SAPAKOFF COLUMN: SEC football needs an East beast, at the least
HOOVER, Ala. — Sewanee was once in the SEC.
Tulane, too. As recently as Steve Spurrier's playing career at Florida.
It's doubtful any of the schools in the SEC East will leave the league simply because their football programs cannot compete with the SEC West. But if something doesn't give soon, Verne Lundquist is going to lose more viewers in that CBS time slot.
On a twisted Thursday at SEC Media Days, Georgia's Mark Richt was the head coach coming off an SEC title game appearance and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore got more votes than anyone on the SEC preseason team.
But Nick Saban was the rock star, as usual.
Spurrier said earlier in the week that it's easier to win the national championship (as Alabama did last season) than the SEC championship (LSU).
More accurately, the SEC West rules the college football world, and has a headlock on the SEC East post-Tim Tebow.
“We've obviously learned a lot at Alabama over the last five years,” Saban said. “The most important thing we've learned is you have got to stay on top of the little things. Things don't happen by accident. You don't win a play by accident. You don't win a game by accident. You don't win a division by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day.”
Which means you dominate lunch.
Maybe it helps that the SEC office is right down the road in Birmingham. Coincidence?
What if, just for fun, they moved the headquarters to Key Largo or Hilton Head for one fiscal year?
29-7 tilt, favoring the West
Ah, probably wouldn't make a difference.
That the SEC West since the conference split into divisions in 1992 has a 192-165-3 record against the SEC East is one thing. But real dominance is Alabama (8-1), LSU (8-1), Auburn (6-3) and Arkansas (7-2) over the last three seasons against teams from the SEC East. That's 29-7, not counting a 3-0 record in the SEC championship game.
More typical Sabanisms that would play well in a lucrative speech to CEOs: “High achievers don't like mediocre people; mediocre people don't like high achievers. So everybody has to buy into the same principles and values.”
Thus, Saban loves the new four-team playoff idea; Alabama is in play every year, win or lose the SEC West.
Spurrier, on the other hand, favors an eight-team playoff. He cited Stony Brook's storybook 2012 baseball team that reached the College World Series (and recent Butler basketball teams) as examples of why programs from lesser conferences deserve a shot.
Stony Brook advanced to Omaha by winning two Super Regional games at LSU.
Les Miles' LSU football program hasn't lost two games to SEC East teams in three years.
And yet some of the East-West contrast turns on a fumble here, a recruit's decision there.
What if Cam Newton stayed at Florida?
Gamecock fans know there is SEC East hope. South Carolina on an enchanted Saturday in Columbia managed to upset then-No. 1 Alabama in 2010. Perhaps Saban had that in mind Thursday when he zinged Spurrier, referencing a comment Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel made earlier in the week about being younger than Saban, his former Kent State teammate.
“You know, there are other coaches in this league, like Steve Spurrier, that are older than me that I look up to, that are my mentors, that I really learn a lot from and I really want to try to be like,” Saban said.
“In fact, I was even going to consider wearing a visor on the sideline this year (but) I was afraid I'd throw it.”
The Gamecocks and Crimson Tide are not scheduled to play this year. But an SEC Championship Game meeting would give South Carolina a chance to make a very necessary statement for the SEC East.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff