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Is the SEC as top heavy as ever?

Not long ago, Kentucky fans prided themselves as competitive members of the toughest conference in college football. We chanted S-E-C after each BCS bowl win that we weren’t involved in, and giggled at Big East teams losing to SEC teams by 40 in BCS games.  We were in the SEC, we competed well week-in and week-out with the best teams in the entire land, and we were proud of it. The truth is, we had every right to be proud. Georgia, LSU, and Clemson, just to name a few, were wins that showed Kentucky football was no laughing matter under Rich Brooks. They were no doormat, they were no cupcake, they were afraid of nobody, and on a given day they could beat anyone. I still believe to this day that the 2007 team could win almost any other conference in that season, and find themselves playing on the first week of January.

Things have obviously changed. Now, we are the doormat, we are a cupcake, we are afraid of going into the Swamp this coming Saturday, and there are certain games on the schedule that we have no chance of winning. As depressing as the start of SEC play sounds, I should point out that we are not alone. We are not the only steadily declining team in the SEC. Just several years ago, the SEC was a dominant league from top to bottom, including Kentucky, and also including schools such as Arkansas, Auburn, and Ole Miss.

Just three weeks into the 2012 season, Kentucky has lost to a Sun Belt team, Arkansas has lost to a Sun Belt team, Auburn barely beat a Sun Belt team, and Ole Miss was lucky to play within 35 points at home vs. Texas last night. One team that isn’t on a decline (at least prior to possible NCAA sanctions) is Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs also barely escaped a Sun Belt team last night. Vandy, another team thought to be on the rise, started off 0-2 before beating Presbyterian yesterday. Tennessee and Florida may be improving, but they certainly aren’t what they once were, either. Not that long ago, all of these teams minus Vandy were proud, competitive members of the SEC. Now, all of these schools, and not just Kentucky, are hanging on the coat-tails of Alabama and LSU. We are already familiar with the decline of Kentucky football, but UK’s decline isn’t even the worst in the SEC. Arkansas is just two years removed from the Sugar Bowl, Auburn is two years removed from a National Championship, and Ole Miss is just two years removed from back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins. Now, all four of these teams are far, far away from being able to compete with the upper-echelon of the SEC.

The SEC has been, from top to bottom, the toughest and most competitive league in college football for quite some time, but that is no longer. Alabama and LSU find themselves atop today’s most recent polls, and one of them will likely win a seventh straight National Championship for the SEC. We may even see another Alabama and LSU rematch in the BCS Championship. Even if there were playoffs in 2012, Alabama and LSU would still probably prove to be the two best teams. But top to bottom, however, the SEC is not what it was, even just a few years ago. Kentucky can no longer be proud to be in the SEC until it is competitive again in it, and that also goes for Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Vandy and anyone who finishes in the bottom half of the league in 2012. Yes, Alabama and LSU are ranked #1 and #2 and there are still six teams ranked in today’s updated poll from the SEC, but the other eight have been either mediocre or disappointing. The SEC is as top heavy as it has ever been, and a handful of programs have a lot of work to do to get the league as a whole back to what it was several years ago.


Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

26 Comments for Is the SEC as top heavy as ever?

  1. SadButBlue
    5:41 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Man, I remember when we had the best team in the state. Now we’re 3rd at best. Good thing we don’t play EKU or Murray State. I need some Julius Randle pics from the weekend to cheer me up!

  2. DB11
    5:42 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Well I guess we’re forgetting Georgia and South Carolina. Florida seems fairly formidable as well as Texas A&M. Vandy and Mississippi State appear average. Still the best conference

  3. wes henderson
    5:43 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Georgia is gonna have s big say in any national championship argument

  4. Joe
    5:51 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Couldn’t you have photoshopped the flags of Missouri and Texas AM in there?

  5. flacatfan
    5:54 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    This post is ridiculous. Three teams in the top five, four in the top ten (2 in the east and 2 in the west) and 6 (3 in the east and 3 in the west) in the top 25 is hardly weak or imbalanced. Arkansas was preseason top 10, TN just dropped out of the top 25. The only part the writer was correct about is UK is a doormat in the SEC and has been 15 of the past 20 years.

  6. Dave
    6:03 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    The “bottom line” is that UK is not at the very bottom of the SEC. We were there last year, and we have claimed the bottom of the SEC with a flourish this year.

    Some of the loses you mentioned were flukes … those happen. UK losing was NOT a fluke. We are horrible, and until we clean house, we will stay that way. This team has steadily gotten work with Joker and company.

  7. Dave
    6:03 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    I meant to say UK IS at the bottom …

  8. Yabba Do
    6:12 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Does anyone in our administration truly understand how embarrassing it is being this bad at football? Put your bs holier than thou attitudes to bed and get Bobby Petrino to Lexington now.

  9. John Wilmhoff
    6:21 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Georgia and South Carolina weren’t mentioned because the post was about the BOTTOM of the SEC. It’s as strong as ever at the top, but it’s weaker at the bottom than it’s been in a while. It’s top heavy.

  10. John Wilmhoff
    6:23 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    And how are the UL Monroe games flukes when it was back-to-back weeks against the SEC, winning once and losing close in the other? WKU played Alabama tougher than Arkansas did, way tougher. The bottom half (not just UK) of the league is really down.

