Why Expectations are Worthless in the SEC

Will SheltonSenior Analyst ISeptember 5, 2008

In eight days of college football, here's what we've learned at the expense of everything we thought we knew:

Alabama was a young underdog at a neutral site against a potential National Championship contender with the best backfield in America in Clemson.  The Tide spanked the Tigers 34-10 by holding James Davis & CJ Spiller to 20 yards combined, and are now on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Arkansas brought in Bobby Petrino from the NFL after his incredible stint at Louisville.  The Hogs had to overcome a 24-14 hole in the 4th quarter against an FCS school before squeaking out a 28-24 win.

Auburn was a preseason Top 10 pick with a new offense under Tony Franklin that generated plenty of optimism.  Quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd combined to go 13 of 27 for 85 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. Said Franklin: "We stink, and it's my fault."

Kentucky had to go to Louisville with most of their playmakers from the high scoring bowl teams of 2006 and 2007 having graduated.  The Cats blasted the Cards 27-2 with their defense holding U of L to 205 total yards and forcing five turnovers.

Ole Miss brought in Houston Nutt, who left the cupboard bare in Arkansas.  But then he found Dexter McCluster in Oxford, who got 125 yards and the Rebs ran away from Memphis 41-24.

Mississippi State had experience back from a bowl team last year, with some calling Slyvester Croom the best coach in the SEC because he did the most with the least.  The Bulldogs watched Wesley Carroll throw four interceptions and lost to Louisiana Tech 22-14.

South Carolina believed this could be the year Steve Spurrier got them over the hump, and Steve Spurrier believed in Tommy Beecher.  Then he believed in Chris Smelley after week one.  Then he lost Kenny McKinley.  Now he believes in Vanderbilt for the second year in a row.

Tennessee brought back lots of experience as defending SEC East Champions, with a highly anticipated new offense and new quarterback.  That new quarterback went 19 of 41 against UCLA, whose quarterback threw four interceptions in the first half...and the Bruins still beat the Vols in overtime. Clawson failed to echo Tony Franklin's sentiments following the game.

Vanderbilt is 2-0.

Even those who've gone according to plan on the field have had major issues: 

Florida lost Cornelius Ingram and Georgia lost Jeff Owens, two potential first-team All-SEC players whose absence will be missed and who'll reshape the season outlook, even if only slightly.

In fact, the team only team whose preseason expectations are now largely unchanged are the defending National Champions at LSU

Think things have changed after just one Saturday?  Check this out:

-Last year, Alabama was 6-2 in October.  They finished the regular season 6-6.

-Florida beat Tennessee 59-20 in September and looked like the best team in the conference.  The Gators went 6-4 from that point and lost to unranked teams twice.

-By the first Saturday of October 2007, Georgia had lost to South Carolina and had gotten blown out by the same Tennessee team that was blown out by Florida.  At that point, the Dawgs had lost six straight games to SEC East opponents.  Then they won seven straight games, beat four ranked teams and finished the year No. 2 in the country.

-Kentucky started the year 6-1 and ranked in the Top 10.  The only team they beat the rest of the regular season was Vanderbilt.

-South Carolina did them one better:  They started 6-1 and were ranked in the Top 10.  They lost to everybody from that point, including Vanderbilt.

-The same Tennessee team that lost to Florida 59-20 and Alabama 41-17, beat Georgia 35-14, won the SEC East and held a lead in the 4th quarter of the SEC Championship against...

-LSU, who lost twice...and still won the National Championship.

Those cliches about every game counting and taking them a week at a time have never been more true. 

Whether by injuries, inexperience or simply over/underestimated expectations, you never, ever know what's going to happen until you see your team on the field.  And as we saw last year, what you see in September, no matter how good, bad or unexpected may not hold true in October, and those who play well in November usually make it through to January.

The SEC: At least we're never bored.