No. 1 Alabama (4-0) remains the top dog in the SEC, with No. 7 Georgia (4-0) and perhaps No. 13 Auburn (3-1) nipping at its heels. Whether either school will be able to seriously challenge the Tide later this season remains to be seen, but the SEC is, once again, a top-heavy conference.
That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the league – or its coaches.
“The problem with the SEC – and the problem with a lot of college football – is the expectations at probably seven of the SEC’s 14 schools are if we’re not a top-10 or top-five team, we need to fire our coach,” CBS Sports college football analyst Rick Neuheisel said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Now there’s only one school in the SEC that’s going to be a top-five team annually, and that’s Nick Saban. Their recruiting is off the charts, and obviously they’ve been in that role for some time. But think of the other six.”
LSU. Texas A&M. Tennessee. Georgia. Florida. Auburn.
“These schools, if they’re not a top-five to top-10 team, they want somebody’s head,” Neuheisel said. “And right now, Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones are feeling that heat. There were people talking about Jim McElwain: Is he the right guy because Florida’s offense has been sputtering? But he’s won two SEC-East titles and he’s won nine of 10 games decided by a touchdown or less. To me, it’s good college football, if not great college football, but expectations are out of whack. The problem is they also spend all the money in the world. It’s not as though these guys can claim they don’t have the resources to finance these expectations. I just think the expectations are too high.”
Neuheisel doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
“Well, let’s use Tennessee as the case study here,” Neuheisel told Brian Jones. “You were a Tennessee fan a year ago. You and them in your Final Four because everything lined up with all the seniors coming back, and gosh darn, did they entertain us for the first half of the season. But attrition hits, too many guys go down, and with that, so did too their fortunes.”
Indeed, Tennessee started 5-0 with Top 25 wins over Florida and Georgia and were ranked ninth in the country. The Volunteers, however, lost their next three games and finished 9-4.
“Next thing you know, Butch Jones is on the hot seat in a year where he’s lost his starting quarterback, he’s lost a great number of guys on the defensive side, including his best pass rusher in Derek Barnett,” Neuheisel said. “You are in harm’s way. You are in absolute harm’s way. That’s why this is kind of Butch’s last stand as we air the Tennessee/Georgia game this weekend in Knoxville. Butch Jones is embattled right now. It’s just kind of the nature of the beast right now, but if you want to have a long, long career, don’t get into college coaching.”