  11. Kool-Aid
    6:33 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    This article is complete spin to make things look better than they are in Lexington. This site has been drinking the Joker Kool-Aid for the past month.

  12. dave
    6:38 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    brent pease
    bryan harsin
    mark hudspeth
    tom herman
    kirby smart
    luke fickell

  13. Lol
    6:40 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Guys I told u a yr ago just before jones deleted it
    That Mitch Barntard will pull k s r floor credentials if neg press

    Wonder how long this post will last

    I mean if it isn’t true why pull

    Oh I work in the athletic department lololol

  14. SEC historian
    6:46 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    It goes in cycles. Alabama football per-Saban was very mediocre. LSU football per-Miles and per-Saban 1990’s was mediocre as well. Coaching and probation are huge in SEC football. Florida has probably been the most consistent the last 20 years

  15. schwing
    6:46 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    who is writing this stuff? georgia was not mentioned as a top ten team and the last i checked (yesterday), both florida and tennessee were ranked.

  16. John Wilmhoff
    6:49 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    The post has nothing to do with Joker Phillips. Not defending him or UK. It’s about the SEC.

  17. Embarrassing
    10:07 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    Ksr writers please stop embarrassing us with these assanine blog entries. Uk should forfeit all rights to football commentary until further notice.

  18. STEVE!
    10:29 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    What a ridiculous statement. The SEC placed 75% of its teams in bowl games last year. We will have 9 or 10 in bowl games this year. Which conference do you think is better top-to-bottom than that?

  19. John Wilmhoff
    10:54 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    What is better top to bottom…2007 SEC or 2012?

  20. Can we have a better post
    11:09 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    This post is pure nonsense.

  21. STEVE!
    11:18 pm September 16, 2012 Permalink

    John – Direct Quote from article: “The SEC has been, from top to bottom, the toughest and most competitive league in college football for quite some time, but that is no longer.” Again I ask, which conference is better, top-to-bottom, than the SEC?

  22. John Wilmhoff
    1:07 am September 17, 2012 Permalink

    How dare I suggest the SEC is top heavy after 2 losses to Sun Belt teams and 2 near-losses to Sun Belt teams. I didn’t claim it wasn’t the best conference, I said it wasn’t the best top to bottom, meaning that the bottom of the league is not as strong. I think you could make an argument for any of the other five leagues for having a better bottom half.

  23. Angle
    2:09 am September 17, 2012 Permalink

    Gotta love a site where the writer of the post is persistent enough to argue in the comments. This article has a good point but I don’t entirely agree with the angle.

    The SEC is indisputably the best conference. The league is competitive with anybody. What people aren’t getting is it’s not competitive within itself. The reason for that isn’t because a lot of programs are backsliding it’s because the ones at the top are getting better quicker.

    If you’re a top recruit and can’t go to a top SEC program like Bama or LSU you don’t go to a middle of the pack SEC team, you go to Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Oregon, Ohio St, etc to try to beat those teams in a bowl game. Can’t remember his name but look at the LB who won Mr. Football a couple years ago, he didn’t want to go to UK and lose so he went to USC.

    And just as quick as programs can rise they can fall off like Auburn and others. The point is athletes are fickle and want to go wherever is hot right now, to win. That’s the culture of college sports now. If the talent is concentrated on a few teams, the others have to suck for the good teams to beat up on. In basketball, we have an “it” program right now. The story of our football program is just the flip side.

  24. JackB
    9:53 am September 17, 2012 Permalink

    It could be the only reason Alabama/LSU doesn’t play UGA in the NatChamp game is because they will play first in the SEC Champ game. The SEC might have the 3 best teams in the country at season’s end, USC (the one in Cali) being the sole likely non-SEC intruder into the top 3. I admit we have some weak bottom teams, but what league doesn’t? And what league has 4 top-10 teams and 3 of the top 5 without question?

    The SEC Rules college football despite these early seson upsets.

  25. Dave
    10:00 am September 17, 2012 Permalink

    The SEC is still tough, it may be top heavy, but it is extremely tough this year. Alabama and LSU are obviously the best, but Georgia is top 10, South Carolina is top 10 and either one of them would steamroll another conference. Florida and Tennessee have looked good to start the season and are both ranked, and Arkansas has talent, even if John L. Smith doesnt know how to coach it. Vandy and Mississippi State are good and Missouri played Georgia very tough last week until the 4th quarter. Yeah, the SEC has bottom feeders this year, but the conference is a lot more than Alabama or LSU. You can’t be this reactionary, the best team in the Sun Belt by far beat by far the worst team in the SEC. That isnt as big of a surprise as we would like unfortunately, we should have seen this coming. Arkansas was bad, but John L Smith was nowhere close to being ready to take over that team. The SEC is fine, it just looks top heavy because Alabama and LSU are that much better than anyone else.

  26. BuD LiGhT
    11:27 am September 17, 2012 Permalink

    Let’s all get off Joker’s back. Even though he may not be an SEC caliber coach we need to realize that without major changes to the football program, the stadium, the facilities, and football priorities, no ‘coach’ alone will make UK a top 3 SEC football team, year in, year out. We need to thank Joker for his dedication to UK and for doing his best, I would rather have Joker than a dishonest and immoral Bobby Petrino. Our ‘administration’ may not be willing or even see it necessary to sacrifice what is necessary to have a competitive SEC football team. This ‘problem’ is WAY bigger than just a coach.