I've seen the idea being floated around that we might be in for a repeat of 2007's craziness again. Primarily, this sentiment stems from the weekly top five upsets we've been seeing. In AP Poll ranks:
- Week 1 - No. 3 Oklahoma loses to No .20 BYU
- Week 2 - No. 5 Oklahoma State loses to unranked Houston
- Week 3 - No. 3 USC loses to unranked Washington
- Week 4 - No. 4 Ole Miss loses to unranked South Carolina
You could make the argument though that a rash of top teams falling at the beginning of the year has more to do with faulty poll voting than anything else. It's not like we have even half a season's worth of games to look at, and two of the upset victims (Oklahoma State, Ole Miss) were pegged by a lot of folks as highly ranked teams most likely to disappoint.
While I'm not ready to call this 2007 again, I have noticed that within the conference it's looking eerily like 2008 for a majority of teams so far.
Through three weeks, Alabama has beat a top 10 ranked ACC team in the Georgia Dome, stumbled a bit in the second game against an overmatched opponent, and blown away another overmatched opponent. Am I talking Clemson, Tulane, and Western Kentucky or Virginia Tech, FIU, and North Texas? Yes.
The Gators have blown up their cupcakes in convincing fashion so far, just as they beat Hawaii 56-10 a year ago. However, they struggled against a Big Six caliber team in Tennessee, just as they had trouble with Miami and Tennessee last year. Through three games in 2008, the defense allowed a touchdown and four field goals. Through three games in 2009, the defense has allowed a touchdown and five field goals.
In the Wildcats first two games of 2008, they beat Louisville and blew out a bad team (Norfolk State, 38-3). Through two games in 2009, they've blown out a bad team (Miami University, 42-0) and beat Louisville.
LSU dispatched two cupcakes easily to begin 2008, and they won a close one over an SEC opponent. LSU took care of its 2009 cupcake easily, and the Tigers have won relatively close ones over its Big Six conference competition.
The Rebels last year blew out Memphis and took care of a I-AA team early, but they didn't look all that sharp in losing their conference opener. Same goes for this year: gaudy final score against Memphis, I-AA cupcake eaten whole, dropped SEC opener. Though South Carolina wasn't the conference opener last year, Ole Miss did lose to the Gamecocks later in '08.
In 2008, the Gamecocks beat NC State in an ugly game, lost a heartbreaker to Georgia, beat a cupcake in lackluster fashion, and won the conference game after the Bulldogs over Ole Miss. So far in 2009, the Gamecocks have beaten NC State in an ugly game, lost a heartbreaker to Georgia, beat a cupcake in lackluster fashion, and won the conference game after the Bulldogs over Ole Miss. Some key differences do exist: no loss to Vandy in 2009 (yet), and no quarterback controversy.
In 2008, the Vols began the year 1-2 with a gut wrenching loss to UCLA, a blowout win over an overmatched opponent, and a loss to Florida in a run heavy, low possession count game. In 2009, the Vols switched the blowout win over an overmatched opponent and the gut wrenching loss to UCLA, but still lost to Florida in a run heavy, low possession count game in Week 3.
For the other conference teams, it hasn't been so much of a repeat. Arkansas still has no defense, but the Razorbacks have good quarterbacking play and haven't been struggling with bad teams. Auburn looks crisp with a functioning offense and a good non conference win. Georgia has turned into an all offense/no defense team, somthing it took them over half the year to become in 2008. Mississippi State is flashing back to 2007 with its 2-1 start, but that's probably where things will end because the early season schedule this year is much harder. Vanderbilt is struggling mightily with execution and at 1-2, it has underperformed both 2008's 3-0 start and 2007's 2-1 start.
It's still early yet and there's plenty of time for 2009 to end up its own unique year. With roughly a fourth of the season gone already though, it's deja vu for a good bit of the SEC so far.