Sports, Thrill of Victory

This week’s SEC football and basketball storylines to watch

The college football season officially came to a close with Alabama knocking off Clemson to win yet another championship. Meanwhile, SEC basketball is starting to heat up as teams look to prove that they are a contender and not a pretender.

Chris Lee fills us in on everything we need to know around the SEC this week.

THIS WEEK’S STORYLINES

It's another year, another championship for Nick Saban and Alabama. PHOTO BY KENT GIDLEY, COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

It’s another year, another championship for Nick Saban and Alabama. PHOTO BY KENT GIDLEY, COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

Alabama’s won another national title, more players are leaving early for the NFL, a major baseball poll is out, and basketball is underway… here’s a quick recap of all you need to know in the Southeastern Conference this week. 

Alabama wins it all… again

On Monday, Alabama beat Clemson to win what it claims is its 16th national title; the NCAA only recognizes 13 of those titles, and the claim to the 1941 championship is frankly absurd. But let’s move past that and onto the greater points, which are:

The Crimson Tide again has established itself as the preeminent program in college football, which it arguably was anyway even if it didn’t win the two previous titles. Alabama was a combined 23-4 in 2013 and 2014, finishing eighth and fourth, respectively, in the AP Top 25s. Only Florida State and Michigan State finished in the top eight both those seasons; Florida State drops off if you were to include 2015.

This team was more special than people realize. Alabama didn’t line up and steamroll teams the way its 2011 (a 26.6-point average margin of victory) or ’12 (27.8) teams did; this one “only” won its average game by 20 points. But here’s something seldom discussed: this team played a tougher schedule than either, and it wasn’t close.

According to mathematician Jeff Sagarin, the ’11 team played the 15th-toughest schedule in America, while the following year, the Crimson Tide took on the 19th-toughest slate. The 2015 squad played, by everyone’s estimation, the toughest slate in America. It beat six teams (No. 2 Clemson, No. 6 Michigan State, No. 16 LSU, No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 22 Tennessee and 25th-ranked Florida) that finished in the final AP Top 25, and furthermore, beat five more teams that finished with winning records (Arkansas, Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn and MTSU; those five went a combined 40-25). I’ve not researched it, but the latter, I would imagine, is unprecedented, and the former would be at least close. The only blemish on the season was a six-point home loss to Ole Miss, but the Rebels finished ranked 10th.

Nick Saban is probably the greatest coach in college football history. Sports Illustrated outlines the argument pretty well if you consider the discussion to be between Saban and former ‘Bama coach Bear Bryant but there are also two other things worth mentioning: Bryant spent much of his career in an era where coaches could offer unlimited scholarships as compared to the 85 now, and on the whole, there’s more overall parity in college football than there once was.

Former Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop now works for Tennessee. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

Former Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop now works for Tennessee. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

However you want to slice it, Alabama and Saban are doing historic things; these are accomplishments we might not see repeated in our lifetimes. 

Going pro early

Here’s an updated list of the SEC’s early entrees to the 2016 NFL Draft:

Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi St.

Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida (Davis has said he may reconsider)

Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas

Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M

Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi St.

Denver Kirkland, OL, Arkansas

Alex McCallister, DE, Florida

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

Keanu Neal, S, Florida

Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida

Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi St.

Chad Kelly (QB, Ole Miss), Skai Moore (LB, South Carolina) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (LB, Tennessee) are among recent players who’ve stated their intents to return.

Guard Danuel House is a big reason A&M tops our SEC hoops power rankings. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY

Guard Danuel House is a big reason A&M tops our SEC hoops power rankings. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY

Back to the SEC for Hand, Shoop

A pair of former Vanderbilt assistants who followed coach James Franklin to Penn State have now come back to the SEC. Tennessee made an excellent hire with defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who replaces John Jancek, and offensive line coach Herb Hand also departed Happy Valley for Auburn. 

Missouri announces NCAA violations

Coach Kim Anderson’s rebuilding job just got tougher, through no fault of his own. On Tuesday, the school announced three major and two minor rules infractions from an investigation that dates back to 2014. I guess it’s no wonder Frank Haith fled for Tulsa two seasons ago. 

Gators No. 1

D1 Baseball, one of the most respected outlets that covers college baseball, named Florida the preseason favorite to win the national title. Other SEC teams include Vanderbilt (No. 3), Texas A&M (4), LSU (7), Mississippi State (15) and Arkansas (25). The season begins in mid-February. 

BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS (Overall record, SEC record)

  1. Texas A&M (14-2, 4-0)
  2. Kentucky (13-3, 3-1)
  3. South Carolina (15-0, 2-0)
  4. Florida (10-6, 2-2)
  5. LSU (9-6, 2-1)
  6. Vanderbilt (9-7, 1-3)
  7. Arkansas (9-7, 3-1)
  8. Georgia (8-5, 1-2)
  9. Ole Miss (12-3, 1-2)
  10. Tennessee (8-7, 1-2)
  11. Alabama (9-5, 0-2)
  12. Mississippi St. (7-8, 0-3)
  13. Auburn (7-8, 1-3)
  14. Missouri (8-8, 1-2)