The final weekend of regular-season SEC football arrives with this truth:
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
If your team isnt bowl eligible or playing for bowl eligibility on Saturday, it is looking for a new coach or is likely to be doing so soon.
Thats life in the hypercompetitive SEC.
Eight teams have reached the requisite six-victory minimum for postseason play. Heck, six of them are in the top 13 of the BCS standings.
Two more Missouri and Mississippi sit at five victories.
Then there are three programs that have established theyre starting over next season, and a fourth is likely to join the group.
Two meet Saturday when Kentucky visits Tennessee in a battle of teams with no league victories. Also, Arkansas will be on the market after the 10-month agreement with interim coach John L. Smith expires.
Then theres Auburn, which hasnt announced that Gene Chizik wont return, but perhaps the school merely doesnt want to disrupt preparations for the Iron Bowl against Alabama.
Coaches on the way out sounded upbeat about their final challenges.
Were trying to do something that hasnt been done much, and thats beat Tennessee two years in a row, said Kentuckys Joker Philips, whose future was determined about three weeks ago.
Phillips was a Kentucky wide receiver and in his final game as a player in 1984, the Wildcats defeated Tennessee. That would be the final Vols loss to Kentucky until last year, when Phillips team broke a 26-game losing streak in the series.
The Volunteers and Derek Dooley have parted ways and after 11 games in the press box calling plays, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will wear the head coach headset.
After some initial shock, the players have adapted, Chaney said.
But as soon as they go out there on the football field, things change, Chaney said. Youre working so hard and your mind is going so quickly with what youve got to be doing. There are no thoughts of negativity or anything like that.
Arkansas Smith believes the program will be in good shape for his successor, despite carrying a profoundly disappointing 4-7 record into Fridays finale against LSU in Fayetteville.
The state of the program is fine, Smith said. Its going to take a year or so. There are great facilities and these are the greatest fans Ive ever seen, so with all these positive things, theres a positive outlook.
As for Chizik, whose Tigers are remarkably 0-7 in SEC play two years after winning the national championship, the immediate future is all he sees.
Our guys understand its a one-game season, Chizik said. We put whats behind us and what lies ahead on the shelf.
Hed get my vote as SEC coach of the year.
| Kentucky coach Joker Phillips when asked about Vanderbilts James Franklin
I coached in another league (ACC) before coming into the SEC, and theres not much of a comparison. Its a phenomenal fan base with passion. Some schools around the country can match up, but theres not a conference that can match it.
| Georgia coach Mark Richt
Rating the SEC
1. Alabama (1), next opponent: Auburn, projected bowl: BCS championship game
2. Georgia (2), vs. Georgia Tech, Sugar
3. Texas A&M (3), vs. Missouri, Cotton
4. LSU (4), at Arkansas (Friday), Capital One
5. Florida (5), at Florida State, Chick-Fil-A
6. South Carolina (6), at Clemson, Outback
7. Mississippi State (8), at Mississippi, Gator
8. Vanderbilt (7), at Wake Forest, Music City
9. Mississippi (9), vs. Mississippi State, (Independence, if qualifies)
10. Missouri (10), at Texas A&M, (Liberty, if qualifies)
11. Arkansas (11), vs. LSU (Friday), hot coaching rumor: Charlie Strong
12. Tennessee (12), vs. Kentucky, Jon Gruden
13. Auburn (13), at Alabama, Jimbo Fisher
14. Kentucky (14), at Tennessee, Brent Pease (Florida OC)