O East, where art thou? Alabama shows gap is huge … and growing
We’ve discussed this before, so it’s not as if we needed Alabama to thoroughly demolish an injured Tennessee team 49-10 Saturday afternoon in Knoxville this afternoon to realize that the West is the superior division in the Southeastern Conference.
What is stunning, particularly in the wake of Alabama’s manhandling of Tennessee — the Tide’s 10th consecutive win in the series — is that the talent gap between the divisions is still gargantuan. And it’s kind of inexplicable.
Sure, Butch Jones had a hole to dig out of at UT. But four years of top 25 recruiting classes later (two top 10 classes in there), while it might not be surprising that the Vols are still losing to Alabama, it is surprising that UT looked like a junior varsity team up front Saturday, and that Bama’s skill players ran wild while Tennessee’s were absolutely shackled.
We all realize that Kirby Smart has to imprint his own vision on the Georgia football team. But with Jacob Eason and Nick Chubb, how do the Bulldogs get blasted by a middle-of-the-West Ole Miss team? The Bulldogs have had a top 10 recruiting class six of the past seven years, per Phil Steele (who had them 12th in their lone “down” year). The Rebels meanwhile reached the top 10 twice in that time span.
Florida did go through the minor disaster of the Will Muschamp era, but it won the East with Jim McElwain last year. They also went 1-2 against the West, and stand as relatively likely to stumble both at LSU and at Arkansas later this season. The Gators had four top 10 classes in the past seven years, and the Razorbacks never cracked the top 20 during that span. But does anybody doubt that Arkansas will be favored in that game on Nov. 5?
Admittedly, the East has some serious deadweight. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and post-Spurrier South Carolina aren’t likely to invade the top 10 anytime soon. But even Missouri joined the act. The Tigers won the East title twice, but now, they play LSU the week that the Tigers make a coaching change after a train wreck of a first four weeks of 2016. And LSU beat them like a rented drum.
Sure, LSU had better talent. But LSU also looked more challenged by FCS foe Jacksonville State than by Mizzou.
There is a talent gap between the West and East, and it is in the West’s favor.
That said, the East hasn’t exactly been recruiting at Little Sisters of the Poor High. If you put together an All-Star team, the East has a lineup of as many stars as the West. You can name then: Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, Joshua Dobbs, Derek Barnett, Nick Chubb, Michel, Sony Eason, Antonio Callaway, Teez Tabor, and so forth. But when the two divisions meet on the field, it’s painfully one-sided.
And nowhere is it more one-sided than with the team from Tuscaloosa.
Nick Saban doesn’t just win college football games. He and the Crimson Tide drum opponents into submission.
It’s not just that Saban owns the have-nots, it’s that he turns the have-plenties into just as clueless of a foe as an FCS lightweight.
Alabama has played 4 ranked teams this season: It has scored at least 48 on all four of them.
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) October 15, 2016
Kentucky lost to Alabama two weeks ago 34-6. As badly as the Tide took apart the Vols on Saturday, that Kentucky game looks like a moral victory.
This is good, because it may be the only kind of victory the East wins against the Tide anytime soon.
Maybe it’s Xs and Os, maybe it’s Jimmys and Joes, but it’s the West and everybody else … and Nick Saban, as the King of the West, is turning the East repeatedly into Everybody Else.