SEC in 1-2-3: Nonconference nuisances

SEC in 1-2-3: Nonconference nuisances

June 12th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Having trouble waiting until the start of college football season?

For the next several Sundays, the Times Free Press is providing top-three lists on various Southeastern Conference topics. Today's list contains the league's most notable villains in recent years.

1. Southern Cal

Before the SEC embarked on its unprecedented run of five consecutive BCS championships, there were some lumps taken at the hands of the Trojans.

A 24-17 victory over Auburn at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2002 was the beginning of USC's run through the league, and it continued the next year when the Trojans went to Jordan-Hare Stadium and applied a 23-0 skunking. That rout not only derailed Auburn's hopes for a brilliant '03 season but likely had some carryover in '04 when USC, Oklahoma and Auburn each went undefeated and the Tigers were left out of the BCS title game.

In 2005, Arkansas tried its luck in the Coliseum and lost 70-17. The Trojans, led by quarterback Matt Leinart and tailback Reggie Bush, had the ball for just eight plays and 92 seconds in the first quarter yet amassed 246 yards and four touchdowns.

"This is the best team I have seen," then-Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt said after the game. "They have all the weapons you need or could hope for. They score so fast that it messes you up."

The rematch at Fayetteville in '06 was only marginally less gruesome, as the Trojans rolled 50-14.

USC is 17-10-1 all-time against teams currently in the SEC. The Trojans defeated Tennessee 14-0 in the 1939 Rose Bowl after the Volunteers had gone the entire '38 season without allowing a point, and USC's 42-21 win at Alabama in 1970 behind running back Sam Cunningham opened opportunities for black players throughout the Deep South.

Yet if this was strictly a historical list, then Nebraska would soar to the top. The Cornhuskers once won 11 consecutive bowl games against SEC foes, including a 38-6 trampling of Alabama in the Orange Bowl that determined the 1971 national championship and a 62-24 humbling of Florida in the Fiesta Bowl that decided the 1995 title.

USC has inflicted pain more recently, and though that 70-17 win over Arkansas since has been vacated by the NCAA, how could those Hogs ever forget such a slaughter?

2. Lloyd Carr

Michigan had a difficult time with Ohio State and Ohio State has a difficult time with SEC teams in bowls, but the Wolverines didn't have much trouble against the SEC when Carr was in charge.

In the decade from 1998 to 2007, Carr's Michigan teams went 5-1 against the SEC in bowls, beginning with a Citrus Bowl win over Arkansas after the '98 season, an Orange Bowl overtime win over Alabama after the '99 season and a Citrus Bowl win over Auburn after the 2000 season. Then came the exception, a 45-17 shellacking administered by Tennessee in the Citrus after the 2001 season.

Carr's last game as Michigan coach took place in the Capital One Bowl (the former Citrus) after the 2007 season, when his Wolverines were underdogs to Florida and Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow. The Wolverines won 41-35.

"What they did in this game and the environment, well, I love them to death," Carr said after his finale.

Carr was replaced by West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, who had two losing seasons before taking Michigan to last season's Outback Bowl against Mississippi State. There was no such mastery over the SEC, as the Bulldogs rolled 52-14 and Rodriguez was fired several days later.

3. Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles always have topped the little-to-gain, much-to-lose category in SEC nonconference scheduling.

USM became a legitimate league nuisance in the early 1980s, when the Eagles tied Alabama in '81 and defeated the Crimson Tide the following season, ending Bama's 57-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Eagles won at Alabama and Auburn in 1990, won at Auburn again in 1991 and won at LSU in 1994.

Georgia opened the Jim Donnan era at home against Southern Miss in 1996 and lost 11-7. Tennessee survived the Golden Eagles in its 2000 season opener, 19-16, but Alabama wasn't as fortunate a couple of weeks later, losing 21-0 as the imploding of Mike DuBose's final season continued.

Ole Miss quit playing USM in 1984 and Mississippi State followed suit in 1990, but others in the league have continued to take their chances. Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and South Carolina have played the Eagles within the past six years and have come away unscathed.