Consistency key to success in SEC football

The 30-27 overtime setback to Tennessee is a hurdle that Les Miles's crew can overcome as LSU attempts to return to the Top Five nationally and compete for the NCAA championship. Nick Saban'2003 unit survived a 19-7 loss to Florida at home in game six of the national title campaign of two years ago. Miles has a team talented enough to withstand the gut-wrenching comeback by the Volunteers.

In the power structure of the SEC, the triumph by Tennessee means much more. LSU had overtaken Tennessee as a national threat in the last few years. That has changed with Phil Fulmer's Monday night comeback at Death Valley.

The SEC is stocked with outstanding programs. Saban had LSU near the top during his tenure. Here is the number of overall wins by conference teams from 2000-2004, the Saban years at TigerTown.

SEC victories by team 2000-04

Georgia  50

LSU   48

Tennessee   47

Auburn  46

Florida   43

Arkansas  36

Ole Miss  36

South Carolina 33

Alabama  30

Miss. St.  19

Kentucky  17

Vanderbilt   11

To demonstrate the dramatic leap from mediocrity to excellence for LSU over the past five years, here is the list of wins by SEC teams from 1995-1999, the preceding five years.

Florida  53

Tennessee 53

Alabama 39

Georgia 38

Auburn 34

Ole Miss 34

Arkansas 33

LSU  33

Miss St. 33

Kentucky 26

So. Car. 15

Vanderbilt 14

LSU progressed from a three-way tie for seventh in total victories during the Gerry DiNardo years to number two in the league during the Saban Era. The 15 additional wins in the last five years compared to 1995-99 represented the best improvement in the SEC in that time.

Comparison of wins by SEC teams in 1995-99 to 2000-04.

            1995-99 2000-2004  Change

So. Carolina 15  33   +18

LSU  33   48   +15 

Georgia 38  50   +12

Auburn 34  46   +12

Arkansas 33  36   +3

Ole Miss 34  36   +2

Vanderbilt 14  11   -3

Tennessee 53  47   -6

Alabama 39  30   -9

Kentucky 26  17   -9

Florida  53  43   -10

Miss St. 33  19   -14

In the last decade, Tennessee produced 100 wins under Fulmer while LSU enjoyed 81 victories under DiNardo, Hal Hunter and Saban. It would have meant volumes if LSU had beaten the Vols in Miles's debut at Tiger Stadium. Instead, Fulmer reigns as the supreme coach in the league and has the record to prove his dominance. For what it's worth, Tennessee also boasts the top number of total victories in the conference in the past two decades.

SEC teams total victories (1985-2004)

Tennessee 186

Florida  180

Auburn 165

Alabama 163

Georgia 161

LSU  140 

Arkansas 138

Ole Miss 130

Miss St. 103

So. Carolina 103

Kentucky  87

Vanderbilt  56

It is essential for Miles to stay at LSU if the Tigers are to stay in the high echelon of college football. Tennessee has the most stability in the league coaching fraternity over the past two decades, and the Vols have been the most successful program in the SEC during that period.

Here is a list of the number of head coaches (including interim) in the SEC from 1985-2004.

Alabama 7

LSU  6

Vanderbilt 6

Arkansas 5

Florida  5

Kentucky 5

Auburn 4

Georgia 4

Ole Miss 4

Miss. St. 4

So. Car. 4

Tennessee 2

That's 56 head coaches in the SEC over the past 20 years. The figure does not include newcomers in 2005. During the last two decades, the national program with the most victories is Florida State with 204. The Seminoles have employed one head coach during that period.

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Jim Engster is the station manager for WRKF-FM in Baton Rouge and the host of "The Jim Engster Show." Contact him by e-mail at jim@wrkf.org.


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