As you may or may not know, college sports are divided into conferences. Florida is a member of the Southeastern Conference (a.k.a. the SEC), and Gators fans will not let you forget it.
You’ll probably hear the “S-E-C” chant at The Swamp whenever Florida plays a non-conference opponent, especially Florida State.
First off, there are 14 teams in the conference. They are – take a deep breath – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Basically what would exist if the Confederacy decided to start a league.
SEC schools have won the last seven national championships. Alabama has three of them, Florida has two, and LSU and Auburn each have one.
Texas A&M and Missouri are the two newest schools to the conference. Both joined after leaving the Big 12 last year. The Aggies made a smooth transition. The Tigers – not so much.
Alabama is really, really good. They’re the closest thing to a dynasty in college football today. Nick Saban is their head coach. If you ask most rival fans (or UF offensive line coach Tim Davis), the ‘B’ should be a ‘T.’
Georgia is also very good. The Bulldogs are arguably the Gators’ biggest rivals, and the two play each other every season in “neutral” Jacksonville. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray and sophomore running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall lead the Georgia offense. Gurley and Marshall (collectively known as “Gurshall”) are so fast, they could star in one of those AT&T commercials. Fast is better.
Make sure you keep your Bulldogs and Tigers straight, because there are a bunch of them. Georgia and Mississippi State are both Bulldogs. Auburn, LSU and Missouri all are Tigers. But in Gainesville, when someone says “Bulldogs,” you can generally assume they mean Georgia. If they say “Tigers,” they probably mean LSU. But if one of the others is on the schedule, all bets are off.
South Carolina is also a team to watch. They brought in former Florida coach Steve Spurrier after he bolted from the NFL and he turned the program into a powerhouse.
Arkansas and Auburn both have generally been pretty good recently. Both were terrible last year. Look up former Arkansas coach John L. Smith for proof. Spoiler: He did so poorly, he went from an SEC school to Division II Fort Lewis College in one year.
Tennessee is historically a very good program, but it’s been somewhere between mediocre and terrible for the better part of the last decade. Peyton Manning played there, but not much else has happened since. Tennessee is known as the Volunteers, but their mascot is a dog. Go figure.
When the Vols come to town, they try to drill their theme song, “Rocky Top,” into your head so you’ll remember them as they march towards their inevitable sub-.500 finish.
Then there’s Ole Miss. You know, that school from “The Blind Side.” The school is really the University of Mississippi, but that’s boring. Just call it Ole Miss.
The Rebels were really good a long time ago, but they haven’t won a conference title since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew, despite the nickname). However, they brought in some top players in their last recruiting class, so who knows what could happen?
I feel like I’m forgetting someone? Oh, right ... Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Kentucky is just bad. The Wildcats should really stick to basketball. Florida has beaten Kentucky 26 straight times. Kentucky has been so bad, Trey Burton scored six times in one game against them in 2010.
Vanderbilt was almost as bad. They’ve lost 22 straight to UF. They’re usually the conference punching bag, but coach James Franklin has turned Vandy around – he won nine games last year. And the Commodores have the coolest nickname in the SEC, so they have that going for them. They’re pretty smart, and they like to point it out while the team is down 20 points.
Contact Adam Lichtenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.