Ladies and gentlemen, Will Muschamp is here to settle the debate on the balance of power between the SEC East and SEC West.
After all, the South Carolina coach may be one of the most qualified people in the league to make an assessment. Not only does he coach the Gamecocks, but he’s a former Georgia player, former Florida coach, and had stints as defensive coordinator at Auburn and LSU.
If there’s anyone currently involved with the on-field product who has seen the league from all sides, it’s probably this guy.
During a Q&A with The Athletic’s Jason Kersey, which was released on Wednesday, Muschamp was asked about the balance of power in the league as the 2018 season approaches.
“I think it all goes in cycles,” Muschamp explained. “There was a time when Florida and Tennessee were really battling every year for the SEC Championship and the national championship. It has swung to the West side.
“But I think more than anything, it’s not the West, it’s Alabama. Alabama has been dominant. That’s what I would look at and point to.”
Georgia broke an eight-game winning streak for the SEC West in the SEC Championship Game last season, defeating Auburn 28-7. It avenged a regular-season loss to the Tigers on the Plains.
And while that championship game could mark a shift of power back in the direction of the East, at least temporarily, it is worth noting that Alabama went on to win the national championship in spite of missing out on a chance to play in the conference title game after an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. Even when you beat Nick Saban, you can’t keep him down for long.
Saban’s program has been in the SEC Championship Game in six of his 11 seasons at Alabama. Perhaps more stunning than that number is that Saban won a pair of national titles (2011, 2017) in two of the seasons when he missed SEC title-game appearances. The teams that played in Alabama’s place representing the SEC West (LSU, 2007; Auburn, 2010, 2013) went on to play for national title.
Those results make it no surprise to Muschamp — who was a Saban assistant at LSU — that the league has hired coaches who worked in the Saban system to try to replicate his success.
“We were very fortunate to work for Nick Saban,” Muschamp told Kersey coming off a nine-win season in Year 2 at South Carolina. “The model that he has is a very good one, from the offseason program to philosophically, offense, defense, special teams, recruiting.”
In addition to Muschamp at South Carolina, Georgia coach Kirby Smart, new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher are just some examples of the league’s propensity to pursue Saban’s assistants.
Fired Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, now the offensive coordinator at Missouri, and former Florida coach Jim McElwain represent failed attempts at that endeavor.
Even Muschamp himself, who was fired at Florida, is a statistic on that side of the Saban assistant argument.
SEC Championship Games during the Alabama-Nick Saban era
|Season||SEC East champion||SEC West champion|