Good will stay good in SEC

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

What in the world has come over these Southeastern Conference football coaches and players?

There was a time when most of them poor-mouthed, talking about their tough schedules, graduated players, injuries and how they’d be lucky to win a few games.

Now it’s different, as evidenced by comments at the annual pre-season media gathering of the 12 coaches and a couple of the best players from each team, held in Hoover last week.

If you don’t believe that, consider the comments by Vanderbilt’s new coach, Bobby Johnson, who takes over a program that year-after-year is an SEC doormat.

Perhaps it was in jest, but Johnson told the reporters that he plans to win them all this season, that he won’t be happy until the Commodores have a perfect season. Good luck, coach.

Despite a few bright Saturdays in recent seasons, Kentucky also manages to wind up near the bottom, as per last year’s 2-9 record.

Coach Guy Morris said he believes the Wildcats are in as good a shape as in a long time. Does that go back to the late 1940s and early 1950s when Bear Bryant turned in eight straight winning seasons at Lexington?

Morris said he believes Kentucky can win six or seven games this year. While that prediction probably sits well with Wildcat fans, how in the world would such a prediction be greeted at Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Baton Rouge, Athens, Knoxville or Gainesville? They’d be buying out coaches’ contracts quicker than you could say &uot;time out.&uot;

Speaking of Tuscaloosa, coach Dennis Franchione, about to be armed with a 10-year, $15 million contract, said Alabama’s troubles with the NCAA have resulted in a stronger Tide team. He says Alabama would like to be the best team in the SEC’s West Division, even if it cannot go to the conference title game. Bryant must be rolling over in his grave at Elmwood.

Auburn, which experienced a late-season fold-up in 2001, is changing its pre-season schedule, coach Tommy Tuberville said, to turn the Tigers into a more physical team, one that won’t collapse as the season wears on. We’ll see.

And so it goes.

Florida, under new coach Ron Zook, plans to &uot;be able to go and do a lot of great things,&uot; according to Ian Scott, a Gator defensive tackle. Well, Florida’s departed coach, Steve Spurrier, never lacked for confidence, so Scott’s feelings follow that example.

Tennessee, which lost the SEC title game to Louisiana State last season and therefore lost its chance for a national title, has a good-looking team, coach Phil Fulmer said. That’s the type team the Vols have had in recent years (ask Alabama), and Fulmer probably is correct in his optimism.

In early August, no SEC team has lost a game so, theoretically at least, they all start out even, wearing those rose-colored glasses.

During the season, some of them will want to exchange those glasses for dark-colored ones to hide behind. If history is any guide, the good ones will stay good and the poor ones will stay poor.

Now, here’s a trivia question for you football fans. Real experts will know the answer, but here’s the poser: Which SEC school compiled a winning record against coach Bryant?

The answer: Alabama, when he was at Kentucky