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The SEC West Bucked The Sabanization Trend And Became The Next Great Soap Opera In The Making

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Contrary to what we once feared, the SEC West is where drama will thrive!

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A couple years ago during the 2017 coaching carousel season, I lamented the ongoing problem of unchecked Saban privilege in the SEC.

I was genuinely worried that as everyone chased the Saban dragon, fun would be eradicated from the SEC. After all, Hugh Freeze had been ousted, Les Miles was fired, the ultimate wild card Gus Malzahn always seems five wins from a firing. Bret Bielema and Kevin Sumlin had failed. Kirby Smart was the new archetype. Head down, say nothing, bore people to death, recruit defense, run the ball.

I sincerely thought Nick Saban was well on his way to achieving his ultimate goal of eradicating fun in college football, starting with his conference.

However, in light of recent news, I’m ready to declare that in spite of that grim prognosis from just two years ago, quite the opposite is true of the SEC West today. For reasons having nothing to do with the quality or competitiveness of the play on the field, the SEC West is poised to be the division to watch for the next several years.

At Alabama there is of course The Nicktator, who lost two entire games and didn’t play for a national title while fielding an oddly ineffective defense and beating nobody of consequence except Michigan nobody of consequence. He’s not fun at all, except for when he is being successfully trolled. This is the only way to extract fun from him, and Gus Malzahn is the best at it. After years of lacking fresh Saban rage GIFs, the Auburn head coach triggered one for the ages this year:

Don’t you feel about five years younger just watching it?

The see-saw battle between Gus and Auburn fans is always entertaining. I have never seen anything like the thirst Auburn fans have for firing Gus Malzahn. It’s incredible. He would be unemployed for under an hour. The preposterous things Auburn does are more than enough to make Gus Malzahn Auburn a perfect ingredient for drama stew.

Then there’s Coach Zydeco of the LSU Tigers. I didn’t think they’d keep him on because it was just too perfect. Ed Orgeron’s first job should be “head football coach, LSU” and if that is ever NOT his job, it should be “mascot, LSU.”

Meanwhile in Texas...A&M.... two years have passed on the $75 million guaranteed contract of 20XX National Champion Jimbo Fisher. 9-4 (5-3) led to 8-5 (4-4). The most impressive regulation win of Fisher’s tenure at A&M was probably the bowl win against Oklahoma State. Sure, there was an overtime victory against Kentucky, but who’s gonna hang their ten gallon hat on that? Oh, right, the 7OT debacle against LSU that should never have happened. Well, first off, that precipitated a rule change, and second, that interception should never have been waved off. But let’s let them count that.

At what point do the Aggie faithful start to get impatient? This dude trailed Chad Morris’ Arkansas Razorbacks in the fourth quarter this past season. Recruiting has improved...right to where it was in Kevin Sumlin’s first three years. At what point does the coach College Station loudly proclaimed to be a future national champion have to start contending for something? Yet another lovely little powder keg to watch.

I suppose there’s not much to say about the sweaty nameless faceless guy at Arkansas, other than that somehow that seems appropriate.

Then you have the other two. Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin, who in fairly short order made it clear what kind of operation he was going to run. His hiring of the...ahem...embattled DJ Durkin almost read like a challenge to the Ole Miss administration.

“Hey guys. So, clear something up for me. How much do you want me to cheat?”

Their virtual lack of comment on this hire sent a clear response: “Make Dick Dastardly look like Charlie Strong.”

So Lane Kiffin, a man who has a history of getting under Saban’s skin, basically has the green light to do whatever he wants in the name of Ole Miss football. Detestable, yes, but certainly makes me want to invest in popcorn futures.

Then the last piece of the puzzle was hammered into place this week when Clanga hired Mike Leach, the ornery pirate known for bringing prolific air raid offenses to barren wastelands. Is Starkville, MS remote enough for you, or is it just a bit too urban?

There you have it! Not only are there colorful characters, but there are also a lot of wildly different offensive philosophies represented. The SEC East is still pretty contaminated with Sabanbots between Smart, Pruitt, and Muschamp, even if the latter is at least an exaggerated Cro-Magnon. However, for one glorious moment, let’s imagine how much fun the future of the SEC West is about to be.