Are you lovin' or hatin' your program right now?
Every season, whether it be related to weather, a political campaign or, yes, even football, comes with its series of ups and downs.
Or meteoric rises or catastrophic drop-offs, if the situation calls for it.
For the fans of the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks, ‘catastrophic drop-off’ doesn’t even quite scratch the surface.
There are two fresh faces in the SEC and plenty of programs either rising or falling. How are the fans of each of the fourteen teams feeling as the seasons rounds passed its midway point?
Note: Teams are ordered according to their SEC standings. We take a look at the East first, and then the West.
SEC East: No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats
Record thus far: 1-6 overall, 0-4 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Wait, where’d you go?? The Wildcats were coming off of a bye week and thus afforded two weeks to prepare to try to knock off No. 20 Mississippi State. More than that, they had the opportunity to stoke a fire under a fan base that has grown increasingly apathetic with each successive blowout loss under coach Joker Philips. Commonwealth Stadium’s listed capacity is a solid 67,606; however, less than 50,000 showed up to watch their boys lose yet another conference game. If anyone has been to a Kentucky basketball game, one understands that Big Blue Nation is by no means a naturally apathetic fan base.
However, at this point, Kentucky’s fans – and possibly its heads of the athletic department – have got to be thinking: Is this a Joke(r)?
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: (Crickets)
SEC East: No. 6 Mizzou Tigers
Record thus far: 3-4 overall, 0-4 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: The fact that these fans are stuck in the middle of America, surrounded by farms and small towns in all directions, did not stop Mizzou’s fans from pumping out preseason rap videos like they were under contract with Dr. Dre. So pumped were they to be coming over from the Big 12 and joining the SEC that even defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson got in on the fun, trash-talking Georgia before the Tigers’ SEC opener. He claimed the Bulldogs were ‘boring’ and played ‘old man football’. Well, it’s going to take more than some new-school hip hop from the student body to salvage the program’s first season in the conference at this point.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Shell-shocked
SEC East: No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers
Record thus far: 3-3 overall, 0-3 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Knoxville faithful had perhaps been spoiled with years of Peyton Manning under center and a national championship won with Tee Martin calling the shots. In 2012, the fans have had to deal with yet another season of Tyler Bray, uber-talent-turned-fourth quarter choke artist. Coach Derek Dooley has overseen yet another disappointing season, and at this point looks like he’d be far more suited to managing a McDonald’s than a college football program. At least at a McDonald’s, fans know they are eating garbage, instead of being forced to watch it each and every weekend.
Harsh, but ask around in a few Knoxville fast-food restaurants. You’ll find a lot more satisfied customers there than on Saturdays in Tennessee.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Seriously?
SEC East: No. 4 Vanderbilt Commodores
Record thus far: 2-4 overall, 1-3 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: When does a 2-4 overall record make a fan base feel pretty good about itself? When those fans have decided to go to school for academics almost exclusively, that’s when.
Oh yeah, and when the football program in question has stunk for nearly its entire existence. That probably has something to do with it. With Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ bother, Jordan, under center for the Commodores and Zac Stacy running the ball like he’s playing for a national championship (for the record, he’s not), Vandy has remained competitive throughout the season and should the rest of the way. For academically-inclined fans nestled in the heart of one of the greatest musical cities on the planet, that’s good enough. Remember, this is from a fan’s perspective, not a coach’s or player’s.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Pleasant.
SEC East: No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs
Record thus far: 5-1 overall, 3-1 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Talk about infinitely frustrating. Yet another year in which the preseason expectations were high and fans were piling onto the ‘Dawgs bandwagon, like Japanese businessmen trying to board a crowded train in Tokyo, has resulted in yet another disappointment already. Adding insult to injury, after spending years under the long shadow cast by Steve Spurrier as the head coach of Florida, coach Mark Richt was outdone by The Ol’ Ball Coach yet again, this time in Columbia, South Carolina. The Dawgs are coming off a bye week and the team itself will not be looking past Kentucky on Saturday; however, a fan or two will be as the annual World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party looms. The season is not at all over, but Georgia fans would feel quite a bit better with a little Gator stompin’, that much is a guarantee.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Apprehensive.
SEC East: No. 2 South Carolina
Record thus far: 6-1 overall, 4-1 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: So close, and yet so far. Navigating the schedule of Southeastern Conference can be such a cruel dance at times. After beating the crud out of perennially contending Georgia to run the team's record to 6-0, coach Steve Spurrier could have literally had a South Carolina fan drive him from his house to his office, had another fan open the door, and another carry out of his backseat and up to work. After that, he could have brought in a few more fans to soak his feet in oil while feeding him grapes and waving giant palm fronds to create an ever-so-gentle breeze. Then the team had to go down to Death Valley to play LSU. No one in Columbia will ever turn on Spurrier – he pulled that program out of the dredges of the conference – but everyone will be feeling a lot better if running back Marcus Lattimore and co. can recover against Florida this weekend.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Mobilized (expect plenty of Gamecocks tailgaters in Gainesville, folks)
SEC East: No. 1 Florida Gators
Record thus far: 6-0 overall, 5-0 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Forget cloud nine, Gator Nation is currently sitting on Cloud 9,000 with the season Coach Boom has put together thus far. And why shouldn’t they be? After opening the season at No. 23-overall and without a settled starting quarterback, the team is now perched atop the nation’s first BCS polls at No. 2 in the nation behind the well-oiled machine that is Alabama and coach Nick Saban. First year starter Jeff Driskel looked like a first-year starter against Bowling Green in Week 1. He has since improved dramatically in each and every week, and Gator Nation has been along for the wild, and meteoric, rise. This is a family website, so we’re not going to get into the gritty details of what fans around Midtown in Gainesville were saying after the program’s shaky opening week win over the Falcons, but needless to say, earmuffs for the children might have been in order six weeks ago. Granted, those fans might still be cursing up a drunken storm, but at least they’re celebrating, instead of getting ready to storm the coaching offices.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Breathless
SEC West: No. 7 Auburn Tigers
Record thus far: 1-5 overall, 0-4 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Remember that mention of a ‘catastrophic drop-off’ made earlier. Well, going from winning the BCS National Championship in 2010 to losing to a free-falling Arkansas and Ole Miss – breaking the Rebels’ 16-game SEC losing streak – in consecutive weeks is just about that for the second-best football team in the state of Alabama. Coach Gene Chizik’s wife, Jonna, even took to Facebook recently to implore Auburn fans to start praying, heartily, for a few extra wins this season. We’re not going to bring God into this one, but feel free to post all of your jokes/comments/sarcasms/criticisms/support in our comments section. Or, again, just do what we did and start counting down the days until Auburn's coaching search begins.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Praying?
