Just two weeks ago, the SEC seemed primed to be the “without question, top-to-bottom” best conference in the nation once again.
Yes, Alabama carries a large chunk of the conference. Georgia has made great strides in their run with Kirby Smart over the last two seasons and has to figure a solid front-runner. And two weeks ago, some said, “LSU and Florida have great merit and could be a sleeper for the SEC championship.”
The hope especially for the fans in Baton Rouge and Gainesville were high and hadn’t been fully high since 2006-2008 when both teams ruled the SEC. And there was a lot of talk from those fan bases and the teams.
I mean A LOT of talk.
“Georgia’s run with Smart is overrated. They’re not that great, we beat the team who thumped them the week before!”-Florida players/fans.
“Alabama has to come down to our house. This year is different! We have a great quarterback and a secondary that is tops in the nation and we have the #1 defense! Georgia stinks by the way too!”-LSU players/fans.
The last week of October: Georgia easily handles Florida in their Cocktail Party game, 36-17.
The first week of November: Alabama thumps LSU 29-0 in Baton Rouge.
In other words, more of the same for the two teams who have been hoping to reclaim their glory, getting pounded by teams better than they are. Far better than they are.
We will begin with Florida first. Florida hasn’t been relevant to the SEC since Urban Meyer left. Say what you want Florida fans, but your team hasn’t. Florida has been to two SEC Championships and come up very short against Alabama both times to the point they didn’t even belong on the same field while having embarrassing losses to the likes of Vanderbilt at home, South Carolina, Missouri at home (on numerous occasions including this past week’s smashing the Tigers put on Florida), and even the then-FCS Georgia Southern Eagles beat the Gators.
So what is going on there? It seems like since even when Urban Meyer left is that the Gators turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of what the players do. They do what they want as they are treated like royalty and they can get away with it. Jim McElwain tried to change that landscape down at Florida after the mess that Will Muschamp left and failed on epic proportions. So the Gators turned to a guy who helped build that great dynasty in the 2000’s with Meyer in bringing in Dan Mullen.
Yes, one year in. I get it. However, the landscape hasn’t changed. Florida, who really hasn’t done much in the past 5 years aside from two seasons with no bowl appearance and some embarrassing losses in the process, still remain the same: a team who talks a big game.
Too bad they can’t back it up. The Gators did a lot of barking to Georgia in the game leading up, saying how they would take down the Bulldogs and such. After a 36-17 beatdown, you think the players would have shut up about their embarrassing loss.
What you got was that Florida players said that Georgia “wasn’t the better team, but that Florida took them lightly and didn’t prepare like they should have.”
Uh, hello, that is pretty much what better teams do! Prepare and not take teams lightly! It is also why Georgia in the past two years under Kirby Smart has been regarded as one of the nation’s elite programs while Florida is still regarded as a middle-tier squad. And then you respond to that loss by being embarrassed worse by Missouri. In the Swamp.
And Mullen has more questions than answers.
The problem with Florida and their players is that they still think they have that mystique about them, especially at home. That this is 2006-2008 all over again where they won two national titles in three years. Those days are a distant memory. And that mystique of being at the Swamp, well, that died in 2013 when Georgia Southern took them down. There is nothing that shows Florida is, was, or will be that great dynasty that everybody in the SEC loathed. And I’m not sure if Dan Mullen is the guy there either.
In regards to LSU……..
People blame Ed Orgeron for his already shortcomings against Alabama (0-3 in his tenure). And while you can somewhat point on Orgeron, it’s not fully him. It has been their culture that really resided under former coach Les Miles. Miles to me had always been an oddball. The moves he made in games for the longest times were the biggest head-scratching moves I can remember. But it wasn’t Les Miles in-game coaching decisions that really kept LSU from being back atop of the SEC and the nation since 2011.
LSU has been one of those programs that had looked the other way with players on the team that got in trouble (Jeremy Hill, Jordan Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, etc.). But they also would gloat and showboat their way in the SEC.
Hey, swag is good, right?
However, LSU’s season under Miles and to a lesser extent Orgeron always begins and ends with the Alabama game. It is now what I feel is a mental block for that program in general since the 2011 National Championship game.
So what is happening for LSU?
I saw a tweet from Peter Burns that while LSU gets amped up for Alabama and know it is their season on the line, Alabama now looks at LSU as “just another team.” Alabama is playing on a different level than LSU. While Alabama’s players acknowledge LSU is a big rivalry game, they also feel that they are more concerned of playing the perfect game on the Tigers, making sure everything is down to a T. And what we saw was nearly the tip of the iceberg, a 29-0 Tide owning (which honestly could have been 41-0 by all accounts).
But here were the things I took out of that game and pretty much any Alabama/LSU game since 2012:
(1) LSU players love to talk about how they are going to beat the Tide/the Tide fear LSU/Alabama doesn’t belong on the same field/etc.
(2) LSU’s style of play on offense is still set in the dark ages.
(3) LSU takes cheap shots on Alabama during the game.
(4) The minute Alabama takes any lead on LSU, the Tigers collapse.
I get rivalries are hated and Alabama and LSU have a hated one, maybe moreso with the players on the teams than what Alabama and Auburn have with each other. But in this time period Auburn has gotten 2 wins over Alabama. During that rivalry, how often do you see Auburn players talk garbage about Alabama? None. Give Gus Malzahn credit: he keeps Auburn from giving Alabama bulletin board material. I think it is the one team that knows better not to give Alabama motivation. LSU has not realized it. But then again….this is the same university that brings you Odell Beckham Jr, Derrius Guice, Tyrann Mathieu, etc. where they LOVE to talk. And they love to get shots in on Alabama players when refs think they aren’t watching (the hit on Tua, Mathieu nearly breaking Dre Kirkpatrick’s neck in 2011, etc)
As for LSU’s offense, we keep hearing Miles and Orgeron wanting to change up the offense. However, what we see every year in this game is that Alabama dominates and destroys LSU’s offense. Remember how Leonard Fournette was the front-runner for the Heisman in 2015? He goes to Alabama and gets pretty much obliterated while Derrick Henry makes his case for the Heisman and wins it. But the thing is, LSU still uses the formula of over-using the run while Alabama shuts down that and forces quarterbacks to make poor throws and pretty much get psyched out.
But the great neutralizer for Alabama is whenever the Tide strikes on the Tigers for a lead, LSU never recovers. It is like the entire air in their balloon is gone. The teams who have the formula for Alabama such as Clemson and Auburn notably, they don’t get fazed by the fact the Tide takes those leads and it doesn’t spiral outward. Anytime when LSU trails Alabama, it just seems like it is an automatic game over, because they do not feel like they have the edge on them anymore and it is the “here we go again.” mentality.
And it will continue that way until either Ed Orgeron or the next LSU head coach can change things up and have a Saban-like presence on that team. Because as of right now, the Tigers and the Gators should not be seriously considered for an SEC title as long as they have those mindsets against what is borderline two teams that take themselves in a very professional manner in Alabama and Georgia.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat