S-E-C!

Alabama defeated Texas tonight, 37-21, in a game that many will discount because of the shoulder injury suffered to Texas QB Colt McCoy early in the first quarter.  I don’t agree with their way of thinking (you want to use your QB as a running back, fine, just don’t get upset when his shoulder gets dislocated), but there’s no use in denying that McCoy’s absence completely changed the way the game was played; it threw the Texas offense completely out of whack.  The Longhorns haven’t had much of a running game all season (statistically, it’s their worst rushing offense in seven seasons), so it wasn’t any secret exclusive to college football gurus that as Colt McCoy goes, so goes the Texas offense.

Unfortunately for the Longhorns, McCoy went nowhere (other than the Texas locker and x-ray room, of course).  Running the ball every play with an undersized quarterback might be a swell idea in the Big-12, but that shit don’t fly in the SEC.  It took McCoy, Brown, and the entire Longhorn fanbase a grand total of five plays to figure that out the hard way.

The rest of the game went the way most people had expected.  Alabama smothered Texas with their trademark D, and, on the offensive side of the ball, gave the Longhorns a healthy dosage of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson on their way to 205 rushing yards and 16 first downs.

Alabama used the National Championship stage tonight to prove, yet again, how much separation there really is between the SEC and the rest of the country.

But allow me to use the Alabama/SEC victory to segue into a topic that we’ve yet to talk about on this site: The retirement of Kentucky Football’s Rick Brooks.  The Tide’s victory tonight (the 4th straight year a team from the SEC’s been crowned National Champ, and 6th in eleven years) should serve as a reminder to everyone what exactly Rich Brooks was going up against when he took over at Kentucky.

Kentucky wasn’t just bad when Brooks moved to Lexington, Kentucky was terrible. Remember, before Rich Brooks essentially volunteered himself for the job, Mitch Barnhart tried to lure several top-flight candidates to Lexington, including Doug Williams (the former Grambling State Head Coach who also quarterbacked the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory), then-USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow (the Charlie Strong of his era–the top assistant at the top program in the nation who’d inexplicably never gotten the chance to be a Head Coach), and Bill Parcells (some guy who’d supposedly spent time with various NFL teams) and they all turned him down.  Know why?  The job sucked.

The team Brooks inherited had no speed, no talent, and to top it off, recruiting violations carried over from previous regimes left Kentucky with fewer scholarships, giving the rebuilding process a degree of difficulty that Nick Saban or Urban Meyer would’ve balked at.  And it’s worth mentioning, Kentucky wasn’t playing in the Big East or C-USA; no, Kentucky was playing in the Eastern Division of the SEC.  Every single week there was a Georgia or a Florida or Tennessee or a South Carolina or a Vanderbilt (who’d turned into a respectable program, all of the sudden) or an Alabama or an LSU, etc.  The list goes on and on; point being, there were no cupcakes on Brooks’ conference schedule, unlike the coach (Petrino) of the team down 64 (Louisville) that Brooks was constantly being compared to.

By the way, that ’06 U of L team that was supposedly so great had only two–I repeat, two–conference games that they needed to get up for (West Virginia and Rutgers), and they couldn’t do it (they managed to beat WV, but fell to Rutgers). There’s a Louisville fan friend of mine who still, to this day, tries to tell me Louisville would’ve dominated the SEC that season.  My response to this has remained consistent: After removing the crack-pipe from his mouth, I explain to him, matter-of-factly, ‘If you honestly believe that, there’s no point in us even having this conversation, because You Don’t Get It.  You guys couldn’t handle playing WV and Rutgers on back-to-back weeks, but you think you’d dominate a three-week run of Tennessee-Florida-LSU?’

I mean, seriously, has there ever been a more delusional fanbase in the history of college football than Louisville’s?

So, to recap: Rich Brooks took a team that was already terrible, with little chance of improving immediately (because of the recruiting restrictions), playing in the country’s toughest conference in which to rebuild, and still managed to to turn them into a perennial bowl-bound program.

All things considered, Kentucky–at the time–might have been one of the five worst jobs in the country.  But Brooks took it anyway, never complained, and, seven years later, here we are.  We’ve gone from a being a school that was happy to win six games in a season to one that openly questions their coach’s ability to get it done when he doesn’t win his fourth straight bowl game.

In that sense, Rich Brooks is a victim of his own success.

He turned one of the worst teams in the country into one that could legitimately compete in a conference that has proven itself to be the strongest in college football history.

But, more importantly, he took a job that nobody wanted and single-handedly made it desirable again.  For that alone, Kentucky fans should be forever indebted.

Papaw, you will be missed.

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