SEC puzzle still unsolved


Pieces are still falling into place in the SEC's competitive East and West divisions. (Photos by The Associated Press and by Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/Photo illustration by Jon McDonald)

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:19 p.m.

Who would've thought Florida would wear down LSU?

Who would've thought Georgia would get thrashed by South Carolina?

Who would've thought Auburn against Arkansas from a couple weeks ago would be a matchup of cellar dwellers?

Keep in mind that same Auburn team nearly beat LSU. And a couple of weeks before that, SEC newcomer Texas A&M nearly threw a wrench in Florida's now-promising season.

“Week in, week out there are no gimmies in this league,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “That's what I would say separates our conference from a lot of conferences.”

The national consensus seems to have the winner of Alabama at LSU on Nov. 3 as the team that will go on to win the West.

In reality, the top four teams in the SEC West: Alabama, Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M have yet to play a single game against each other.

“It's the toughest division in all of college football,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “Even teams that have down years are still pretty good teams. Arkansas, you see them, they still have the potential. They still play like a Top 10 team. I've seen that on film.”

Meanwhile, some fortune tellers outside the region say this week's winner of South Carolina at Florida will be the team that goes on to win the East.

The fact is, Georgia will be rooting for Florida to win in order to put the Bulldogs in a position to beat the Gators the following week and get in the driver's seat to Atlanta.

On Wednesday, Georgia coach Mark Richt agreed with Alabama's Nick Saban, who said he feels the East is “especially strong” this year.

“I'm not really surprised by that. I knew it was a matter of time before certain teams would just start rising again,” Richt said. “That's not too big of a shock.”

In the end, the country's collective crystal ball may, or may not, reveal the true future of the conference that's raised six straight crystal balls.

This league, which has had six different schools compete in the last three SEC Championship games, can be unpredictable. Even the most adamant prognosticators know that.

A little more than a month has passed since Missouri's Sheldon Richardson implied the SEC was “old-man football.” Now, the demoralized Tigers are licking their wounds on a bye, still looking for their first SEC win. Even their Oct. 27 homecoming game against Kentucky won't guarantee that will happen.

This league constantly reminds us of why it's so special: It showcases dominance and parity at the same time.

The SEC boasts seven ranked teams heading into Week 8, but even unranked teams get attention. Fans all over will flip the channel back to watch unranked Tennessee host No. 1 Alabama despite the fact that No. 4 Kansas State will be visiting No. 13 West Virginia and Heisman hopeful Geno Smith at the same time.

That's because the SEC is competitive, and thus, full of surprises. Those that need a reminder will get one.

“There's a lot of parity in our league all the time,” Saban said. “I mean I guess I'm not knowing who's not so good.”

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