That’s right. The SEC.
No conference is more ready to get out on the field and quiet all the naysayers that still refuse to drink the SEC Kool-Aid. And no conference has more targets on their backs than the 14 teams that comprise what has become the most dominant group of football teams ever assembled in the college game.
Thursday has the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks as a double-digit favorite hosting the No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels in the SEC vs ACC first match up of the season at 6 p.m. Later on at 9:15 p.m. the bragging rights for the SEC Eastern Division or Western Division power begins with a pick ‘em game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Ole Miss Rebels in Nashville.
Then of course you have the No. 2 SEC vs ACC match up on Saturday as the Virginia Tech Hokies will try to find a way to pull off the upset of all upsets against the heavily favored and Defending National Champion No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in Atlanta at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
And we cannot forget about the biggest ACC vs SEC game of the weekend as the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs travel to Death Valley to battle the No. 8 Clemson Tigers in what could be one of the most watched and entertaining games of the entire 2013 season Saturday night.
Sprinkle in a little No. 12 LSU Tigers traveling to face the 19th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs, the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Stillwater to face the 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Auburn
Tigers hosting the Washington State Cougars, and the SEC is making quite a splash during the first week of the season.
Needless to say if the SEC goes 6-0 in these non-conference, showcase games, there will be little debate on whether or not a one or two loss SEC team is better than another other undefeated conference champion. But, for sake of debate, let’s say the SEC goes 3-3 or 1-5. What does that mean? It basically means the ACC and Big 12 has done a better job in getting ready for the first game and may have the elite talent at these schools to be relevant in the discussion. Plus the computers will love the schools that beat the SEC more than it will diminish the value of these SEC teams that lost.
But, based on history, it’s hard to bet against the SEC.
Either way, as the clock ticks down, some nerves are beginning to settle in and take root all over the SEC because right now the “what ifs” are endless as we all yearn for kick off on Thursday night.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.