Reverse the Curse: Why the SEC East's 8-year losing run will continue
In the 10 years prior to Nick Saban taking the Alabama job in 2007, the winner of the SEC came from the East division six times.
In the 10 years since, the winner of the SEC has come from the West nine times, including the last eight seasons.
The "S" in SEC doesn't stand for Saban, but a name change might be appropriate, since the 65-year-old has been the main catalyst of the West's dominance in recent years, racking up five conference titles. Even when Alabama hasn't won the SEC during Saban's tenure, LSU and Auburn have picked up the slack to keep the conference crown in the West.
The West's triumphs in the championship game aren't the only thing that's shown how lopsided the conference is - the eastern representative has looked terrible over the last eight years. The combined scoreline of 346-154 is laughable, with the games virtually over by halftime each year.
So what can the teams in the East do to reverse the curse and reclaim conference superiority?
The easy answer is to kidnap Saban and hold him hostage until he agrees to retire. Beyond that, they don't appear to have much of a chance.
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
The 2016 season was among the worst for teams in the West; only Alabama reached the nine-win mark and touched six conference wins. The Crimson Tide finished 14-1 on the campaign with a perfect 8-0 record in SEC play. Auburn and LSU tied for second in the conference with eight wins each and 5-3 marks in SEC games.
While the overall depth in the East wasn't far off the West, Alabama was so far ahead of any other team that the Crimson Tide pummeled East champion Florida in the SEC title game by a score of 54-16. Combined with a blowout win at Tennessee, the Tide hammered the top two teams in the other division 103-26.
The Saban coaching tree is taking over the East landscape, as Florida's Jim McElwain, Georgia's Kirby Smart, and South Carolina's Will Muschamp have all served under him throughout their career. It stands to reason that those three, who know how Saban's outfit works, stand as good a chance as any to shift the balance of power in the SEC.
The bad news? Saban is now 10-0 against his former assistants. Perhaps the legendary teacher didn't show all his tricks to his students.
Alabama hasn't just dominated on the field under Saban, it's crushed the opposition on a yearly basis in the recruiting wars as well. The Crimson Tide annually turn in a top-three class nationally, reloading their roster when a high number of players head to the NFL.
If one is looking for a glimmer of hope, Alabama currently sits outside the top-50 in recruiting for the class of 2018, holding only six commitments. Unfortunately for the rest of the SEC, nobody in the country closes like Saban, and with six months to go before signing day, it's a safe bet the Crimson Tide will hold another top class.
As long as Saban is running the show at Alabama, the programs in the East will enter each season as underdogs to win the conference title. His presence alone is enough reason to expect the eight-year streak to continue for the foreseeable future.
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