Dale Zanine, USA Today Sports

Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Dec.3

A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning...

On Sunday, Georgia elected to fire Mark Richt. All he did was go 145-51 in 15 years on the job (9.6 wins per year) but he never won a national championship and only won two SEC championships in his years on the job. For Georgia, that wasn’t good enough. Georgia claims it’s an elite program nationally, but is it really?

If you take away those three remarkable seasons (1980-82) when Vince Dooley had the greatest college football player of all time (Herschel Walker), Georgia’s only claims to fame are the two SEC titles Richt won. Of course they had their close encounter with a national title in 2012 when they were a tipped pass away from winning the SEC Championship Game and going to the national championship game, but almost doesn’t count. Even with the 33-3 record from the Herschel years, Georgia qualifies as a good, just not great program.  

Currently, the SEC has one program in Alabama that stands head and shoulders above every team in the league and perhaps even the entire country. The SEC has a couple of teams – Florida and LSU – with enough recent success to still qualify as elite and a few teams like Georgia that are very good, just not great.

Here is my ranking of the SEC football programs from top to bottom now that the 2015 regular season is behind us.

ELITE

1. ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1 SEC): The Crimson Tide is the great white shark of all of college football right now. Since 2008, Alabama is 94-11 with three national championships. A fourth could be in the making since Bama is currently 11-1 heading into Saturday’s SEC championship game with Florida.

Record 1980-89: 85-33-2

Record 1990-99: 91-31-1

Record 2000-09: 79-48

Record 2010-15: 69-10

Overall record since 1980: 324-122-3 (The record doesn’t reflect games that were vacated in the 1990s and mid-2000s but counts all wins and losses on the field)

National championships since 1980: 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012

SEC championships since 1980 (6): 1981, 1989, 1992, 1999, 2009, 2012

Head coaches since 1980: Bear Bryant (27-8-1,1980-82; 232-46-9, 1958-82); Ray Perkins (32-15-1, 1983-86), Bill Curry (26-10, 1987-89), Gene Stallings (70-16-1, 1990-96), Mike Dubose (24-23, 1997-2000), Dennis Franchione (17-8, 2001-02), Mike Shula (26-23, 2003-06), * Joe Kines (0-1, 2006), Nick Saban

2. FLORIDA (10-2, 7-1 SEC): The Gators are working their way out of their worst five-year stretch since the late 1980s. Even though the Gators were mediocre from 2010-14, they have the momentum to become a factor on the national stage again thanks to first year coach Jim McElwain, who has energized the fan base and is tearing it up on the recruiting trail. The Gators have the most SEC titles (9) since 1980 and with three national championships, trail only Alabama in that category.  

Record 1980-89: 76-38-3

Record 1990-99: 102-22-1

Record 2000-09: 100-30

Record 2010-15: 47-28

Overall record since 1980: 325-118-4

National championships since 1980 (3): 1996, 2006, 2008

SEC championships since 1980 (9): 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2008

Head coaches since 1980: Charley Pell (33-16-2, 1980-84; 33-26-2, 1979-84); Galen Hall (40-18-1, 1984-89), * Gary Darnell (3-4, 1989), Steve Spurrier (122-27-1), Ron Zook (23-14, 2002-04), * Charlie Strong (0-1, 2004), Urban Meyer (65-15, 2005-10), Will Muschamp (28-21, 2011-14), * D.J. Durkin (1-0, 2014), Jim McElwain (10-2, 2015)

* Interim

3. LSU (8-3, 5-3 SEC): Since 2000, LSU ranks among the nation’s elite programs with two national championships and four SEC titles. Since 2000, LSU is 159-48, which is the best record in the SEC and the fourth best nationally. Remaining among the elite could depend on who Les Miles hires as his offensive coordinator.

