When the football season begins we've gotten into the habit of expecting the expected.
Auburn and LSU will dominate the SEC West and Georgia, Florida and Tennessee will do likewise in the East. The preseason magazines tell us so. The writers and broadcasters who come to the annual media days vote pretty well that way straight down the line.
Then along comes a 2005.
Alabama, as of this date, is unbeaten but Auburn and LSU are not. Ole Miss is struggling but still with an outside chance to save their season. They could, and should, beat Arkansas and Mississippi State but will need LSU to be looking the other way if they expect to reach 6-5. Mississippi State is terrible and Arkansas is still winless in the league.
In the East everyone has lost at least one. Tennessee has crashed, Florida is struggling and South Carolina, a long shot at best, has qualified for a bowl game and could finish either 8-3 o 7-4 in Steve Spurrier's first year. Georgia is stout and now that they have their quarterback off the injured list could sweep from here on out. Kentucky is nothing better than a Division II team and Vanderbilt after a nobody-can-beat-us start has collapsed to a we-can't-beat-anybody finish.
The coach of the year is undoubtedly Steve Spurrier of South Carolina. Did anyone seriously believe the Gamecocks were capable of winning six games with their talent or lack thereof? Every time I watch them I am impressed with the effort this team puts out, play after play after play.
The league has many good players but no one who is dominant. The SEC doesn't figure in the Heisman chase at all.
The most disappointed coach in the SEC has to be Ed Orgeron of Ole Miss. I'm sure he really believed there was enough talent at Oxford for the Rebels to show progress over last year's 4-7 campaign. Today he knows there is not.
His quarterbacking has let him down, his wide receivers as a group do not strike fear in any defensive back's heart and his offensive line gets manhandled game after game.
Prediction: Georgia and LSU in the league's championship game. The winner represents us in a BCS bowl. And gets beat.
Part of the fun for football fans is remembering when. The young men who represented your favorite team on the gridiron never get old. Their hair never turns gray and their walk remains brisk and strong.
So said, the Southeastern Conference has announced its nominees for this year's Alltel Football Legends Awards, one from each member school. They are:
Alabama, Cornelius Bennett, Linebacker, 1983-86
Arkansas, Quinn Grovey, Quarterback 1987-9
Auburn, Ed Dyes, FB,K, LB 1958-60
Florida, Trace Armstrong, Defensive Tackle, 1988
Georgia, Edmund "Zeke" Bratkowski, Quarterback, 1951-53
Kentucky, Warren Bryant, Offensive Tackle, 1973-76
LSU, Eric Martin, Wide Receiver, 1981-84
Ole Miss, Andre Townsend, Defensive Tackle, 1980-83
Mississippi State, Joe Fortunato, Fullback/Linebacker 1950/52
South Carolina, Warren Muir, Fullback, 1967-69
Tennessee, Larry Seivers, Wide Receiver 1974-76
Vanderbilt, Chris Gaines, Linebacker 1984-87
During my broadcasting days I had the privilege of seeing seven of these men play the game. Each one comes easily to mind.
Bennett was one of the two best defensive players I have ever seen. Only Tommy Casanova of LSU compares. He went on to a great career in the NFL with Buffalo and Atlanta.
Armstrong was an All-American in 1988 and registered 19 tackles for a loss that year, a record for a defensive lineman at Florida.
Bryant helped lead Kentucky to a share of the Southeastern Conference championship in 1976. Not only was he an All-American he was also named to the 25 year All-SEC team covering 1961-1985.
I have no problem remembering Eric Martin. In 1982 he caught 52 passes for 1,064 yards and five touchdowns. He made first team All-American that year. Drafter by the New Orleans Saints, Martin went on to a 10 year career in the NFL.
Townsend, who served as the Rebels co=captain, chalked up 111 tackles as a senior in 1983 including a team-high nine quarterback sacks and three fumble recoveries. He later played seven years in the NFL with Denver. He saw action in two Super Bowls.
Tennessee's Larry Seivers also comes easily to mind. He too was co-captain of his team. Sure-handed he finished his career with seven 100 yard receiving games. He was a two-time consensus All-American and All-SEC wide receiver
Gaines, playing with a bad ball club, was a first team Kodak All-American by the nation's football coaches in 1987 after setting a then SEC record of 214 tackles. He was also an academic all-SEC. He later coached linebackers at his alma mater
The others were before my time but their names are familiar to most football fans.
All will be honored at the 2005 SEC Championship game to be held December 3rd at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
One Man's Opinion
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