As an initial matter, Sheridan deserves credit because he predicted Georgia's downfall last year. At the time, I thought he sounded like Jim Donnan's old high school sweetheart for claiming that Richt had only won with Donnan's players, but he was right and those of us who picked the Dawgs fourth in the country were wrong. That said, he has a couple picks this year that don't make sense to me. The most perplexing is that he's high on Tennessee, whom he has winning the East. On a certain level, I can't really criticize any pick of a victor in the East this year because there is precious little separating the four contenders (and not as much as usual separating those four from Vandy and Kentucky). However, I just don't see what Tennessee brings to the table. The great myth remaining in Southern football is that Tennessee is a great blocking and tackling team. They haven't a dominant running game since the Travises left Knoxville. (Florida fans are piping in right now to reference Jimmy Ray Stephens's time on Rocky Top.) They had an excellent passing game last year, but how much of that was Erik Ainge and how much was it the result of having three experienced, blue-chip receivers? Their defense was alright, but nothing special and their secondary is quite green this year. I just don't see anything especially good about this Tennessee team, but Sheridan has them winning the East.
What's more inexplicable to me is that Sheridan has Phil Fulmer tied for the second best coach in the conference and Urban Meyer seventh. How many Big Orange fans would agree with this statement? How many SEC fans with IQs over 80 would agree with this statement? How many programs, if confronted with a choice of Meyer or Fulmer for a head coaching spot, would take Fulmer? In two years in the SEC, Meyer has won more SEC titles than Fulmer has this decade. He's 22-4 over two years and that record is not a surprise after his success at Bowling Green and Utah. In other words, the usual defense of Fulmer - he's a consistent winner - pales when compared to Meyer.
And then this paragraph really irked me:
Q: What do you think of the BCS and who do you like to win?
A: It's all political. To get there, it certainly helps to have a good team but it's more important to have a good schedule and no conference playoffs. This gives the Pac-10, Big Ten and the Big East a huge advantage. Florida getting in last year was a fluke. If UCLA, a two-touchdown underdog, doesn't upset Southern Cal in the last game, Ohio State would have played Southern Cal. Bottom line: Southern Cal has a one-game schedule (eight-point favorite over California) and double-digit favorite over everyone else and no conference playoff game. West Virginia from the Big East will be favored over everyone they play and has no playoff game. Michigan, from the Big Ten, has a two-game schedule. At Wisconsin and home against Ohio State and that's it. No conference title game. Hawaii figures to go undefeated and will beat Boise State. But who cares? Because the SEC is the toughest conference from top to bottom, and has a playoff game, and its two top teams could meet twice this year, it will not place a team in the BCS this year.
I really expect better for someone who thinks rationally (and not in sound bites) like Sheridan. Florida was ranked behind USC and Michigan going into the SEC Championship Game. The Gators' win over Arkansas propelled them over Michigan into the title game after USC lost. The SEC Title Game was clearly a benefit to the Gators. Conversely, the absence of a Big Ten title game was a negative for Michigan, as it deprived the Wolverines a neutral-field shot at the Buckeyes on a surface that didn't resemble that of the Mistake by the Lake in the 80s, assuming that Michigan and Ohio State would be in different divisions. (If Michigan and Ohio State were in the same division, then Michigan would have been aided because Ohio State might have lost the title game, thus opening another spot in the BCS title game.) SEC fans in general and Sheridan in particular really need to get over this notion that the SEC Championship Game is some sort of colossal negative. It can be a great asset to SEC teams because it gives them a chance to make the closing argument to poll voters. In practice, it has only deprived one SEC team (2001 Tennessee) of a spot in the national title game, while it has been a springboard for five SEC national champions. SEC fans also need to get over the notion that USC plays a bunch of nobodies. I'm certainly not in the camp that thinks that the Pac Ten has the same depth of quality that the SEC does, but it isn't as if USC plays cupcakes for every game. Given their results against the SEC under Pete Carroll (4-0 against Auburn and Arkansas; only one of the games was competitive), we don't need to be making statements like "they have a one-game schedule." That would be news to the '06 Trojans, who lost two games, and even Sheridan's statement was true, it would only be as a testament to Pete Carroll accumulating a ridiculous amount of talent.