Fire Up The Fax Machines
Once again, the SEC fared well on National Signing Day, but does that translate to wins on the field?
The SEC is the best top-to-bottom it has ever been. However, by their own standards – which were set forth by an unprecedented seven consecutive national titles – the SEC has come up short on the field for the past two years.
It all began when Chris Davis returned the “kick six” against Alabama. That was the moment, defined by Crimson tears, when Alabama’s dynasty ended. Since then, this has happened:
• Oklahoma handled Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
• Florida State beat Auburn to win the 2014 BCS championship.
• Temple beat Vanderbilt by 30 points.
• Indiana beat Missouri – the back-to-back SEC East champions – at home.
• The SEC East quartet of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina went 0-4 vs. the ACC quartet of Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Louisville on Nov. 29.
• Notre Dame beat LSU in the Music City Bowl.
• Wisconsin beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
• Georgia Tech wiped out Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
• TCU beat Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, 42-3.
• And finally, Ohio State beat Alabama in the college football playoff semi-final.
Did I miss anything? Probably, but 2014 was a brutal year for football in the south.
Now, I await the rebuttal. Most SEC fans will argue by saying the following:
• “You can’t base your perception of the SEC off bowl results.”
• “They beat up on each other.”
• “The East sucks anyway. Florida and Tennessee have to finish rebuilding.”
• “We won seven national titles in a row. We’re still the best.”
• “The SEC West is the second coming of Jesus Christ.”
I get all that. I’ve heard all the arguments, both sides, while trying to cover this conference. I’m not saying SEC fans are wrong, but the games I listed above are all signs of a downfall.
Sure, LSU beat Wisconsin somewhere in there. Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas A&M performed well in bowl games. But the results listed above do not belong on the resume of a conference that claims to be heads above everyone else in the country.
The SEC West is very good and it is the best division in football. But it’s not the impenetrable force it was cracked up to be. It’s just got seven pretty solid teams in it. Yes, they wore each other out. Auburn and Ole Miss succumbed down the stretch.
However, that had nothing to do with bowl results. Sorry. I understand that things can’t be based off one game, but I listed 13 games above.
I’m not here to point fingers, but facts are facts.
So, with all that in mind, it poses the question: How does the SEC get back to winning big games? And how can the conference stay at such an elite level?
One word: Recruiting.
When it comes to recruiting, nobody does it like the SEC. Legendary coaches, multi-million dollar facilities, and more NFL draft picks than any other conference have allowed the SEC to have substance behind its claim as college football’s best conference – and undoubtedly the best recruiters of young athletes.
Wednesday was National Signing Day. It’s like Christmas in the South… Seriously.
The SEC landed five teams in the top 10 of 247 Sports’ team rankings. Alabama had the No. 1 class for the 79th year in a row. Saban seems to have the talent.
Tennessee finished at No. 4 – with their second consecutive top five class. Butch Jones is building a monster in Knoxville.
LSU came in at No. 5. If they ever find a quarterback, maybe it will matter.
Auburn and Georgia rounded out the top 10, at No. 9 and No. 10 respectively.
So, half of the top 10. Not too shabby. How did the rest of the conference fare? Well, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and South Carolina finished in the top 20.
Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri finished in the top 25.
Only Kentucky and Vanderbilt – No. 39 and No. 46 – finished outside the top 25 in recruiting.
Maybe that argument about the SEC beating up on each other has some substance.
It’s not just the team rankings where the SEC won on National Signing Day. The quality of players signed by the SEC is unparalleled. The conference signed six of the top 10 players listed by 247 Sports.
Trent Thompson and Kahlil McKenzie – a pair of blue chip defensive tackles – could vault Georgia and Tennessee from good to elite on the defensive line in the coming years.
Martez Ivey was a huge pickup for Florida on the offensive line.
Byron Cowart gives Auburn the possibility of an NFL-caliber pass rusher at defensive end, while Kevin Toliver II could become the next great corner in a long line of shutdown defensive backs for LSU.
Alabama landed a plethora of talent with Calvin Ridley, Kendall Sheffield, Blake Barnett, Daron Payne, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Damien Harris – all top 35 recruits.
In fact, the SEC landed exactly half of 247 Sports’ top 50 recruits.
This past signing day was not unlike the others in recent years for the SEC.
The future is bright for this conference. It is, without question, the most talented conference from top to bottom. It also has the best coaches, the best facilities, and some of the best game day atmospheres.
Now, the SEC just needs to find a way to win the big games. If they do, they’ll re-establish their presence as the most dominant conference in college football.
All recruiting information and rankings courtesy of 247 Sports