Record 1980-89: 70-41-5

Record 1990-99: 54-58-1

Record 2000-09: 99-31

Record 2010-15: 60-17

Overall record since 1980: 283-147-6

National championships since 1980 (2): 2003, 2007

SEC championships since 1980 (6): 1986, 1988, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2011

Head coaches since 1980: Jerry Stovall (22-21-2, 1980-83), Bill Arnsparger (26-8-2, 1984-86), Mike Archer (27-18-1, 1987-90), Curley Hallman (16-28, 1991-94), Gerry DiNardo (32-24-1, 1995-99), Nick Saban (48-16, 2000-04), Les Miles (111-32, 2005-15)

REALLY GOOD, JUST NOT GREAT

4. GEORGIA (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Georgia has won a lot of games but hasn’t won the ones that count the most. Not winning the right ones got Mark Richt fired. If new hire Kirby Smart doesn’t deliver championships, the Georgia administration is going to look rather foolish for running Richt off.

Record 1980-89: 89-27-4

Record 1990-99: 72-43-1

Record 2000-09: 98-31

Record since 2010-15: 55-24

Overall record since 1980: 314-125-5

National championships since 1980 (1): 1980

SEC championships since 1980 (5): 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002, 2005

Head coaches since 1980: Vince Dooley (83-21-4, 1980-89; 201-77-10, 1964-88), Ray Goff (46-34-1, 1989-95), Jim Donnan (40-19, 1996-2000), Mark Richt (145-51, 2001-15)

5. AUBURN (6-6, 2-6 SEC): Consistency keeps Auburn from being classified elite. Two years after going unbeaten and winning a national title in 2010, Auburn fired Gene Chizik, who was 11-14 in the two seasons after the big year. Gus Malzahn got Auburn to the national championship game in 2013 but he’s 14-11 since. If he doesn’t find a QB to trigger his offense, the faithful will turn on him next year like they did Chizik.

Record 1980-89: 86-31-2

Record 1990-99: 72-40-3

Record 2000-99: 88-39

Record 2010-15: 51-27

Overall record since 1980: 297-137-5

National championships since 1980 (1): 2010

SEC championships since 1980 (7): 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2004, 2010, 2013

Head coaches since 1980: Doug Barfield (5-6, 1980; 29-25-1, 1976-80), Pat Dye (99-39-4, 1981-92), Terry Bowden (47-17-1, 1993-98), * Bill Oliver (2-3, 1998), Tommy Tuberville (85-40, 1999-2008), Gene Chizik (33-19, 2009-12), Gus Malzahn (26-13, 2013-15)

WANNABES

6. OLE MISS (9-3, 6-2 SEC): Things are on the upswing since Hugh Freeze took over in 2012. Since the SEC went to division play in 1992, Ole Miss still hasn’t made it to Atlanta. Freeze is a terrific recruiter and if anyone can raise Ole Miss to the elite level he’s the one.

Record 1980-89: 50-59-4

Record 1990-99: 67-48

Record 2000-09: 63-58

Record 2010-15: 39-36

Overall record since 1980: 219-201-4

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Steve Sloan (9-13, 1980-82; 20-34-1, 1978-82), Billy Brewer (68-55-3, 1983-93), Joe Lee Dunn (4-7, 1994), Tommy Tuberville (25-20, 1995-98), David Cutcliffe (44-29, 1998-04), Ed Orgeron (10-25, 2005-07), Houston Nutt (24-26, 2008-11), Hugh Freeze (33-18, 2012-15)

7. TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC): The Aggies might have better football facilities than Alabama and since joining the SEC they’ve moved out of the shadow of Texas but they haven’t had a great season since going 11-2 in their first year in the SEC (2012), which was Kevin Sumlin’s first year on the job. Everything is in place for the Aggies to become an elite program except maybe the coach. 

Record 1980-89: 71-44-1

Record 1990-99: 94-28-2

Record 2000-09: 63-59

Record 2010-15: 52-25

Overall record since 1980: 280-156-3

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Tom Wilson (11-12, 1980-81; 21-19, 1978-81), Jackie Sherrill (52-28-1, 1982-88), R.C. Slocum (123-47-2, 1989-2002), Dennis Franchione (32-28, 2003-07), * Gary Darnell (0-1, 2007), Mike Sherman (25-25, 2008-11), * Tim DeRuyter (1-0, 2011), Kevin Sumlin (36-15, 2012-15)

* Interim

8. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4 SEC): Since Dan Mullen took over, the Bulldogs go bowling every year but even though he’s proven he can coach with the best, he’ll never get the talent you need to be elite to come to Starkville. It’s a good thing going to the Gator Bowl gets a rise out of the faithful.

