Remember that Kevin Bacon scene in Animal House? Not the “Thank you, sir, may I have another” scene. The “Remain calm, all is well” scene. The one where ROTC cadet Bacon gets pancaked by a panicking mob.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey went 6-6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon when he was asked about the conference’s performance on the first weekend of the college football season.
“I don’t think it’s a rough week,” Sankey said. “It’s a week in college football.”
It was an extraordinary opening week for any number of reasons, but around these parts, it wasn’t as easy to strike up the old “S-E-C! S-E-C!” chant as it usually is.
The Ole Miss disappearing act Monday night against Florida State dropped the SEC’s record after Week One to 7-7, 6-6 against non-conference opponents. Two of the wins (Tennessee and Texas A&M) required overtime. Two of the losses (Mississippi State and Kentucky) came to Group of Five schools. Two of the losses (Kentucky and Ole Miss) involved a second-half meltdown.
The break-even beginning hardly signals the end of the SEC as a national power, but clearly, all is not well in the House of Sankey.
There is one perfectly reasonable explanation for the uncharacteristic false start. The SEC challenged itself right out of the gate, perhaps more than it ever had.
Five of the league’s opponents were ranked, and the SEC went 3-2 in those games. Missouri played a true road game at West Virginia, and four others played at neutral sites. Georgia certainly had an edge on North Carolina in the Georgia Dome, but LSU playing Wisconsin in Green Bay and Ole Miss taking on FSU in Orlando had to battle quality opponents and partisan crowds.
Then again, SEC teams face hostile environments on a regular basis so that excuse doesn’t fly any farther than some of the league’s anemic offenses.
The worst news for the league that gave us Steve Spurrier was the collective struggle on offense. Nationally, 10 Power 5 teams scored 14 points or fewer in their opening games. Five of those teams live in the SEC.
To make things worse, the offensive ineptitude wasn’t new for 2016 for LSU (14), Auburn (13), South Carolina (13), Missouri (11) or Vanderbilt (10). The only reason one of those teams escaped with a victory is South Carolina played Vanderbilt.
One game into the season, Gus Malzahn has abandoned his bizarre con game of Three-QB Monte and Les Miles has given up on his unusual full staff meetings on the sideline on game day.
This week’s polls reflect the national perception that the SEC ain’t what it used to be top to bottom. Two of the top three teams in each poll come from the ACC. The Big Ten has three of the top eight teams in the Coaches Poll. There is one SEC team in the top eight in each poll, and one SEC West team in the top 17 in the Coaches Poll and top 18 in the AP poll.
Of course, that one team is No. 1 Alabama, but the SEC didn’t build its rep as the strongest college football conference in the land on the Crimson Tide alone.
The best news is there’s plenty of season left. It would be nice if the 13 dwarfs got to work.