LSU coach Les Miles this week tried to put to rest the idea of the Southeastern Conference as a top-heavy league by remembering an obstacle on the Tigers’ path to the national championship for 2007.
“We lost to Kentucky on the road that year,” Miles said. “Just letting you know, you better be ready to play every week.”
The Wildcats were very good that season under Rich Brooks, finishing 8-5. That triumph over then-top ranked LSU was the highlight of their season.
Miles’ point was that last week’s upsets in the SEC shouldn’t fool anybody into thinking the league is down and that only top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama is national title worthy.
Coaches say the upsets — three ranked teams lost to unranked opponents and No. 24 Auburn won at seventh-ranked Texas A&M — prove how deep the SEC is.
Plus, Missouri, the SEC’s only other undefeated team, has moved among the nation’s elite in the polls, and stands fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
At least national perception is that the league remains strong. Six teams are part of the BCS standings. No other conference has more than four.
“The conference is strong, no doubt about it,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who brings his program to Missouri for the first time on Saturday. “We’re sort of in the middle of the pack.”
Actually, the Gamecocks are closer to the top at No. 21 in the BCS.
The upsets last weekend changed one dynamic. It reduced the stakes of some showdowns later in the season.
The losses by LSU and Texas A&M all but ended their national title hopes. And losses by Georgia and Florida mean they’ll bring 4-3 records into their rivalry next week.
But if Missouri’s and Alabama’s successes continue, the SEC championship game could be a blockbuster between undefeated teams, and the Iron Bowl clash between the Crimson Tide and Auburn looks more appealing now that the Tigers are rejuvenated under Gus Malzahn.
The SEC remains the nation’s top conference. In some years, even Kentucky is a tough out.