Auburn running back Tre Mason speaks to the media at a BCS National Championship press conference. Mason and the Tigers are trying to extend SEC’s streak of national titles. (Reuters)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — The wise guys say the SEC’s tyrannical rule over college football is about to end. Oddsmakers have established Florida State as at least a touchdown favorite over Auburn in the BCS Championship game. Should the wisdom of the betting public prevail, the SEC’s run of titles (now at seven) will end.
Auburn fullback Jay Prosch, who played at Illinois for a bit before returning to the state of Alabama, will concede nothing about the enduring strength of the SEC, hang the oddsmakers.
“I think the competition in this conference is way beyond any other conference,” he said. “The players in this conference are all at such a high level that it makes them play at a higher level. I think that the best players are in this conference. Not that other conferences don’t have great players, but I just think there’s more in this conference, and it raises the level of play.”
Auburn expects support from all around the SEC, even from its blood rival, Alabama. “Except maybe Harvey Updyke,” said Prosch, referring to the infamous Bama backer who poisoned the giant oaks at the entrance to the Auburn campus.
“Last year I was proud of (Alabama), and I was glad to see the SEC win,” Auburn center Reese Dismukes confessed.
“I’ve got friends at Alabama, Georgia, around the league saying good luck, bring it back home, stuff like that,” he said. “This league is a business, as close to the next level as it get. You got friends on every team. You’re enemies for 60 minutes and other than that, you know the hard work that goes into this, and you’re friends.”
As for the rest of the country, there admittedly may be some SEC fatigue in play. Outside the conference, there is a sense that FSU may be playing for them.
Asked whether he thinks the Seminoles are bearing the hopes of a good part of the country, FSU cornerback Lemarcus Joyner said, “We may. No point sitting here and not being truthful. I would believe so because that’s the kind of talk that goes around this country — everyone is tired of the SEC.”
The son’s turn to shine: Running back Tre Mason played the big room as one of the Heisman Trophy finalists. He starred in the SEC Championship game. Now he is ready to have the spotlight of all of college football fall upon him.
Genetically, this should bother him not one bit. As the son of Vincent Mason, a member of the hip-hop group De La Soul, he was groomed to bask in the attention.
“Yeah, he’s been dealing with it since high school and has been coaching me up on how to handle it,” Mason said of his dad. “He’s been doing that since I was little, so it’s nothing new to me.”
“Growing up I’d seen him play on big stages like that, Madison Square Garden, places like that. I just always had a dream of being that star on that type of big stage one day, and it happened. God blessed me with that opportunity.”
Smile when you say, ‘luck’: When assessing how much of Auburn’s success has been skill and how much luck, tone matters.
Asked, in light of the discussion following the Tigers’ fortune-kissed wins over Georgia and Alabama, whether he took offense to the notion that his team was the beneficiary of luck, Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah was anything but tight-lipped.
“It’s depending on who says it, and the way which they say it, that dictates how we should take it,” he said. “Some people are, “Well, you got lucky; it was a miracle that it happened.” Others are, “Wow, that was a miracle play.
“The 59 minutes we played before (those winning turn of events) gets overshadowed and overlooked sometimes. But we play to the last second, literally.”
Uzomah will have to interpret this from Joyner: “I don’t believe in luck, but (Ricardo Louis’ catch of a tipped pass against Georgia) was luck. It was a lot of hard work, and they also had to do miraculous things to be here.”
Stop us if you heard this before: Every defense that prepares to face Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo option attack talks about staying disciplined. Every defense promises to play it smart. Then the game starts, and madness ensues.
FSU is making the same promise.
When watching the SEC Championship game, Seminoles linebacker Christian Jones said he, “saw the ends running up the field when they should have been squeezing.
“They left big gaps for them to run through,” Jones said. “Guys were out of gaps a lot of times. We have done a good job preparing for what they did that game, and we have done a good job playing against it.”
That remains TBD.