Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
July 19, 2012
HOOVER, AL--Every coach at SEC Media Days has been asked his opinion on the impending four-team playoff that will revolutionize college football's postseason. Answers have varied, but none have made as strong a statement as Nick Saban.
"I think what the fans want to see in the four team playoff is the best teams, the four best teams in the country, get in the playoff. You don't have to win your conference championship to get in the basketball Final Four," Saban said. "I think, to be quite honest with you, whoever's making the statements about conference champions is really making a statement against the SEC and against any league who has more than one good team who would qualify, trying to enhance the opportunity for somebody from their league to get in."
In the interest of full disclosure, Saban's 2011 team won the national title, but not its own division. Alabama lost an overtime game to LSU during the regular season and finished second in the SEC West. But the Tide was also second in the BCS standings and avenged that loss with a shutout of the Tigers in the national championship game to win Saban's second national title at Alabama and third overall.
"To me it should prove the value of a good football team who loses a game, loses a chance to win their conference championship in overtime, to a very, very good team, LSU, that goes on and wins the rest of their games," Saban said. "I don't know why they should be eliminated."
Conference title or not, year in and year out, the goals at Bama remain the same.
"Having success in a football program can have two effects. You can demand more success or you can get a little complacent and be relaxed about what you have accomplished, really think more about what you did rather than what you're going to do," Saban said. "It's human nature to relax, but there's been a lot of examples of very successful people. And I think success should be defined: consistency in performance."
Alabama has been picked second in the West again by the media that covers the league.
Rebuilding isn't a popular word in Knoxville, Tennessee. But that is where the Volunteers find themselves. Tennessee has had three losing seasons in four years and has not won more than seven games since 2007. Derek Dooley is entering his third season and has overhauled the roster during his time in Knoxville.
"We played 32 true freshmen the last two years," the coach said.
With those players now having some experience there are reasons to be optimistic for Vols fans.
"I feel better today about where we are as a program than at any point since I've been in Knoxville, and I mean that," Dooley said. "And probably the number one reason for that is for the first time we have a settled roster. Our roster's in place. We have a full 85 on scholarship, we have 19 starters back, so we have a lot of experience. "
Of course, experience alone isn't enough. Bringing back most of the roster is fine, but these are the same players who went 5-and-7 a season ago and won just one SEC game.
"Well, we need to improve on just about everything," Dooley said. "Because we really weren't good at anything. "
Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is quarterback Tyler Bray, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions last year, but had his season interrupted by injury.
"I think it had a bad impact on us. Our spirit was broken. You know what, as the head coach, that was my responsibility. I probably didn't do as good a job as I needed to do keeping that together," Dooley said. "I think the important thing is you get a deep and talented football team to where you don't lose a guy or two and it decimates your season. We had some good teams in our league that lost great players and they didn't skip a beat. That's what you're going to have to do in this league, because you're going to have injuries. Did it affect us? Absolutely. Did it affect us a little more than it probably should have? I think that's fair to say."
Hugh Freeze is trying to change perceptions.
He inherits a struggling Ole Miss program that was failing on and off the field. Already, he's had to revamp the academic code for football players. According to him, that's been a success. Now comes the matter of what happens on Saturdays.
Those perceptions are everywhere. Earlier this week, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier commented on his inability to influence the schedule.
"If it was up to me, Georgia would be playing LSU and we'd play Ole Miss this year," Spurrier said. His off-the-cuff remark drew raucous laughter from the media in attendance.
Needless to say, the perceptions of Ole Miss football aren't very good.
Freeze, beginning his first season in Oxford after turning around Arkansas State, heard about Spurrier's comments before his press conference on Thursday. However, it wasn't until then that Freeze was made aware of the exact wording by Spurrier. Freeze didn't laugh. He barely even smiled. His response was short and cold.
"I guess my thought would be 2013, they're on our schedule," Freeze said. "We wil circle that date and maybe change his perspective about what he thinks about Ole Miss football."
It may take longer for Freeze to change others' perspectives, though. Freeze even admitted that his former team may have been "more talented at some spots."
"Or maybe 'deeper' is the appropriate term I should use," Freeze said.
Either way, that doesn't bode well for the Rebels' immediate future in the SEC. Arkansas State is a Sun Belt school, after all, and those schools shouldn't be deeper or more talented than a program in the nation's premier conference.
There will be growing pains ahead. Freeze will enter August camp with two quarterbacks atop his depth chart, as junior college transfer Bo Wallace and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti battle for the starting job. There's also co-offense and co-defensive coordinators, although there's no competition for those jobs.
Freeze is trying t build a new culture at Ole Miss. Before it becomes a winning culture, Freeze said he needs for everyone surrounding the school to buy into it. This season isn't about wins or losses, Freeze said.
"I think the reasonable expectation from our fans and our administration ... is that we compete passionately for our university for 60 minutes," Freeze said. "Whatever the scoreboard says, it says at the end. We'll have to live with that."
Mark Richt's popularity among Georgia fans has taken wild swings over his eleven-year tenure in Athens. But, at the start of his 12th season, Richt is once again in a familiar place.
His Bulldogs are the media's favorite to win the SEC East.
There's a lot going in Georgia's favor. There are seven home games on the schedule, and no early-season non-conference match-up against a BCS team. Over the past few years, Georgia has played Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Boise State with mixed results. Georgia returns plenty of starters, including most a defense that was ranked No. 5 in the nation a year ago. And, despite the dismissal of running back Isaiah Crowell, Richt once again turns to established starter Aaron Murray to guide a strong offense.
There's a lot to like. But, at this point, Richt said it doesn't mean anything.
"We haven't done anything yet," Richt said. "We haven't played a game. We haven't won a game. We know our league is tremendous. We know the Eastern Division is going to be a rough road."
The Bulldogs kick off their SEC season with a road game against Missouri. Their schedule also includes a road game against South Carolina, which is thought to be Georgia's biggest competitor to win the SEC East. At the same time, Georgia also caught a break in its cross-divisional scheduling and will play SEC bottom feeder Ole Miss. Meanwhile, South Carolina has to travel to Baton Rouge to play LSU.
The goal is the same as ever for Richt -- win the East. It hasn't changed since his first season in 2001. But, as a media member pointed out to Richt, "We rarely get it right."
"I hope the media's right this time."
Nobody covers the Tigers year-round like PowerMizzou.com. If you are not yet a member, just try out our free trial.