Record 1980-89: 50-62

Record 1990-99: 63-50-2

Record 2000-09: 42-76

Record 2010-15: 49-28

Overall record since 1980: 204-216-2

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Emory Bellard (34-34, 1980-85; 37-42, 1979-84), Rockey Felker (21-34, 1986-90), Jackie Sherrill (75-75-2, 1991-2003), Sylvester Croom (21-38, 2004-08), Dan Mullen (54-35, 2009-15)

TREADING WATER

9. TENNESSEE (8-4, 5-3 SEC): The Vols have gone through too many coaches since unceremoniously dumping Phil Fulmer in 2008 to be considered even a good program. They’ve made two straight bowl games, but haven’t really beaten anybody good in the process. From 1990 to the mid-2000s this was one of the elite programs in the entire nation. It’s not unfair to ask if Butch Jones is capable of returning the Vols to the land of the elite.

Record 1980-89: 77-37-5

Record 1990-99: 99-22-2

Record 2000-09: 83-44

Record 2010-15: 36-38

Overall record since 1980: 295-141-7

National championships since 1980 (1): 1998

SEC championships since 1980 (5): 1985 1989, 1990, 1997, 1998

Head coaches since 1980: Johnny Majors (100-45-7, 1980-92; 116-62-8, 1977-92), Phil Fulmer (152-52, 1992-2008), Lane Kiffin (7-6, 2009), Derek Dooley (15-21, 2010-12), * Jim Chaney (1-0, 2012), Butch Jones (20-17, 2013-15)

* Interim

10. ARKANSAS (7-5, 5-3 SEC): The Razorbacks were teetering on the verge of joining the upper echelons of the SEC until Bobby Petrino brain farted in the summer of 2012. The program hasn’t recovered and while Bret Bielema has the faithful excited, he still hasn’t proven he can win big in the SEC.

Record 1980-89: 85-33-2

Record 1990-99: 55-58-2

Record 2000-09: 71-54

Record 2010-15: 42-33

Overall record since 1980: 253-178-4

National championships since 1980: 0

Overall record since 1980: 168-145-2

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Lou Holtz (30-16-1, 1980-83; 60-21, 1977-83), Ken Hatfield (55-17-1, 1984-89), Jack Crowe (9-15-0, 1991-92), * Joe Kines (3-6-1, 1992), Houston Nutt (75-48, 1998-2007), * Reggie Herring (0-1, 2007), Bobby Petrino (34-17, 2008-11), * John L. Smith (4-8, 2012), Bret Bielema (17-20, 2013-15)

* Interim

11. MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7 SEC): With two SEC East championships (2013-14) Mizzou was on its way up. Then came 2015, the worst offense in the country and Gary Pinkel’s retirement. What happens next depends on who Mizzou chooses as its new coach.

Record 1980-89: 45-64-4

Record 1990-99: 43-67-3

Record 2000-09: 70-54

Record 2000-15: 51-27

Overall record since 1980: 209-212-7

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Warren Powers (38-28-3, 1980-84; 53-37-3, 1978-84), Woody Widenhofer (12-31-1, 1985-88), Bob Stull (15-38-2, 1989-93), Larry Smith (33-46-1, 1994-2000), * Dave Steckel (1-0, 2000), Gary Pinkel (117-73, 2001-15)

* Interim

12. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7 SEC): Just two years ago, South Carolina was at that second tier below elite, but the last two years were enough to drive Steve Spurrier to retirement. The talent cupboard is pretty bare for whoever becomes the next coach.

Record 1980-89: 63-49-3

Record 1990-99: 42-66-3

Record 2000-09: 68-54

Record 2010-15: 52-26

Overall record since 1980: 225-195-6

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Jim Carlen (xx, 1980-81; 45-36-1, 1975-81), Richard Bell (4-7, 1982), Joe Morrison (39-28-2, 1983-88), Sparky Woods (25-27-3, 1989-93), Brad Scott (23-32-1, 1994-98), Lou Holtz (33-37, 1999-2004), Steve Spurrier (86-49, 2005-15), * Shawn Elliott (1-5, 2015)

* Interim

 BOTTOM FEEDERS

13. KENTUCKY 5-7, 2-6 SEC): Two straight years the season has ended disastrously. All the facilities upgrades in the world aren’t going to change the fact that this is Kentucky, where an occasional trip to the Music City Bowl can be celebrated for months on end.

