Online Now 2280

Phillip's blog: Shining when it counts

It surely must be some sort of record. Auburn’s Cam Newton figures to sweep every national award available to quarterbacks this week, culminating with the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley won the Lombardi Award on Wednesday night and could win the Bednarik Award tonight.

Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor,

Back in August, at Southeastern Conference Media Days, neither Newton nor Fairley were even afterthoughts for voters on the preseason All-SEC team. Heck, I didn’t have either one on my ballot.

Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett was the first-team quarterback. Alabama’s Greg McElroy was second-team. On the defensive line, Alabama’s Marcell Dareus, Ole Miss’ Jerrell Powe and South Carolina’s Cliff Matthews were the first-teamers. Mississippi State’s Pernell McPhee, Florida’s Justin Trattou and Ole Miss’ Kentrell Lockett were the second-teamers.

Yet, there is no question that Newton is the best offensive player and best overall player in the league and not much question that Fairley is the best defensive player in the league.

Of course, we experts at SEC Media Days also picked Auburn third in the West and South Carolina third in the East.

The moral of the story? Not only should you not get upset about preseason polls and all-conference teams. You probably should put no stock in them at all.

The Big Six

Arkansas is knocking at the door. Maybe South Carolina is, too. But, for now, the six teams that have dominated the SEC for almost half a century are still dominating.

Ole Miss won the SEC championship in 1963. Kentucky shared it with Georgia in 1976 but was brought down by the NCAA. Other than that, Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU have won every title.

How dominant have they been?

Since the BCS era began after the 1998 season, LSU and Florida have won two national championships apiece and Alabama and Tennessee one. On Jan. 10, Auburn will have an opportunity to make it five straight and will be the fifth among those teams to play in the big game. Georgia hasn’t made it yet, but the Bulldogs have won two SEC championships in that stretch.

When Arkansas plays in the Sugar Bowl, it will be the first SEC school outside of those six to play in a BCS bowl game.

Why are those six teams so much better than the rest year in and year out? Those are places where football matters and has mattered for many years. Every program goes through up and down cycles, but those six simply won’t allow the down cycles to last.

The question now is whether Arkansas and/or South Carolina can turn the Big Six into the Big Seven or Big Eight. Both have a lot of the same qualities as those six. They draw large crowds. They have lots of money. What neither has had is equal recruiting power. That could be changing. Or not.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are what they are. One of them might jump up and be a contender in one season or another, but it’s been a long, long time since any of them had sustained success.

For now, it’s Auburn’s turn to be in the spotlight. This season is already a spectacular success and will be, regardless of what happens when the Tigers play Oregon for the right to hoist the crystal football.

Until next time. …

Already have an account? Sign In