SEC East bridges divide with West
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:42 p.m.
It happens every fall, these football seasons flying past you so fast you barely have time to notice that we're no longer in summer re-runs. You wake up one morning to go get the paper and it's chilly and you think, “Hey, isn't it still September?”
It's just the way it is for football fans. Always has been and always will be. We want to slow it down to relish the big plays and intense games, but they always seem to be on fast forward.
So here we are again at the last home game of this Florida football season. One last chance to tailgate before you say goodbye to the friends you are incredibly close to for three months of the year.
It seems like it just started and it seems like just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote a column where I talked about how it was time for the East to turn things around against the West this year. I even laid out a plan for the East to win the head-to-head battle this year. (Someone reminded me of this on Twitter. See, Twitter's not all bad).
The East didn't follow that plan exactly, but as we sit here today with one East vs. West matchup remaining between Texas A&M and Missouri and the East leads 7-6. The worst it can do is a tie unless you want to count the SEC Championship Game.
But even if the East goes 0-2, it's a lot better than what it had done the previous two years. Don't forget, counting Atlanta, the West had a 29-9 advantage over the East in 2010 and 2011.
A chunk of the blame belonged to Florida, which went 0-6 against the West in those two seasons. And a lot of the credit for this year goes to the mighty Gators for knocking off LSU and Texas A&M.
So is the East back? Is the cycle being pedaled to this side of the country when it comes to America's best conference?
It's difficult to say. But certainly, the East is no longer the whipping post of the West.
I'm not sure if we're ready to return to the 1990s, but it's a lot better than 2010-11 for the East.
The West still has won the last three SEC title games (not to mention the last three national championships) and Tim Tebow isn't walking through that door (or the one that leads to the starting job with the Jets either).
And we're about to see wholesale changes at the top in this conference and there is no telling how that will affect things.
Kentucky definitely and Tennessee almost certainly will be making coaching changes. What if they both get it right this time? I mean, there's a chance, isn't there?
Arkansas will hire a new coach. This is a program that rose up to become a player, but turned out to be on such fragile ground that a motorcycle accident sent it crashing to the turf. If it's that unstable, will it take a new coach a few years to get it headed in the right direction?
And the mess at Auburn doesn't appear to be something that can be cleaned up right away if the Tigers decide to dump Gene Chizik.
If we have four new coaches next season (and you never know who might get an itch for another job), it could definitely influence the battle between divisions. We have seen this year how Texas A&M turned it around with the right coach. The Aggies blew so many games last year we started calling them the Gaggies.
We know Alabama with Nick Saban and LSU with Les Miles are going to be strong programs annually. We aren't as sure about Mississippi State, where Dan Mullen has struggled to beat the best teams in his own division but went 2-0 against the East.
In the cases of both of the Bulldog teams, it's as much about who they played. Mississippi State beat Tennessee (winless in the conference) and Kentucky (ditto), while Georgia beat Ole Miss (two SEC wins) and Auburn (dumpster fire).
Still, the East also has Florida's two big wins and got two unexpected wins by Vanderbilt, albeit over the same two teams Georgia beat.
Things change slightly next year with the new schedule, but that's next year. Let's savor what is left of this season whether it's one last excuse to eat fried food off a rickety table or sing “We Are The Boys” at the end of the third quarter. Or even if its to finish off a season where the East stood up for itself.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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