Texas A&M and Missouri took part in their first SEC teleconference Tuesday. Too bad the format of the post-spring football media session wasn't more accommodating to the new guys.
They should have been allowed to ask questions as well as answer them.
Texas A&M and Missouri might know the SEC by reputation. But they won't know what they're getting into until they're into it.
My advice: Don't get comfortable. SEC football prides itself in tradition, not longevity.
Look what just happened at Arkansas. The Razorbacks began the spring with Bobby Petrino as their coach. Then, someone named Taver Johnson was supposed to represent them on the teleconference. His appearance was canceled following the previous day's hiring of John L. Smith, to whom Arkansas feels so good about that it's contractually obligated to him for a whole 10 months.
You want job security in SEC football? Win national championships and stay off motorcycles.
If Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin really want to appreciate how shaky SEC ground can be, they only have to do a background check for the last few years.
Seven of the 13 coaches on Tuesday's teleconference weren't SEC head coaches in December of 2009. Those seven coaches wouldn't have felt any more secure if they had listened to LSU coach Les Miles, who was asked if his team was still suffering a hangover from last season.
Miles pointed out that his team was 13-1, was ranked No. 1 in the country for 11 weeks and beat national champion Alabama on its home field. All of that was forgotten by most LSU fans after the second meeting with Alabama, which — even Miles would have to admit — didn't go as planned. The moral to the story: An SEC team playing for a national title doesn't have to
win the game to keep its fans happy, but it's advised to gain at least 100 yards in the process.
Pinkel and Sumlin know all about gaining yards. Missouri averaged 476 yards per game to rank 12th nationally last season. Sumlin's Houston team was No. 1, averaging 599 yards per game — or about as many yards as LSU would gain in six national championship games against Alabama.
Longtime SEC fans must laugh at those averages, which, in Houston's case, were accumulated in Conference USA — college football's equivalent of the Arena League. And the Big 12 is the BCS equivalent of Conference USA.
Half of the Big 12 teams ranked from 95th to 120th in total defense in 2011. Contrast that with the SEC, where four teams ranked in the top five nationally in total defense.
There's another side to that, though. While Pinkel's and Sumlin's up-tempo, spread offenses won't produce the same outrageous totals of past seasons, they will challenge SEC defenses. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has firsthand experience with that.
"We had Missouri in Shreveport (at the 2005 Independence Bowl)," he said. "We had a big lead but they came back and beat us. I think we got two good teams (in expansion)."
Pinkel's other recent memories of the SEC won't make him uncomfortable. The Tigers have won their last four games against SEC teams, and they didn't score fewer than 34 points in any of them.
Winning a random game against an SEC team is one thing. Winning your way through an SEC season is quite another.
South Carolina, which joined the conference in 1992, can vouch for that. The Gamecocks didn't have a winning record in conference play until their ninth season.
By then, they were on their third SEC head coach.