With football season upon us, sphincter muscles of SEC fans everywhere are tightly constricted. There is much to fear.
The road to the BCS Championship game is a nearly impossible trek for upper tier teams like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU. For Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky, it’s a question of forcing an entry to that upper tier. For Vandy and Mississippi State, it’s a question of getting quality wins against the others, a question of respect.
A SEC fan looks at the landscape outside the conference, and he or she knows several teams have been given a straight shot at THE game by pollsters who doggedly insist from day one that Ohio State and Oklahoma should be in the championship game, no matter how many times they are “shocked” by the outcome when such teams encounter the true meat eaters of the SEC or USC (a team some consider the SEC, FAR West division).
They snicker when they place four SEC teams in the preseason top 10 because they know these teams will probably lose two games and fall out of the picture.
True, these pollsters can ride out most of the season smugly as they are proved “right” week after week, their top picks rolling up victories while BCS aspirations of SEC teams are shattered in the merciless and cannibalistic environment that is Southeastern Conference football.
Then there are the non-conference games where some SEC teams seem to go limp, as if it were a week off. The result can be UL-Monroe humbling Alabama, making a conference win against the Tide almost worthless in the eyes of pollsters everywhere. Non-conference losses by SEC teams have ill effects on all the others, so we are left to root for a hated conference enemy so often we feel like cheap floozies.
Yes, it's tough to be a fan of LSU or one of the others, but the pollsters are watching as nervously as SEC fans, praying their pretty favorites don't have to meet a nasty bunch from this take-no-prisoners conference at the BCS title game.
The fear is there from the first non-conference game forward. Will LSU play down to the talent of Appalachian State, and oh my god, isn’t that Auburn in the near distance, licking their chops over a shot at the champions, and Great Scot, isn’t that Florida and Georgia lined up behind them, drool dripping from their face guards?
Will Central Michigan stun Georgia, as the Bulldogs look forward ominously to LSU, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and South Carolina? Is Tennessee with all its young talent really preparing for UCLA as it should, or is hatred of Florida emblazoned on Phil Fulmer’s eyeballs, clouding his preparatory vision?
And for the pollsters, there is always the fear that the SEC champion will muscle its way into the title game.
So strap yourselves in, boys and girls of the Southeastern Conference. Get out your grills. Eat, drink, and be merry in the parking lot, prepare to be thrilled or killed in the stadium, and pray Ohio State is the only foreign team left standing in the way of the SEC Champion at the end of this season because simply put, if two of those pretenders get through the season reasonably well, it will be Auburn 2004 all over again.