Thank you, SEC.
The truth is we need you. We need a big bad guy to root against. Good TV shows understand this. We want to see the villain get their comeuppance, so we tune in every week waiting and hoping for the payoff.
But in sports? Where are we supposed to turn since the Soviet Union disbanded at the end of the 1980s? The Olympics just aren’t the same, unless you embrace the notion that the United States is Heisenberg.
Even the New York Yankees have mismanaged their way to mediocrity to the point that no one can be bothered to work up a good lather over Gary Sanchez.
So we do need the SEC, with its eight national titles in 10 years, its own network and its own mint to buy coaches and, usually, wins.
There was a palpable delight among non-SEC college football fans this opening weekend while the mighty conference where it “just matters more” flew a little too close to the sun.
The SEC went a pedestrian 6-5, with Ole Miss’ tussle with Florida State yet to come on Monday night, against outside competition. Alabama left no doubt it deserves to be ranked No. 1, with a 52-6 whipping of Southern California, but the rest of the league did not hold up its end of the bargain.
That used to be the strength of the SEC – its depth. It wasn’t just Alabama and everybody else. Four different SEC schools won the national title over a five-year period between 2006 and ’10.
But where’s all that depth now? The league has been pampered by the media because it’s easier to pick the SEC, by default, than it is to put any actual effort into ranking teams.
No. 5 LSU? The same incompetent team that went 1-3 last November showed up in Green Bay on Saturday and lost 16-14 to unranked Wisconsin.
No. 9 Tennessee? It’s the mystery of all mysteries as to why the Vols, coming off of a 9-4 season, were considered to be a top 10 outfit. They needed a football miracle to beat Appalachian State in overtime.
Kentucky lost at home to Southern Miss, after leading by 25 points, and Missouri lost at West Virginia.
Mississippi State, in a mind-bending exercise for N.C. State fans, lost at home to South Alabama, 21-10. The Bulldogs, who throttled the Wolfpack in their last game out, lost to a team that N.C. State beat 63-13 last year.
Last year is last year, I get that, but Mississippi State was a four-touchdown favorite.
On the plus side, Georgia, with some help from the officials, did manage to beat a ranked North Carolina team and an unranked Texas A&M, after blowing a 24-9 fourth-quarter lead, did beat No. 16 UCLA in overtime. Both SEC teams were favored to win.
And Auburn, a home underdog, put a scare into No. 2 Clemson. Arguably the highlight of the weekend, outside of Alabama’s showing, was an SEC team putting a scare into an ACC team.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But hopefully not too far. Somebody has to be the bad guy.
A weekly review of who’s trending:
ALABAMA (UP): The Crimson Tide has won four national titles in seven years without a real game-changer at quarterback. If freshman Jalen Hurts is really as good as he looked in the romp of USC, then the Tide might have to move up to the NFC South.
KANSAS (UP): The Jayhawks won their first game under second-year coach David Beaty. They beat Rhode Island 55-6. So forgive their fans’ exuberance for rushing the field for beating an FCS team that won one game last year. You can’t act like you’ve been there if you haven’t.
VIRGINIA (DOWN): Actually felt bad about projecting Virginia to go winless in the ACC under first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall. It will work out down the road for the Cavaliers’ new coach but Saturday’s 37-20 home loss to Richmond only confirmed that this will be a very long year.
LSU (DOWN): The Tigers lost to Wisconsin, likely endangering the future of both coach Les Miles and athletic director Joe Alleva, but not for that. Offensive lineman Josh Boutte unleashed a vicious, World Star Hip Hop cheap shot when he leveled Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon after the game-sealing interception.
The worst part? Miles actually defended Boutte, who was penalized and ejected, after the game.