3 people I absolutely blame for Tuesday night's results
“I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!” — Frank Costanza, celebrating Festivus
Something major occurred Tuesday evening. There were rumblings that it was possible, but we certainly didn’t anticipate it actually happening.
Of course I’m referring to the SEC East being completely left out of the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Yes, Western Michigan came in at a healthy No. 21, but no SEC East teams could crack the top 25. It’s the first time that’s happened since the rankings debuted during the 2014 season, but it’s not like the SEC East’s struggles are new. The East has been struggling comparatively to the West for years.
But it seems like the SEC East in 2016 is worse than ever. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly rates the SEC East behind the Mountain West’s Mountain Division according to his S&P Efficiency Ratings.
The SEC East will likely lose the SEC Championship Game this season for the eight consecutive season, which would be a record in college football for a division’s drought in conference title games (Big 12 South won seven in a row from 2004-2010).
So, yeah, it’s a mess. But who’s to blame? I’ve got some options to consider.
Meyer obviously is responsible for the last good run by a SEC East team. His Florida Gators dominated during the Tim Tebow era and won two national titles following the 2006 and 2008 campaigns.
But as a buddy recently texted me, “Florida football died when Urban Meyer almost died.”
We might want to revise that to: SEC East football died when Urban Meyer almost died. When Nick Saban and Alabama crushed the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, that was the shift.
We can’t blame Meyer, however, simply because he left Florida. No, we’re going to blame him because he not only left the East, but he went to the Big Ten. Meyer is one of the top two or three coaches in the game, and the East losing that kind of coaching talent to the Big Ten isn’t easy to overcome.
Before Meyer arrived, Ohio State averaged 24.5 points per game in 2011. From 2012 through this year, Ohio State has been No. 1 or No. 2 in scoring in the Big Ten, averaging at least 35 points per game each year (and more than 44 points per game in three of those five seasons).
You know how the Gators’ offense has fared since then.
Ugly, ugly and ugly.
You could argue that it shouldn’t just be Butch Jones but also Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, but I’m going to instead focus on the 2016 season. This was the year that Tennessee was supposed to be back and at least make a good run at the SEC championship. A run that would offer a legitimate East champion to do more than just roll over against the bigger, badder champ from out west in early December.
Well, Butch Jones completely screwed that up.
To say this Tennessee season is a disaster would be an understatement. The Vols are 6-3, and I don’t want to hear about injuries. Frankly, two freak plays have prevented the Vols from being 4-5: an end-zone fumble recovery against App State (in overtime!) and a Hail Mary touchdown against Georgia. Yes, the Vols are lucky to be 6-3.
Losing to a good team or two this season isn’t cause to can Jones, but seeing how this team was prepared entering the season certainly can be.
Congratulations, Tennessee. Those Bristol World Championship trophies you held up after your Week 2 victory against Virginia Tech truly was the apex of your season.
Will Grier (and partially Jim McElwain)
If you watched Florida dismantle Ole Miss back in 2015, you know what I mean. It was far and away the best Florida had looked going back to the Tebow days. Florida had a quarterback! A really, really good one.
Then it all collapsed under a performance-enhancing drug scandal. Then a one-year suspension turned into Grier being gone forever.
We’ll likely never know the details of the fallout between the Griers and McElwain, but there’s likely blame to be cast on both sides. Maybe Grier and his family wanted some guarantees. Maybe not. McElwain once said he could win with his dog playing quarterback, so you know his mentality on the topic.
My guess is that both sides already regret not figuring out a way to keep Grier at Florida (he’d already be playing for the Gators).
What a mess.
Bonus Moment: The Aaron Murray tipped pass at the end of the 2012 SEC Championship Game
The last time an East team went to Atlanta not only with a chance to win the game, but with the potential to go on and play for a national title was 2012. Alabama vs. Georgia. What a game!
The Aaron Murray tipped pass at the end prevented Georgia from winning the game and going on to a likely win against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship. Murray and Mark Richt likely think about that play every night when they close their eyes in bed.
Had Georgia won that game, who knows how the trajectory changes. Richt would likely still be in Athens. Another East team would have a recent national championship win.
Who knows? Tuesday night, things might have been different.