Maybe SEC football IS too big. Maybe it IS blown out of proportion a bit. Maybe it IS less meaningful than religion. Maybe it IS less important in the grand scheme of things than a dependable car, a faithful dog and a big-screen, high-definition TV.
If you're a college football fan, however, it gets no better than the SEC. That's probably why, in his recent Mailbag column for sportsillustrated.com, Stewart Mandel offered five so-called "random thoughts" – three of which involve Southeastern Conference programs. That's 60 percent, sports fans.
Below are Mandel's three items involving SEC football. As for the other two items ... well, who cares, really?
1. Nick Saban will not lead Alabama to the promised land (yet). Nor will Jimbo Fisher turn Florida State back into a national title contender (yet). Nor will Miami return to prominence under Randy Shannon (yet). Between the three teams, which all went 6-6 during the regular season last year, I see a couple of 8-4s and one 7-5. Just not sure which will be which.
3. The Arkansas/Houston Nutt saga will not end well. While Darren McFadden and Felix Jones would give any team reason for excitement, the fact is Arkansas still doesn't have a quarterback and lost most of the best players from what was a very underrated 2006 defense. As soon as it becomes apparent the Razorbacks won't win the SEC, the vultures that have been hovering over that program will be ready to pounce.
5. Vanderbilt will go to a bowl game. I've been burned on this one before. But Bobby Johnson's teams have been increasingly competitive in the SEC recently, including last year's victory over Georgia and near-misses against Arkansas and Alabama. With 17 returning starters and a schedule that includes home games against Richmond, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Ole Miss, six wins is realistic.
Point 1: Saban won't turn Bama around in one year but he'll have the Tide in the SEC Championship Game by 2008 or 2009.
Point 3: Nutt is on thin ice, and that ice probably will give way unless he can win the SEC West again. Unless LSU pulls the all-time choke, that's not going to happen.
Point 5: Vandy playing in a bowl game? The Commodores couldn't get a post-season invitation during Jay Cutler's four-year stay, so let's just say I'll believe it when I see it.