Sometimes SEC football seems so grand that the little details escape us.
But there is so much about this conference that is just so dadgum cool.
What is “cool” is up to everybody’s individual interpretation, of course. We could have named a whole different set of things and started a whole different batch of arguments.
Nonetheless, every school in the SEC has a “cool” aspect whether it’s a current player, a member of the coaching staff, a tradition or just something that looks oh, so right.
So, here is our school-by-school list of 13 cool things about SEC football in 2018, starting with two schools sharing a trophy that’s all about kinship (even if the name of the trophy is the only item where fans of the two schools agree).
Auburn-Alabama or Alabama-Auburn: Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy
The prize for the winner of the annual Iron Bowl was born of a spirit of cooperation that is so rare in a rivalry often noted for a high level of vitriol. The trophy was named after the chapters of Omicron Delta Kappa at both schools and was established in 1948, the year that the in-state rivalry was renewed after a hiatus of 40 years. The trophy now also carries the name of James E. Foy, a former dean at both schools.
Arkansas: Hjalte Froholdt’s long path to Arkansas
Razorbacks offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (pronounced Yell-duh Fro-holt according to the school) has started 26 games at left guard and has been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll all three years at Arkansas. But his background is more fascinating: The native of Svendborg, Denmark (population 26,672) never played football until he was an exchange student in Ohio as a high school sophomore. When he arrived at Arkansas, Froholdt was a defensive lineman before switching. Now he’s considered one of the league’s best offensive linemen.
Florida: Lovey-dovey mascots
Face it: Albert and Alberta are just a really cute couple, especially for such a scaly pair. The dual Florida Gators mascots do charity appearances and help lead cheers at sporting events. Albert flew solo — or chomped solo, if you will — from 1970 to 1985 until Alberta joined him in 1986. The full-time students under both mascot costumes (shhh, don’t tell the kids they’re not real) must maintain a 2.5 GPA and a full course load. Their website doesn’t address how they keep their costumes dry in a swamp, much less The Swamp.
Georgia: Rodrigo Blankenship’s whole look
The thick-rimmed specs. The beard. It all just works. Georgia’s kicker is so cool that soccer’s best comedy duo (OK, fine, soccer’s only comedy duo), The Men in Blazers, took notice as Georgia climbed up the polls toward the SEC title and a College Football Playoff berth last year. And here’s the kicker: Blankenship is really good. (And on scholarship.) He’s a first-team preseason All-American on ESPN’s team and a second-team pick by the Associated Press. But mostly, know this: His glasses have spawned a Twitter account.
Kentucky: Courtney Love stays put
The Wildcats hired Courtney Love as a graduate assistant for the 2018 season. In 2017, as a senior linebacker, Love won the Wuerffel Trophy, which rewards community service as well as athletic and academic achievement. Love has mentored children and was part of a trip to Eritrea where he helped build houses and delivered food and other goods to poor families. Love, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, attended spring rookie minicamp with his hometown Cleveland Browns but it’s nice to see him contributing again at his alma mater.
LSU: Ed Orgeron’s voice
He has taken a lot of criticism already in just less than two full seasons in charge of the Tigers, but every time “Coach O” speaks, it just seems like everything is going to be okay. That deep, gruff drawl makes him sound like a TV character in a Southern-themed drama, or the uncle you turn to for advice when your parents just don’t understand.
Ed Orgeron is the best pic.twitter.com/ANuOTHKOZt
— Sam Cooper (@SamDCooper) September 3, 2018
Mississippi State: More cowbell!
Cowbells are annoying at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays play (trust me, I live a few miles from there and have attended plenty of games), but maybe that’s because there usually aren’t enough people to drown out the darn clanging from a long-ago fan giveaway. But somehow those cowbells just sound right when a Bulldogs game is on TV.
Missouri: Finis Stribling IV
First, that has to be the coolest name in the SEC. Go ahead, top it. Second, he’s a physics major, the only one listed on the Tigers’ roster. The redshirt senior hasn’t seen a lot of playing time in Columbia, mostly on special teams, and seems unlikely to ever play in the NFL. But judging by the way his mind works, he seems like a pretty good bet to reach his aspiration of becoming a college professor after his playing days are over.
Ole Miss: The Grove
The tradition is old but the faces keep changing. The Ole Miss tailgate party on a grassy 10-acre piece of campus called The Grove is quite the colorful scene on game days. The Rebels have come back to the pack from their peak a couple of years ago, but the spirit rages on in Oxford.
South Carolina: Lattimore comes home
Former Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore has returned to the program as Director of Player Development. Lattimore had a sensational season as a freshman in 2010 but a serious knee injury shortened his college playing career and, though he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, he never played in the NFL. Lattimore had an NCAA issue to iron out before he could join Will Muschamp’s staff in the offseason — he can’t attend his Marcus Lattimore Foundation football camps and be on the school’s payroll, which the NCAA ruled would give South Carolina an unfair recruiting advantage — but he’s back home now and college football is better for it.
Tennessee: Volunteer Navy
No need to overly explain this one. The image says it all:
Texas A&M: Midnight Yell
The SEC is known for having perhaps the most rabid college football fans in the nation, and the league made its argument even more persuasive when it added Texas A&M in 2012. The night before home games at Kyle Field, thousands of fans show up to practice yelling in a tradition dating to 1931.
Vanderbilt: Nautical helmets
The entire matter of the helmets with the anchor and chain running down the middle (as well as every Commodores uniform color combination) is addressed in loving, if slightly obsessive, detail here. Vandy definitely went for something distinctive. I think it works like gangbusters.
Got any uniform predictions?
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) August 29, 2018