Revived because of voters in England and the U.S., the 2016 international word of the year might be apropos when the conference-wide strength of SEC football is touted.
Citing election results that caused use of “post-truth” to skyrocket, Oxford Dictionaries selected the adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
For instance, some subscribe to the idea that the SEC is loaded with good teams although Alabama is in a league of its own, the Eastern Division champion lost to Arkansas by 21 and might lose a third game vs. Florida State this week, and 4-4 in league play will be a popular record. Alabama and any four from the SEC do not appear as solid as the Big Ten’s Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Nebraska, and at least a dozen knowledgeable people agree.
A week ago, the Buckeyes, Wolverines, Badgers, Nittany Lions, and Cornhuskers were 2, 3, 7, 8, and 18 in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings and all five won last weekend.
Other than No. 1 Alabama, 15th-ranked Auburn was the highest SEC team and the Tigers play the Crimson Tide on Saturday.
Even the comfortable winning margins don’t tell all about Alabama’s dominance of its conference opponents. The exception is LSU, which held the Crimson Tide scoreless for three quarters before losing 10-0. Alabama led Ole Miss 34-30 after 45 minutes, but the lead was 18 before the Rebels scored twice in the final three minutes.
After three quarters, Texas A&M trailed by 12 and Arkansas by 18. Forty-five minutes deep, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi State were behind 25 or more.
Another defining stat — the leading rusher vs. Alabama in SEC games gained 45, 39, 46, 28, 62, 35, and 35 yards. For the curious, A&M’s Keith Ford was the “leader.”
On the phone and in person, Arkansas State University athletics director Terry Mohajir watched ASU teams complete a basketball-football exacta worthy of national attention.
Traveling on a team bus from Montgomery, Ala., to Troy, Mohajir and some members of the athletics department staff used an app to monitor the first half of the Red Wolves’ basketball game at Georgetown under new head coach Grant McCasland. Along with some donors/supporters — a traveling “watch party” so to speak — Mohajir caught most, if not all, the second half at Troy in the visiting athletics director’s suite.
A 21-point underdog, ASU built a 19-point halftime lead by making 17-of-26 field goal attempts and Deven Simms contributed two free throws with seconds to play as the Red Wolves prevailed 78-72. This is not a vintage Georgetown team, but the Hoyas have a national reputation and were at home.
The basketball game ended less than an hour before the football team put its 14-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak on the line against Troy, which had lost only to Clemson by six and was No. 25 in The AP poll. As is his M.O. at football, Mohajir was constantly on the move, roaming between the pressbox and the sidelines.
ASU, which opened the season 0-4, including a loss to the University of Central Arkansas, dominated Troy, 35-3.
Asked about the bounce-back from September, ASU coach Blake Anderson mentioned practice becoming more physical and including more “good on good” work. A players-only meeting was a factor, athletes responded when challenged to “be ALL in,” and Anderson repeatedly cited the phrase, “outwork and outhit the opponent every day.”
If possible, the man at the top of many coach search lists enhanced his appeal the night of ASU’s double dip. Instead of sitting on a 10-point lead against then-No. 5 Louisville, Houston coach Tom Herman embraced a fake punt on fourth-and-13 and a 27-year-old Aussie, who was only noticed after a long kick competition, completed a pass to the long snapper.
Chutzpah and clever, a winning combo.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org