By War Eagle Atlanta
We saw it with LSU after the 2006 season, in which they demolished Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and were the hand-picked successors to Florida by the media as the upcoming champion in 2007. And now you're seeing it with Georgia, whose losses to South Carolina and Tennessee last year precluded them from playing in the title game, but propelled them into the Sugar to thoroughly trash an over-matched Hawaii team. Starting to see the emerging trend now?
Heck, you can even draw parallels with the 2005 Florida team, whose 9-3 record in Urban Meyer's inaugural year wasn't bad, but didn't involve a Sugar Bowl appearance. Nor did it involve a pre-season MNC nod for 2006--the Gators were ranked pre-season that year around an average of 6th. But they went on to win it all anyway, giving the SEC it's second of three Mythical National Championships (MNC) in the new century.
But we're not even done with spring drills, you say. True enough, but the sports media these days never sleeps, and certainly does not like a void. Just because college football isn't being played on the field, don't think for a minute that it isn't being played in the minds of coaches, fans, and the media alike.
Just like a Fortune 500 company these days doesn't have a CEO exiting stage left without a successor already being named, college football is rapidly coming to the point where they're not going to shut off the lights on the old season before they determine who the favorite for the next one will be. Hell, they're even starting to do it with head coaches--this 'coach-in-waiting' crap. Don't be surprised if they even start conducting exit polls outside the various bowl game venues so they can determine who the on-deck champion is going to be...
But a lot of giggling coming out of Athens here lately lets you know that the Dawgs are ready to have their day. Good for them. I think they're entitled to feel a little giddy. We Tigers probably shouldn't have much that we can say against them, being that we were in the same position going into the 2003 season, and we all know how that turned out. There's no team that benefits more from flying UNDER the radar than Auburn. That's how we like it--unexpected and under-appreciated. We never seem to live up to our lofty expectations anyway, so perhaps we can serve as a cautionary warning to the 2008 Dawgs.
But maybe we also serve as a little inspiration. You gotta ask yourself, "Why is the SEC getting so much love lately?" Everyone already knows that we're the toughest conference, right? Why has it taken them so long to recognize it?
I think a lot of the reason is that the media and the CFB powers-that-be feel guilty over Auburn having been left out of the MNC hunt in 2004 and are now bending over backwards to give deserving SEC teams every break and benefit of the doubt that they deserve. Of course, you have to factor in the superb competition in the conference, too, but at long last the SEC is being given its props. It sucks that it took a shafting of Auburn for everyone to recognize it, but at least it's time has come.
Florida at the end of the 2006 season is the first beneficiary. For sure, they don't get into the title game without a USC face plant to UCLA, and maybe an 11-1 SEC team is the natural choice anyway, but don't forget how strong the sentiments were to get a Michigan-Ohio State rematch for all the marbles. In my opinion, there's no way that a nascent Gator squad gets the call over Big Go Blue without a little extra caution and consideration from the media being exercised.
Then look at LSU last year--predicted to win it all. They shoot themselves in the foot twice, and almost shoot it four other times. Yet they win the SEC, and none of their losses are OOC. Couple that with the fact that virtually every other team lost near the end; and LSU gets the nod.
They're the first two-loss team EVER to get that chance. Think a two-loss team from almost any other conference gets the same opportunity? Not a chance. The CFB powers were weighting those SEC losses a little differently than the rest...
Seem a little pre-ordained that LSU ended up where they were? Yea, maybe--I hate it when the media seemingly gets their way. There definitely was a lot of luck involved, but I think that LSU received supreme consideration, being the SEC champs.
And the growing trend seems to be that in a world without a playoff, perhaps the champion of the SEC deserves to automatically get a bid in the MNC title game. Call me crazy, but I think that's the way it's going. Give it a few more seasons and I'll know for sure.
So you Dawgs have a tough schedule out in front of you this season, perhaps the toughest of anyone. But relax. Maybe you don't quite have to run the table. Facing the opponents you do in the conference you're in, even if you slip a little, maybe they'll cut you a little slack!