Archived Story

SEC strengths and weaknesses exposed

Published 5:25pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Last week, the SEC unveiled “The Book of Manning,” with all its syrup-sopping Southern comfort and teary-toddler footage of the Manning brothers (Cooper, Peyton and Eli) as children growing up.
Let’s face it, these southerners really know how to tell stories.
Last weekend, the league of seven straight championships had the spotlight the entire day.
First, there was No. 12 South Carolina in the 11 a.m. slot,  followed by No. 6 Louisiana State and No. 8 Georgia on CBS at midday.
I like to refer this as the hallowed, midday “My Goodness” show hosted by my favorite pair of yokels, Verne Lundquist and Gary Pinkel. Every time I hear Verne say, “Oh my goodness” or “Wow,” I immediately cringe.
I’m not sure what is more difficult to stomach, Verne and Gary or Paul Finebaum. Now ESPN is drinking the Finebaum Kool-Aid.
That TV feed led to No. 21 Mississippi at No. 1 Alabama at roughly the same time No. 20 Florida was playing Kentucky and No. 10 Texas A&M was playing at Arkansas.
The Big Ten Conference – with Wisconsin versus Ohio State – did their best to cut in on the dance about 8 p.m., but the SEC otherwise saturated Saturdays slate.
So if you are a college football junkie, you had no choice but to find yourself gauging the SEC at the end of September.
My instant analysis:  The SEC is not as good or deep as it has been, but at least for now it still has a stranglehold on the national narrative.
The SEC has a history of smashmouth offenses and championship defenses. We saw a little of both last Saturday.
Georgia held off LSU, 44-41 in a really fun game to watch. The teams combined for 85 points and more than 900 yards. The mantra of “in the SEC, defenses win championships” was excused that day.
Everything got back on track when the scene switched to Tuscaloosa.
Alabama turned three field goals into a 9-0 halftime lead then shoved Mississippi directly through a meat grinder en route to a 25-0 win.
Alabama had the nation’s No. 56 ranked defense, that stifled an opponent averaging 38 points a game.
It appears the sheriff (Nick Saban) has restored law and order in Tombstone (Tuscaloosa).
Remember  when I alluded to the “Perfect Storm?”
Final analysis: The SEC has taken a few early-season hits, with BCS contenders South Carolina, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M all taking losses before October.
Alabama, after some shaky performances, reminded everyone why they are No. 1 and still the team to beat.
The winds of change were blowing hard early Sunday morning on the left coast.  USC athletic director Pat Haden met the plane at LAX, and as the team loaded the buses, head coach Lane Kiffin was instructed to not board the bus.
Kiffin told the buses to wait, but Haden told them to drive away.
At approximately 3 a.m. Sunday, Lane Kiffin was ex-head coach of the Trojans.
Instant analysis: Kiffin was a good recruiter, but he came with some heavy baggage. The way he departed Tennessee was ugly.
His cocky, aloof attitude embarrassed the Trojan family. He will never be called “Mr. Personality.”
Yes, Kiffin worked hard under some very difficult NCAA sanctions, no doubt about that, but he was never going to succeed under these conditions.
No coach would be able to withstand the limitations of losing 30 scholarships over three years.
What got Kiffin fired was not about the record or the play-calling; it was all about his demeanor.
The way he handled everything, from the press to the players, never once made anyone forget Pete Carroll.
Playing it forward:  Auburn (3-1) will be hosting Mississippi (3-1) this Saturday. Both teams want to get back on track after SEC losses.
I look for a high-scoring game from both up-tempo offenses.
Alabama and Missouri are the only teams undefeated in the SEC.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.