are no gimmes in the SEC — and now hobbled and broken they’ll get the joy of hosting top-ranked bruiser, Alabama, this weekend in Columbia. Texas A&M dropped it’s first SEC game to Florida, thumped downtrodden Arkansas, but then got its own lesson in the “no-layups league” with a 30-27 nailbiter over an Ole Miss team picked to finish dead last in the SEC West.
The Aggies will face Louisiana Tech on Saturday, but then starts a run of LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama. They should expect a few bumps, contusions, sprains and breaks during that run. It comes with the SEC territory.
3. Change Comes Quickly
Doing radio shows across America this summer, I grew very tired of the many variations of this one question that I kept hearing: “Will the SEC East ever be good again?” Every time I heard that — from Missouri folks, Texas people, or persons from elsewhere I simply thought to myself: “Have you kept up with SEC history?”
Yes, the West Division was expected to be tougher than the East this year. But as we’ve written and as we told those radio hosts, things are pretty darn cyclical in the Southeastern Conference. Well, it seems the cycle’s already changed again. Thanks to Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle, attrition in Baton Rouge, Steve Spurrier’s amazing work in Columbia, and a power run game at Florida, the SEC East is — for now — looking tougher than the big, bad SEC West.
Long-time SEC fans aren’t surprised. The 1990s leaned heavily to the East with Florida and Tennessee practically owning the league. The 2000s saw some shifts back and forth. The last couple of years have been West-heavy, but that’s already changing again.
Entering the season, Missouri was expected to have the easier first season due to their division placement. Now it looks like Texas A&M might have a slightly – slightly — easier schedule. The lesson? If you don’t like the balance of power in the SEC today… give it a year. It’ll change.
This isn’t to suggest Missouri and Texas A&M fans didn’t respect their new league or that their teams won’t both reach bowl games this season. But if they’re honest, I’m guessing they’ll tell you that some things are already a little tougher than expected.