The fall of the SEC and the rise of the Tide

ed.- bumped from the fanposts.

Saturday night I was posting in the RBR GameDay Open Thread and as the Tide started putting away Croom and his minions attention began to turn to the growing possibility of a brutal upset in Baton Rouge.

A number of folks thought the possibility of the Bayou Bengals going down to such a lesser opponent was a delightful possibility. Posters like Gerry Dorsey seem to feel that Alabama holds its own destiny in the coming games and the fates of our enemies is not our problem. Thus we can unleash the hounds of schadenfreude with impunity.

This is a pretty good point but I’m not in complete agreement. In fact I felt the contest in Death Valley was an immensely bad omen and some of the observations around the college football blogosphere seem to bear my concern out…

Yesterday, over at EDSBS, the esteemed Orson Swindle examined the aftermath and proclaimed it "further proof, too, that the snarling SEC of 2007 that went 7-2 in bowl games is short a few thousand megawatts of power this year." And it’s not just his usual eloquent bluster, it’s a solid point.

The deeper problem is pointed out by Georgia partisan Hey Jenny Slater:

Yet the fact remains that LSU is probably still the fourth-best team in the conference, which leads to another unpleasant admission: The SEC just isn't that good this year. Probably the second-best league in D-IA, but well behind the Big 12, in terms of both the number of elite teams and the depth behind them.

That’s seems correct and  T Kyle King takes it the next logical step and uses that assessment to create Dawg Sport's offering for this week’s S.E.C Power Poll.

There’s a good-sized gap separating the top two teams from the third-best team, and at least that large a chasm separates the third- and fourth-best teams. Below that, there’s a jumbled muddle ranging from the merely mediocre to the truly bad, particularly on offense. It pains me to say that this is how the Southeastern Conference stacks up right now.

The big boy on the block this year seems to be the Big 12 and that perception is evidenced by the elevation of that conference’s no-loss doyenne into the stratosphere of the polls. The vaunted blogpoll even has Texas Tech at the top spot and I have a hard time arguing they don’t deserve to be there.

So why do we care?I think all this is worth considering this as we try to realistically assess what is happening in this most delightful of years for our beloved Crimson Tide.

There a lot of very good reasons this team has come this far that I’m overjoyed to see - freshmen stepping up, solid play from the running game, an elite defense coming together – but I can’t say I feel the assessments of this team during preseason are that far off either.

Phil Steele, to cite just one example, based part of his pre-season assessment of Alabama’s chances in light of the schedule – particular in terms of our most hated rival.

Alabama, every other year, plays a tougher schedule — Alabama and Auburn's schedules switch. So Alabama plays the tougher of the schedules this year, they have to play teams like Georgia, Tennessee, LSU all on the road.

But LSU struggled, Georgia sputtered and Tennessee collapsed completely. Auburn – a team Steele considered a darkhorse MNC contender, let’s just say, and isn’t having a year it’s likely to want to repeat any time soon.

So as the ill winds have blown through the SEC they’ve been particularly vengeful on the West and it’s mighty fortuitous that our house is the one built of bricks. As wonderful as the season has been and as powerful as we have appeared at points it’s difficult to look at this team and say it’s at the acme of its potential.

I felt at the start of the season that we would win 8 or nine games and garner a slot at a nice bowl. That we have been undefeated and locked up the SEC West has me ecstatic beyond belief. There is one thing and one thing only I ask of this team explicitly – beat the beejesus out of Auburn. Everything else, is just cream.

Ironically, that actually makes us even more dangerous down the stretch. As Pete Holliday pointed out last week on AOL Fanhouse:

What you're seeing from the Crimson Tide this season is the clearest possible demonstration of the difference between a Nick Saban team and a DuBose team, a Franchione team, or a Shula team. Those Alabama teams folded like a house of cards upon even the slightest momentum shift. Alabama has been given ample opportunity to pack it up and quit, but they haven't.

That dovetails nicely with his assessment in Todd's excellent pre-season magazine "Yea Alabama" that this year’s team is a work in progress but one with a clear goal in mind.

There can be no doubt… Alabama is in a better position today, looking forward, than it has been in the past 10 years. The oft-maligned head coach is as known for brining in quality athletes, training them well, and putting together a solid cohesive team as he is for being short and vague with reporters.

This is still the truth. I’m less interested in Saban hoisting a crystal ball in January than I am in his creation of a crimson clad machine of football playing mutants who devour anything and everything in their path. Season in. Season out.

We still have problems with depth and consistency of play. Our offense is serviceable at best and our defense has a strange tendency to ease up at inopportune times. But these are clearly points Saban has identified and is working to address.

As I said earlier this week... It’s all part of the plan, man. It’s all part of the plan.

So, not matter what happens from here on out, it should be remembered that the REAL legacy of the 2008 season is that this is the first taste of what this team can do and it’s as delicious as I have dreamed but it’s just the beginning – and if you didn’t take advantage of us this year, I’ll promise you, you won’t have another chance quite as good for quite some time.

FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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