Record 1980-89: 47-62-3

Record 1990-99: 44-69

Record 2000-09: 50-70

Record 2010-15: 25-48

Overall record since 1980: 166-249-3

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: Fran Curci (6-16, 1980-81; 47-51-2, 1973-81), Jerry Claiborne (41-46-3, 1982-89), Bill Curry (26-52, 1990-96), Hal Mumme (20-26, 1997-2000), Guy Morriss (9-14, 2001-02), Rich Brooks (39-47, 2003-09), Joker Phillips (13-24, 2010-12), Mark Stoops (12-24, 2013-15)

14. VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6 SEC): For three glorious years, James Franklin made the folks in Nashville feel like they belonged in the SEC. Then he went to Penn State and along came Derek Mason to bring Vandy back to the good old days of losing.

Record 1980-89: 33-77-1

Record 1990-99: 34-76

Record 2000-09: 34-83

Record 2000-15: 33-42

Overall record since 1980: 134-278-1

National championships since 1980: 0

SEC championships since 1980: 0

Head coaches since 1980: George MacIntyre (24-42-1, 1980-85; 25-52-1, 1979-85), Watson Brown (10-45, 1986-90), Rod Dowhower (4-18, 1995-96), Woody Widenhofer (15-40, 1997-2001), Bobby Johnson (29-66, 2002-09), Robbie Caldwell (2-10, 2010), James Franklin (24-15, 2011-13), Derek Mason (7-17, 2-14-15)

COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES

Mark Richt’s unemployment lasted all of three and a half days. He will be named head coach at Miami today. This is a good move for Miami. Richt is a proven winner and recruiter. While he never won the big ones at Georgia, he’s now in the ACC and in the division opposite FSU and Clemson. There is so much talent in south Florida that Richt might win a national title in spite of himself. Look for stud prep QB Tony Eason to decommit Georgia and commit to Miami any day now.

Maryland made a big pitch for Mark Richt and when that failed, picked former Florida DC D.J. Durkin to take over for the fired Randy Edsall. Durkin has made a good name for himself as a recruiter and DC, but he may be in over his head with his first HBC job in the same division with Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin. When you swim with the sharks there is every good chance you’ll get eaten alive.

Bowling Green coach Dino Babers will likely be named head coach at either Syracuse or Missouri on Saturday. Bowling Green plays in the MAC Championship Game Friday night.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash and former Miami coach Al Golden are pushing hard for the Rutgers job as is Alabama O-line coach Mario Cristobal. We’re hearing Cristobal won’t be back at Alabama under any circumstance.

Offensive coordinator Jason Candle has been elevated to HBC at Toledo following the departure of Matt Campbell to take over at Iowa State.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

An NFL scout told Matt Hayes of The Sporting News, “There’s still all kinds of talent (in the SEC) but when you don’t have efficient quarterback play it shows on Saturday no matter who you are.” The lack of solid QB play has everything to do why the SEC has fallen back toward the pack.

There is no better example of what happens when you put the right coach with the right coordinators than North Carolina. Larry Fedora has always had a high octane, light up the scoreboard offense. This year he brought in former Auburn HBC Gene Chizik as his DC and the results are dramatic. In 2014, North Carolina gave up 39 points and 497.8 yards per game. This season the Tar Heels gave up 20.8 points and 394.8 yards per game.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Aside from Alabama, Florida and LSU, which SEC team stands the best chance of cracking the elite level?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

The Tedeschi Trucks Band will release it’s newest CD “Let Me Get By” on January 29, 2016. The band has dates schedule in Florida on January 16 in Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg and on January 17 at the Mizner Park Amphitheatre in Boca Raton. If you’re close by and haven’t seen them, buy your tickets while they are still available. Today’s music is their concert at the Lockn’ Festival from September 12, 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxQAcLQGrMs


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