Scooter Hobbs column: No gimmes on SEC schedule
Published 8:51 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Well, at least there’s Vanderbilt.
Not that it will do Brian Kelly any good trying to get LSU back on track in his first year at the Southeastern Conference.
And, keep in mind, the Commodores — their coach, Clark Lea, anyway — have proclaimed themselves a national powerhouse waiting for blossom.
Lea did not put a finite time line on this great awakening. He only said that it was inevitable.
Never mind that fool at SEC Media Days voted the Commodores to win the SEC. This year. We’ll assume Lea wasn’t talking about this season, meaning Vandy will likely concentrate on winning a conference game for the first time since 2019.
But the Commodores aren’t on LSU’s schedule, so what they’re up to will be a moot point to Kelly’s quest.
What’s there on the LSU schedule is far tricker. Even if Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt for at least another season, the story in the SEC this year, particularly the August scuttlebutt that may or may not mean anything, is that most of the reliable old light to semi-light touches seems to be leading an uprising .
Alabama is heavily favored in the SEC West, Georgia is just as heavily favored on the other side and also the sun will probably rise from the east.
But other things look a lot different. Where, pray tell, are the non-Vanderbilts where the knee-jerk reaction was always to assume yourself a win.
Go ahead. I’ll give you a chance to scan and ponder a while.
No. This doesn’t look like a conference begging for an influx of some Texas and Oklahoma to get any tougher.
It looks like it already got a lot dicier just from within, using the existing parts.
Kelly surely knew what he was getting into here. But where do you catch your breath with this conference schedule?
Start with the West. You know about Alabama. Rinse and repeat there.
But supposedly this is the year that Texas A&M gets its resources together and makes something of itself. Something like a real contender.
The talent is there. Jimbo Fisher is the coach. The fans are nuts. They already figured out how to beat Alabama.
What’s not to like?
To be fair, it’s not an unanimous call that A&M is Bama’s top challenger. In fact, the most popular August story line is that the Aggies might be the most overrated team in the nation heading into the season.
I’m not buying that. I’m buying into the Aggies to be this year what they should have been all along.
That’s not the problem either. Not for Kelly’s prospects.
But you’ve got a big dilemma when both Ole Miss and Arkansas, two traditional rest stops, can’t wait for the season to get going. Expectations are through the roof, both of them, mostly because of two very different head coaches.
You never know what the nutty, new-age Lane Kiffin might do with the Rebels (it will be trending on social media) and folksy Sam Pittman,
aw shucks, he might have done the best coaching job — more with less category — in the country with his wild Hogs the last two years.
If nothing else, both have their fans bases believing, for whatever that’s worth.
LSU, with maybe more question marks than anybody, generally gets tossed in with Mississippi State as unknown mysteries that could go either way.
Auburn is being discounted, written off, which sounds fairly odd in itself and probably a dangerous assumption.
The two from the East feature the familiar tussle with Florida and a wild card with Tennessee.
Florida is LSU’s brother from another mother, uh, division — new coach (Billy Napier), proud tradition and no clue which way the Gators might go.
Tennessee could be compared to Ole Miss and Arkansas, with long-suffering fans hint, buoyed by somes last year, convinced the Vols have finally got their act together and are ready to turn back the clock to the 1990s.
Make no mistake. LSU and Kelly will find some wins in there. But I just don’t see anything you could point to in preseason and assume a victory.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org