In the throes of the 2013 college football season, the SEC East is suddenly wide open and the West is taking shape. Upsets, stellar performances, and big-boy football games are happening at a rapid pace.
To paraphrase the title character of perhaps the best movie of all-time, SEC football moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
(Do you know the movie? Answer at the end — don’t cheat!)
This SEC season is moving fast indeed. But never fear, SEC Banter is here.
I’ll catch you up on the latest developments in the nation’s finest football conference and offer some deep musings on where we’re headed.
Let’s start with the rankings. Eight SEC teams are ranked in this week’s Associated Press poll, the most from any conference in the history of mankind. And yet, I heard several talking heads opine last Saturday that the Pac-12 was superior to the SEC.
As Jeff Bridges’s character The Dude said eloquently in “The Big Lebowski”: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Opinions are unanimous that Mizzou’s upset of Georgia changed the landscape of the SEC East.
Now Missouri, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are all vying for a trip to Atlanta.
Not since Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, and Dean Martin dashed across the country in souped-up hot rods in 1981’s “The Cannonball Run” has there been a race this wild and crazy.
It’s too close to call which team has the edge. Mizzou and Florida control their own destiny because if they win out, they win the division.
I must confess that I don’t know what “controlling your own destiny” means. Destiny is, by definition, predetermined, intrinsically out of your control.
For example, in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” Darth Vader foretold that it was Luke Skywalker’s destiny to destroy the Emperor. It was predetermined, out of Luke’s control.
But it’s not predetermined that Florida, with virtually no offense and sporting customarily tacky uniforms, beats Missouri this Saturday.
Well, the tacky uniform part is perhaps predetermined. It is Florida, after all.
Back to this crazy SEC East race. Georgia needs to win out and Mizzou to lose twice. It’s possible, given that the Tigers’ talented quarterback, James Franklin, is out for 3-5 weeks with a separated shoulder, and Mizzou still has Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M on deck.
But the Bulldogs’ road is tough as well, beginning this week at Vanderbilt, which always plays up to Georgia. Georgia’s hopes are uncomfortably slimmer than just a week ago, but still alive.
SEC Banter recommends that Georgia put Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” on repeat and embrace Lloyd Christmas’s admirable optimism from 1994’s “Dumb & Dumber” (“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”).
South Carolina sure hasn’t stopped believing. The Gamecocks served notice that they were contenders by obliterating Arkansas, 52-7. South Carolina needs to keep winning and a Georgia loss to tee up a potential SEC East title game on November 16 against Florida in Columbia. That game may be a bigger and better world’s largest outdoor cocktail party than the traditional affair in Jacksonville.
Plus, I’ll take tailgating in a Columbia Cockaboose over downtown Jacksonville, which is caught awkwardly between trying to be equally Southern and Floridian. The result is not good.
While the SEC East is up for grabs, the West, as in years past, will likely come down to Alabama and LSU.
The Texas A&M game aside, Alabama continues its embarrassing preseason schedule leading up to LSU’s Nov. 9 visit to T-town.
Despite the patsy schedule, the Tide is the conference’s best shot at returning to the national title game. It’s unlikely that a one-loss SEC team makes it given the remaining undefeated teams like Oregon, the Clemson/Florida State winner and Ohio State (yuck). This means an undefeated Alabama team is the SEC’s most realistic option to extend the conference’s national championship streak to eight straight.
If you’re a non-Alabama SEC fan and the Tide rolls into yet another BCS title game, do you pull for ‘Bama, or can you not stomach another Nick Saban crystal ball trophy?
Such a tough decision harkens back to Chet Ripley’s predicament when Roman Craig asked him for a loan in 1988’s “The Great Outdoors.” Chet, played by the legendary John Candy, was forced to weigh family loyalty against the fact that his brother-in-law Roman, played by Dan Aykroyd, was an arrogant jerk.
Do you pull for Alabama out of family loyalty? Tough call.
It’s not a tough call to declare Johnny Manziel the nation’s best and most entertaining football player. His legend is only growing.
Consider this: Manziel alone honchoed more total yards than Ole Miss last Saturday. Earlier this year, Alabama gave up 28 points to Manziel in one half of football. The Tide’s other opponents combined have scored just 26 points in five games.
For all of Johnny Football’s entertainment value, our SEC coaches also share in the limelight. It’s taken uncharacteristically long for SEC coaches to do silly things this season. Thankfully, Les Miles of LSU and Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss filled the void last week.
Miles delivered an incredibly odd (but normal for Miles) postgame rant about hammers and nails, of all things. Who says things like, “So you know, I felt differently than the nail!” Les Miles, that’s who.
If that’s not entertaining enough, Hugh Freeze behaved very gracefully after Ole Miss’s close loss to A&M. He was restrained by Mississippi State Troopers from going after a heckling fan in the stands. Would have been fantastic to see what transpired had the troopers not intervened.
It’s just a routine mid-October in the nation’s finest football conference. Yes, SEC football moves pretty fast.
So what famous movie character did SEC Banter paraphrase above? Anyone? Anyone?
Those wise words came from Ferris Bueller in 1986’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Like the high schoolers in the movie who adored him, SEC Banter thinks he’s a righteous dude.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.