Be open to being wrong about the SEC West in 2015

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A little free advice: in all situations, allow yourself to be open to being wrong. I said this on a recent podcast appearance with the good folks at All Sports Discussion, but it’s definitely worth repeating here.

(Editor’s note: You can also listen to TSS associate editor Terry Johnson, who also appeared on the All Sports Discussion podcast.)

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When it comes to issues regarding any stance, I always say to take the 70/30 approach. What is that, you ask? Or hell, maybe you didn’t? It’s the approach that says, “Read 70 percent material that deals with the side you don’t agree with, and read 30 percent the side that has your opinion, so as to reinforce it or understand it better.”

We learn nothing in life when we take a side on an issue, argument, really anything, and treat the changing of that opinion like trying to hang drywall with thumb tacks. In most cases, your stance won’t be changed, but at least you’ll understand where the other side is coming from. Pliability of the mindset isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength.

One good question to ask is, “What would it take for me to change my line of thinking?”, and then see if that exists in some form of fact. It’s an uncomfortable question to ask.

When it comes to college football, for the most part, we get lazy. It’s become basic creed to walk into a season saying, “The SEC is the best conference,” because so many times by many metrics in recent years, it’s been true. Yet, it doesn’t mean there aren’t hiccups in that line of thinking, and it doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Recently, the SEC’s national profile has been buoyed mostly by the SEC West alone, as the East has gone through what can best be described as a transitional phase since Missouri has come on board. Every season, we seem to lean on what happened last year or the year before to give certain handicaps, mostly positive ones, to the SEC.

The reality is, college sports are unique in the sense that on average, each team loses about 25 percent of its roster one way or another. Professional sports aren’t like that, so you can be forgiven if you do the, “they’ve been good the last 5 years, so they’ll be good again” thing.

It certainly helps when your coaches are forwarding your argument. Take Gus Malzahn, who this offseason called SEC teams at a disadvantage because of the strength of the conference.

Never mind that the supposedly impenetrable SEC West went 2-5 in bowl games and the last two losses came at the hands of the always battered and bruised ACC (Georgia Tech over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl) and then the always battered and bruised Big Ten (Ohio State over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl) … who both went through SEC West teams to claim their ultimate prize.

This year, for the first season in what feels like very many, the SEC and specifically the brutal West enter with major questions. Primary recent breadwinners Alabama and Auburn have major skill position losses to address. LSU still searches for a quarterback that, if he was a paperboy, could throw it at least half onto your acre-large property from the middle of the street on his bike.

Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State certainly are good, strong teams, but can they be national players when it comes to competing for a title?

Yet, in spite of the reality, the perception is no different than if this were the SEC of five years ago, with eight teams in the AP poll. That’s nearly 25 percent of the poll dedicated to one conference.

The other line of thinking that needs to be addressed is the relative idea of conference strength as a whole. The ACC and Pac-12 were the only leagues in 2014 to post winning records against the top 50 ranked teams. Consider this as well: The last two national champions have come from conferences that have the “perception” of being weak: the ACC in 2013 (Florida State, beating Auburn in the title game), and the Big Ten last year (Ohio State beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl playoff semifinal).

Not only may those conferences not have been weak, but it’s time to alter the thinking that the relative strength of a conference is spackled onto the ceiling of the conference champ. This is almost like saying that, “because there are 10 brothers and 9 are in jail, the 10th one has absolutely no shot of staying out of jail so let’s just forget about him.”

That’s crap-tastic logic.

The CFB Playoff will help vet some of that, because no longer can perceived conference strength be the bulletproof glass shielding teams from having to find out if one of those “lesser” conference champs is up to snuff. Again, we saw this last year when Ohio State bulldozed its way to a title in the playoff.

As this is written, I’m totally cool with all of the above being wrong. Maybe Jeremy Johnson is Cam Newton-lite. Maybe Alabama has been sleeping on quarterback talent and it’ll be A.J. McCarron all over again. Maybe Ole Miss and Mississippi State learned enough during their success last year to repeat it, but take it the full distance this time.

I’m certainly open to that being the case.

When the season starts here in about a week, the slate should be wiped clean for everyone, and perceived biases based on the past should be non-existent. It won’t happen, because people aren’t open to being wrong. Liberals read the Huffington Post and beat their chests about how it proves their side is right. Conservatives retort with some Fox News stuff. The cycle is endless.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to remember that no one is always right. Other than our wives.

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