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Tough to run the gantlet

Once again, the SEC may be its own worst enemy this season: getting out of the conference undefeated, or even one loss, is nearly impossible (although Auburn did it two seasons ago).

By Times Staff
Published September 1, 2006


Once again, the SEC may be its own worst enemy this season: getting out of the conference undefeated, or even one loss, is nearly impossible (although Auburn did it two seasons ago). So despite its weak, collective non-conference schedule, the league remains one of the toughest in the nation. Five of 12 teams are among the AP Top 25 (Alabama is No. 26). Auburn is the favorite to win the league but must get by LSU, Florida, Alabama and Georgia. LSU plays three of its toughest games on the road, Florida has one of the nation's toughest schedules and South Carolina is an upset threat. Expect a dogfight in the race for a championship.

THE GANG'S ALL HERE ... FOR NOW

For the first time since 1988, every football coach in the league held onto his job after last season, not an easy feat in the ever-more-competitive SEC. This time last year, three new coaches and one who departed then returned (Steve Spurrier) were preparing to roam the sidelines. The league has had 36 coaching changes in the past 17 years, and nine of the league's 12 schools have replaced their coach since the 2000 season - Alabama had three of those hires.

The trend may return at the end of this season. Among those who may be posting a resume on Monster.com:

* Rich Brooks, Kentucky: The man has won nine games (and lost 25) in three seasons at Kentucky. What else can you say?

* Houston Nutt, Arkansas: The Razorbacks didn't make it to a bowl game last season after six consecutive appearances and are coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1996-97. Arkansas was next to last in passing offense (143.7) and sixth in total offense last season. Nutt has given up the play-calling and hired an offensive coordinator with no college experience to coach a freshman quarterback. Two years ago he nearly left the school on his own for Nebraska. If the Razorbacks keep sliding, this time it might be someone else's decision.

* Phil Fulmer, Tennessee: His resume is impressive and should speak for itself, but this is college football; what have you done for me lately? Tennessee went 5-6 last season, its worst record since going 5-6 in 1988, even losing to Vanderbilt. Fulmer's previous worst was 8-5 in 2002. The Vols have lost 17 games in the last four years; they lost 14 from 1992 through 1998. Fulmer says last year wasn't an indication of where the program really is and Tennessee is still Tennessee. He should hope so.

- ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writer

STILL CALLING THE SHOTS

In dog years, it's about 280. But even by human standards, Larry Munson's 40 years as the play-by-play man for Georgia games is remarkable.

Munson began his career at Georgia the year Uga II made his debut. Today, Uga VI is in his eighth season as mascot and Georgia fans are celebrating Munson's 40th year.

In all, Munson's voice has been heard by SEC fans for nearly 60 years. He was the voice of Vanderbilt football from 1947 until he went to Athens in 1966.

"I never thought it would last as long as it has lasted," the 83-year-old Munson told the Associated Press.

Not only has it lasted, it has produced some memorable phrases that will resonate with fans forever.

Among his most famous:

"Oh, look at the Sugar falling out of the sky." - Uttered after Georgia beat Auburn in 1982 to win its third straight SEC title and Sugar Bowl berth in the Herschel Walker era.

"Man, we've had some shots haven't we? Snap to David Greene, there he goes in the corner again and we jump up ... Touchdown! Oh, God, a touchdown!" - As Georgia beat Auburn on a last-minute score in 2002, ending the Bulldogs' 20-year SEC championship drought.

"Run, Lindsay!" - The famous phrase he used when Buck Belue hit Lindsay Scott for the famous 92-yard pass to defeat Florida in 1980.

DEFENSE, DEFENSE

The Steve Spurrier era put the SEC on the map for its passing attack, but in recent years it's defense that wins games. Over the past three seasons, the national leader in scoring defense has come out of the SEC. Now the league has a chance to make some history. Only once in the history of the league have teams led the nation at least four consecutive seasons - from 1959 to 1963. Before 2003, the last time an SEC team led the nation in scoring defense was 1988 when Auburn gave up just 7.2 points per game. The past three Division I-A scoring defense leaders:

Year Team Points per game

2003 LSU 11.0 ppg

2004 Auburn 11.3 ppg

2005 Alabama 10.7 ppg