As we approach late September, SEC football is in full swing, along with another bruising competitive race — the Republican presidential campaign. It’s difficult not to notice the parallels between the SEC and presidential politics. Big money. Bigger egos.
Intense media scrutiny. Scandals. Made-for-TV personalities who give canned, non-committal answers. Compare “We’re taking it one game at a time” with “We’re changing the tone in Washington.”
There’s no doubt the SEC is chock-full of politics and, usually, head coaches play the role of politician. From lobbying high school recruits to sign with their team to glad-handing the car dealer types who call themselves boosters, college football and the SEC in particular is a highly politicized environment.
I read somewhere that most Americans cast their presidential ballot based on which candidate they trust the most. Since most SEC fans feel more connected to their team’s coach than to the President of the United States, trust is important around here, too. And that brings us to today’s question: Do you trust your coach? For example, would you trust your SEC team’s coach to care for your most cherished asset, your kids?
This admittedly sounds odd. But, let’s face it, if you trust these guys with your children, you certainly trust them to steer your program through the treacherous waters of the Southeastern Conference. Three coaches in particular face big-time games this Saturday, so it’s perfectly logical to consider their babysitting skills. I guess. Here we go:
Nick Saban: Your kids will live in fear of this mean little man. And for good reason. He’ll make them eat their veggies, take their baths, and get in bed 30 minutes before bedtime. No dessert, no stories, no fun. But he’ll get results and later in life your kids will appreciate Saban’s disciplined, near-obsessive approach.
Les Miles: Your kids will love him. He’ll sing songs with them and the house will be borderline chaos while you’re gone. But there’s a method to the Mad Hatter’s madness and somehow, he’ll pull it off. Just before you walk in the door, the kids will fall in bed exhausted from their wild adventures with Les.
Bobby Petrino: All he’ll do at your house is search online for a higher-paying babysitter job. In fact, if your neighbor offered him $1 more an hour, he’d bolt and leave the kids by themselves. But hey, maybe he’d teach them a thing or two about the passing game before leaving.
With Saturday’s big games around the corner, I doubt these gentlemen have babysitting on their minds, so let’s briefly tour the SEC’s premier match-ups this weekend:
Arkansas vs. Alabama: Both teams open conference play in T-town, Alabama. The Tide hasn’t dropped an SEC opener since 1991 and is 22-1 in Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2008. I’ll take Alabama over Arkansas in relatively easy fashion.
LSU vs. West Virginia: The Tigers face their third ranked team this month, all away from Baton Rouge. Morgantown, West Virginia is a hostile environment. Students set fire to the town after big games. I am not making this up. They also throw the visiting team in an abandoned coal mine, never to be heard from again. That part is made up. I’ll take LSU escaping the dark West Virginia night in a close one.
Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina: Last week Vanderbilt enjoyed its most lopsided SEC victory since 1971. South Carolina barely squeaked by Navy at home. But The Visor is 17-2 in his career against Vandy and will have the Gamecocks ready. I’ll take South Carolina over the ’Dores.
Georgia vs. Ole Miss: Who wouldn’t want to be in Oxford for “The Hotseat Bowl?” Not for the match-up between two mediocre teams desperately seeking their first conference win, but for tailgating in the Grove. I’ll take Georgia in an incredibly boring game.
Best of luck to your SEC team this weekend. Meanwhile, my wife and I need a babysitter tomorrow night. I think I have Nick Saban’s number around here somewhere.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.