John Adams: Three-letter word for BCS is SEC

John Adams

DESTIN, Fla. - When Steve Spurrier was in the middle of his Florida football dynasty in 1997, he was asked about his team's chance to compete for another national title.

Spurrier's answer at the SEC preseason football media days was a sign of the times. He was optimistic - as long as Nebraska wasn't in his path.

Now, the rest of the country probably feels the same way about the SEC, which has won five consecutive BCS national titles and seems appropriately armed for a run at No. 6.

There might not be a single program that can match Nebraska's dominance in the mid-1990s. But the SEC has at least several programs capable of being No. 1 in any given year.

No one is more aware of the conference's strength than the coaches who test it from one Saturday to the next.

"On the outside looking in, (five consecutive championships) might be surprising," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said at the SEC spring meetings. "But when you turn on the film and look at the next opponent, it's not.

"There's so much depth and talent in this league. You know you're playing the best teams in college football week in and week out."

Mullen's awareness of that was heightened last fall. His team was good enough to finish 15th nationally but no better than fifth in the SEC West.

"When our kids start patting themselves on the back, I say we finished fifth in the West," he said. "That's not where we want to be.

"Even though we're a top-15 team nationally, that's not who we compete against. Our goal is to win the SEC West."

Good luck with that.

Winning the West has never been more difficult. In fact, if you are good enough to win the West, you are good enough to win the national championship as well.

The national championship game has turned into an SEC showcase. For the competition, just coming close - as Oregon did against Auburn in January - has been an accomplishment.

"Our teams have played really well in the big games," South Carolina's Spurrier said.

That's not an accident. It's the natural result of playing so many big games within the conference.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino remembers viewing the SEC from afar when he fielded his best teams at Louisville.

"I felt like we could compete with those guys (in one game)," he said. "What's so hard in this conference is week after week lining up against such great players.

"You're well prepared when you get into that national championship game."

Getting there is the trick for an up-and-coming program like Arkansas. As talented as the Razorbacks might be entering the 2011 season, they're in the same division with Alabama and LSU, which rank ahead of the Razorbacks on a list of national championship contenders. Moreover, Arkansas must play both on the road.

Any team that emerges from the West with only one loss overall and then wins the SEC championship game deserves to play for the national title. And whoever does will be expected to extend the championship streak to six.

Winning the national championship game has been the easy part for the SEC. The challenge is getting there.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 6

ChrisUTvol writes:

Good article

VOLliven2it writes:

John I agree with a lot of what you say but am not so sure it is a shoo-in for a 6th straight BCS title but hope the SEC can do it. Alabama has looked good but have qb ?s. LSU, who knows how their qb play will be early? Both are good teams. The East consists of all up and comers. If Suspend-happy Stephen plays well the GCocks should be good but until last year with everyone else struggling they have not been consistent all year through. But one thing is for sure, the last 5 have belonged to SEC schools and that says a lot.

Pullingguard writes:

Good Article.... The west seems to have have the upper hand in SEC.. Overall they probably have better coaching staffs than the east.

TNVOLFN writes:

I agree. A one loss team from the West- much less any one loss SEC team- should be a BCS 1 or 2.

It is amazing to me how the league has moved from one or two national title contenders a year (UF and UT mid to late 90's) to four or five that have to play each other and still make it there...

I don't know if it is the scholarship limit and equal distribution of talent across the nation- which, doen't allow for Nebraska, FSU, Miami, etc. powerhouses- or if all of the talent is much more measurable in the SEC as a whole that provides the reason for this transfer of power and NCs.

lomas98 writes:

All of the top teams in the conference this year have their issues. I would say only Bama and LSU have legitimate national title hopes. The other teams just have too many question marks to survive the league schedule. SC is talented but can they do it 2 years in a row when they have never had the expectations? I actually see GA winning the east. They are talented, Richt's back is against the wall, return arguably the leagues best QB, and most importantly have the softest league schedule. They do not play LSU, Bama, or Arkansas from the west. Unfortunately a road game in Neyland Stadium hasn't proved too difficult in recent years for a lot of teams.

wildmed writes:

Doesn't take much to get the diehards spizzed about college football, and this article is an appetite whetter! I think the Vols offense will surprise some people, and if the coaching staff has learned to count to eleven in the off-season, we could be much improved.

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