SEC football in '07 is going to be a monster


Published: Monday, May 21, 2007 at 8:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 21, 2007 at 8:37 p.m.

They keep saying Florida is a football school, but for the last two weeks it's all been about basketball. Is Billy Donovan talking to the Grizzlies? Should he go to the Magic if they fire Brian Hill? Will Florida land the last two big recruits? Is Billy about to sign the richest contract in college basketball? How many golf balls did he lose in Ireland?

But as we slide into summer, work on our tans and curse the lawns for growing so fast, we can't help but think about how close it is until football season.

(I know that those people who thought Billy would leave for Kentucky will see this and point their fingers again. See? See? Florida is too a football school. Let me clue you folks in to something. There is another football school you might have heard of. It's called the United States of America. If you are a fan of a basketball school, look at your football program. Understand Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke?)

My inspiration for writing about football long after spring practices are over and well before the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., is a piece written by Stewart Mandel on SI.com. In ranking the 11 Div.-1A conferences. My friend Stewart lists the SEC at No. 1. Well, duh. We all know that the SEC is the best football conference in the land. Every conference has fierce rivalries, but no conference has more of them than the SEC.

It's different down here and most people — whether they are fans or journalists or web surfers — know it. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional or has never been to a Florida-Georgia game.

But there was something Mandel wrote that caught my eye.

“Simply put, this year's SEC could be the toughest conference in history. I'm not exaggerating. It's extremely rare for a league to not only boast so many quality teams at the top (LSU, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee) but also so little dead weight at the bottom. Really, it's just Mississippi State.”

That's not going to play in Starkville, but very little does. It will play in the league office where press releases are sent out hourly extolling the strength of the SEC.

SEC 2007? It's difficult to compare it to, say, 1985 or 1969 or any year prior to the invention of the BCS, but there is no question that the SEC is going to be a monster this year.

For a start, you have the defending national champion. You have the preseason favorite to win the Heisman in Arkansas' Darren McFadden. You have a program that put 90,000 in the stadium for a game that didn't mean anything (Alabama). You have what may be the most talented team in the nation in LSU. You have Auburn and Tennessee, two teams that could end up playing in Atlanta.

Just look at the East. Where's the gimmee? South Carolina has most of its defense back and an offense loaded with good ball plays. Kentucky, which is a basketball school, won eight games last season. Vanderbilt, which is a baseball and bowling school, lost four games by 18 points last year and took the two teams who played for the SEC title down to the last play.

The SEC could well be the best conference in history this year.

It definitely will be the most interesting conference in history.

If it's not enough that you have four coaches within the 12-team league who have won national titles, you also have two coaches who have won national titles who are now coaching in the same division as the team where they won those national titles. I mean, Steve Spurrier makes it interesting enough. Now you add the real Evil Genius, Nick Saban, to the mix.

Makes a sportswriter look forward to Hoover. As much as one can look

forward to Hoover.

Then you have Florida, trying to defend with so many pieces gone from the national championship team. Urban Meyer enters his first-ever third year as a head coach. There is also to Tim Tebow factor. I'm not sure there is a more well-known player in the country.

And speaking of interesting, we bring you the University of Arkansas. This dysfunctional family has produced what could be a bad Lifetime movie script. On the first of the SEC Media Days, Houston Nutt and Spurrier go back-to-back. Gentlemen, start your tape recorders.

That's not to mention LSU and Auburn, always interesting. Or Ole Miss with its frenetic coach. Or Tennessee and Georgia. Hello?

Best, most interesting, toughest, craziest — all could apply this year.

I know this much — it's the best conference to be covering in 2007.

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