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SEC Slant: End of the Innocence Edition

Last week, the SEC went 1-3 against the worst conference in the history of major D1 athletics, the 2008 ACC. So in typcial slant fashion, let’s not talk about it and maybe it will just go away. Yes, that’s the way to play it. So as we inch towards what promises to be a worthy conclusion to a rather unworthy season of Southeastern football, let’s take an overview of each school; their peaks, valleys, and the lasting taste they have left in the slant.

Look for a synopsis of the West to drop later in the afternoon, along with a look at Bama/Florida, some post season awards, and a post-lunch office dump.

THE EAST

“Guys, just spoke with God, we’re good to go. And he says ‘you’re welcome’ for the speed.”

Kentucky (6-6, 2-6)
Despite losing 99% of last season’s offense to either the NFL or injury, as well as The Future to a “little grass,” Kentucky’s offense was…well, it still managed to suck more than expected. Promises of breakout seasons and freakish athleticism from our offensive playmakers dissipated like the summertime gossip of Michael Porter’s improved handle, and Jared Carter’s improved posture. It was frustrating, to say the least, even when expectations plummeted to rock bottom (see below). Defensively, the Cats displayed their first true SEC-worthy ensemble since, hell, ’77, and through the first half of the season ranked in the top 5 nationally in most defensive categories. But the injury bug would befall this side of the ball as well, and with the offense converting 3rd downs at an abysmal 30% clip, they never really had a chance. Still, 6 wins and a bowl is a helluvan accomplishment. How helluvan? Only 4 other SEC teams have gone to 3 straight bowls: LSU, UGA, UF, and Bama.
Welcome to high expectations. Relish these days.

Peak: A hard-nosed 17-14 loss to the Tide in T-town. This game, though exceedingly frustrating and by all means winnable, underlined UK’s arduous path towards respectability and provided hope that Kentucky was ready to firmly situate themselves in the SEC’s middle tier.

Rock-bottom: You could say last weekend’s loss to an every bit as dreadful as advertised UT club, obviously. You can certainly make a strong case for the Vandy game, and the heartrending loss to UGA gets a nod as well. But for me, it’s the blooper-reel that was the South Carolina game. There is simply zero excuse to continue losing to this team, at home of all places, and the injury to Dicky Lyons Jr. on an unflagged horse-collar tackle only added to the sorrow. The Gamecocks played horrific, and still won, and now they’ll be enjoying new years in ATL.

In a word: Kentucky

Florida (11-1, 7-1)
The fastest team in the history of legs, the Gators’ did to SEC foes what CB Jacques Rickerson does to his women: beat the ever-loving snot out of them and rob them of their dignity…or credit cards, whichever is nearest the window. Take away the Ole Miss loss, and Florida outscored opponents 526-116 this year and averaged a Tubby-like 46 ppg in a league that is geographically and demographically not supposed to yield 46 ppg.

Peak: Gee, I don’t know, was it the 49th point they put on Georgia, the 59th on Carolina, 51st on LSU, or dare I ask, have we yet to see the crescendo?

Rock-bottom: Seriously, how did Ole Miss pull this one off? How?

In a word: af-leet

Tennessee (5-7, 3-5)
In what can only be described as The Perfect Storm, an orange tidal of ineptitude swept through Knoxville, wiping out everything it its path including the Dean of SEC coaches, Phil Fulmer. Fulmer’s “firing” further showcases that AD’s these days are just that, attention deficit, and patience among fans is as rare as logic. But have no fear, for the Kiffin’s are here! And they brought recruiting infractions!

The Kiffin family pet

Peak: 11-2-08, or, “the day they cut the fat.”

Rocky-bottom: The Vols lost to several bad teams this season, but you don’t need to look any further than the loss to Wyoming, at home. The worst team in the Mountain West, who fired their coach for such as abysmal product, even after winning in one of the SEC’s most hallowed venues.

In a word: lost

Georgia (9-3, 6-2)
Add Mark Richt to the seemingly everlasting flame of unreachable southeastern standards. UGA’s demise began even before the opening kickoff, when they were prettified with a shiny #1 ranking in some polls and expected to at the least, win the conference. But injuries depleted the line of scrimmage, Stafford threw pretty deep ball after pretty deep ball just beyond the fingertips of receivers, and the defense flat out sucked. Stafford, Moreno, Massoquoai, and Green each figure to be prime NFL talents, but once again, does not automatically equate to a great football team. Who’s to blame? Easy

Peak: Probably the win out in the desert against what was thought of at the time, a pretty good Arizona State team…

Rock-bottom: …because the very next week, they ran into the Tide, and their deer-in-headlights impersonation in the first half was the initial indication this was a merely another “good” team.

In a word: soft

South Carolina (7-5, 4-4)
Cocks fans, in typical “dumbest state in the nation” form, cannot believe Spurrier has yet to pass the 7 win plateau in Columbia, but for the 4th year in a row OBC has the Cocks at .500 or better. Similar to UK and completely against the Spurrier creed, a nationally ranked defense propelled a sputtering offense.

Peak: a Nov. 1st blow-out of the Vols on national TV locked up a bowl game and let fans pretend, if just for a night, what it must’ve felt like to be a Florida fan back in the 90’s.

Rock-bottom: The Clempson/Carolina allegiance cleanly splits the Palmetto state 50/50, so last week’s shellacking at the hands of a mediocre-decent rival surely stings these Cocks.

In a word: Dumb

Vanderbilt (6-6, 4-4)
Call it a fluke, luck, or too good to be true, but Vandy’s 5-0 start had everyone wondering, could they really lose 7 in a row? Well, almost, but thanks to Kentucky the ‘Dores are bowling for the first time since Reagan’s first term. The fact that Vandy’s offense (260 ypg) was less productive than UK, UT, Auburn, and State is an accomplishment. It’s like scoring a perfect 0 on the ACT: you have to know all the answers to be able to guess wrong every time. Luckily, an opportune defense compensated for the lack of offensive production, and Vandy made just enough plays to notch that bowl invite.

Peak: After disposing Auburn at home Oct. 4th, the Dores were sittin’ pretty at 5-0 and vaulted to the top of the conference with a plump 3-0 SEC mark. It was likely the peak of the Vandy football program for the rest of eternity.

Rock-bottom: Vandy’s ACC counterpart, Duke, traveled to Nashville on Oct. 25th for a game of can-you-top-this? tradition of maintained futility brought on by books and things. Duke won 10-7, and for that week anyway, sucked a little less.

In a word: sensitive

Article written by John Dubya

The Twitter: @Johnawilk