SEC West: No. 6 Ole Miss Rebels
Record thus far: 4-3 overall, 1-2 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: We did it! Well, the Rebels certainly didn’t break any molds – in fact they fell right in line on this one – in beating Auburn to a pulp over the weekend. However, they did renounce poor play within the SEC, at least for one week. After losing 16-straight conference games, including a devastating 30-27 loss to Texas A&M the previous week, the team finally broke through in a big way, crushing the Tigers/Eagles/whatever 41-20 to move one game closer to bowl eligibility. Surprisingly studly quarterback Bo Wallace threw for three scores and caught another, and first year coach Hugh Frees has already shown the signs of life this flatlining program so desperately needed.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Relieved
SEC West: No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks
Record thus far: 3-4 overall, 2-2 in-conference.
Fan’s outlook: ‘Catastrophic free-fall’ might be apt for a guy like Gene Chizik, who has simply overseen the complete implosion of a program he himself had helped bring to national prominence. The man who helped build old Arky into a winner, however, is off somewhere dealing with the ramifications of a mid-life crisis that moved him to not only feel like buying and riding around in a motorcycle was a good idea, but having a 25-year old blonde subordinate along for the trip might ever come back to bite him in the you-know-what. With Bobby Petrino disgraced, the team brought in John L. Smith, who has clowned his way into a loss to Louisiana-Monroe (who?) and a crushing defeat at the hands of Alabama. The Razorbacks have feasted on SEC bottom feeders Auburn and Kentucky recently, but any even halfway-knowledgeable Arkansas fan can’t get this season over soon enough.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Dumbfounded.
SEC West: No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies
Record thus far: 5-1 overall, 2-1 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: After losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the first round of the NFL Draft, the Aggies were entering 2012 with quite a few question mark. Add in the simple fact that, like Mizzou, A&M was entering its first season in the SEC, and no one knew what to expect. Unlike Missouri, however, first year coach Kevin Sumlin, the man who masterminded a record-setting offensive juggernaut while the coach at the University of Houston, has helped redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel develop into a Heisman Trophy candidate while ripping off five straight victories. Midway through the season, the 12th Man’s questions seem to have been answered.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Confident
SEC West: No. 3 LSU Tigers
Record thus far: 6-1 overall, 2-1 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: LSU fans have seen the Tigers’ season as a microcosm of the wild and wacky mind of their Mad Hatter of a coach, the ever-off-the-handle Les Miles. The man has always been able to recruit, and through seven games, his defense has looked as NFL-ready as ever. However, an offense led by junior college transfer Zack Mettenberger looked more and more anemic each week, eventually falling flat on its face in a 14-6 loss to Florida. Whatever Miles pulled out of that mad hat of his during the week must have worked, however, as his fellas pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and upset South Carolina on Saturday. Not only had Spurrier’s Gamecocks come into Death Valley on fire, having lambasted Georgia the week prior, but they were ranked No. 3-nationally. Does this team have enough offense to make another run at a BCS game? Does the Mad Hatter himself even have an answer to that one?
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Discombobulated
SEC West: No. 2 Mississippi State
Record thus far: 6-0 overall, 3-0 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: Are you as surprised as we are? Yes, yes you are. Dating back to last season, the Bulldogs have won eight straight games, and their 6-0 start to the 2012 campaign is officially the program’s strongest start to a season since 1999. Against Tennessee on Saturday, uber-quiet Tyler Russell outplayed Tyler Bray, tossing for a career-high 290 yards to go along with two touchdowns. However, Russell and co. have yet to play a ranked team, despite earning a No. 12-ranking in the initial BCS standings. Fans, and the nation, will get a good gauge as to how high this team’s ceiling can be if in two weeks the team can keep their game against Alabama close. With the football juggernaut that is Middle Tennessee in between now and then, the Bulldogs should have plenty of time to prepare, and should be 7-0, for a matchup of what will be unexpected SEC West contenders.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Anxious
SEC West: No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Record thus far: 6-0 oveall, 3-0 in-conference
Fan’s outlook: The Crimson Tide have won two of the last three national championships. They have been the country’s unanimous No. 1-ranked squad for the better part of the last month. Coach Nick Saban does not sleep, but rather he simply game plans with his eyes closed.
Need we say more? Until these guys lose a game, nope.
One word to sum up how fans are feeling: Confident. Shoot, how would you feel if your program was in the midst of building a potential college football dynasty?
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