We’ve spent so much time looking back this week. Why not look ahead?
The SEC won five national championships last decade. Any reason to believe that dominance won’t continue?
One thing we’ve come to know about the SEC is that change is inevitable. And when the winds of change blow through this conference, they blow fast and often times without warning.
Here are 10 things to watch for next decade in the SEC:
1. At least two more national titles for Alabama: Repeating might be tough, but Nick Saban will add to Alabama’s already crowded trophy case next decade. You can count on that. Saban’s as close as it gets to a guarantee in college football. He recruits like a madman. He’s just as good at developing players. He runs his program like a Fortune 500 company, and the only thing he thinks about is the next challenge and what it takes to get there.
2. Crowds at Saban’s statue: Alabama athletic director Mal Moore has already said they plan to construct a statue of Saban to go along with the Crimson Tide’s other national championship-winning coaches at the Walk of Champions. Bear Bryant’s statue will continue to draw the largest crowds. But as the titles mount next decade at the Capstone, look for the crowds gathered around Saban’s statue to give the Bear’s statue a run for its money.
3. Another title for Meyer: The Gators might slip some next season, but they’re not going far. Check out their commitment list for the 2010 class. Urban Meyer will take most of his leave of absence following signing day. Look for him to coach a maximum of four more seasons and then break away for good. But in those four seasons, the Gators will win a third national title on his watch.
4. The Six Million Dollar Man: Saban and Meyer are already raking in $4 million per year, but somebody next decade will hit the $6 million plateau. Maybe it’s the guy that replaces Meyer. Maybe it’s Meyer. Maybe it’s Saban. Maybe it’s a coach at another school in the league. If you haven’t noticed, there’s an arms race going on in college football, and there’s no end in sight.
5. Coaching change at LSU: Either Les Miles is going to get out while he can, or he’s going to be forced out sometime in the next two or three years. Miles’ first three seasons on the Bayou set the bar so high that he won’t be able to get away with too many more four- and five-loss seasons. The 2010 season is critical for him if he’s going to get back into good graces with the LSU faithful. He lost a lot of support this season, especially with how poorly the offense performed.
6. NCAA violations to follow Kiffin: He left an NCAA cloud hovering over Tennessee’s program before bolting for Southern California, which has its own NCAA issues. Don’t be surprised if the NCAA finds a few things “Lane Violation” didn’t do exactly by the book during his 14-month pillage at Tennessee that follow him to the West Coast.
7. Kentucky ends drought against Tennessee: The Wildcats have come oh so close the last few seasons to ending their drought against the Vols, which is now at 25 games and counting. Tennessee survived in overtime this season in Lexington and needed four overtimes in 2007 to prevail. All things come to an end. Mercifully for Kentucky, that includes a losing streak that goes all the way back before anybody on its current roster was even born.
8. The Gamecocks break out: If any group of fans deserve a breakout season, it’s the long-suffering South Carolina fans. They’ve put up with mediocrity for 100-plus years. And, yet, they’re always there in force supporting their Gamecocks. Somewhere in this next decade, there’s a nine- or 10-win season hovering. Perhaps it’s next season. The Eastern Division race will be as wide open as ever. Wouldn’t that be something? The Head Ball Coach giving South Carolina its first ever East title and then jettisoning to the golf course full time.
9. Phillip Fulmer returning as Tennessee’s athletic director: Don’t laugh. It could happen … and maybe sooner than anybody thinks. Current athletic director Mike Hamilton, who fired Fulmer, lost a lot of his footing thanks to the whole Lane Kiffin debacle. New coach Derek Dooley faces a pretty major rebuilding project in more ways than one. Many times when things like this happen at a football-crazed school, athletic directors don’t survive. See Steve Pederson at Nebraska.
10. Vanderbilt to have another winning season: It’s hard to have a lot of confidence after the way this past season went for Vanderbilt, which ended up going winless in the SEC. But the Commodores will have another winning season under Bobby Johnson. The offense will improve. Of course, it can’t get any worse, and the Commodores will have another one of those seasons where they don’t have the crippling injuries that plagued them this season. Johnson is too good a coach, and he’s surrounded by an excellent staff. The work they did in 2008 in getting the Commodores to seven wins wasn’t a mirage. They’ll do it again.