By: Phil Bush
SEC Digital Network
ATLANTA - It's time for the Southeastern Conference to begin league play. While this will come as no surprise to many of you who read the blog on a continual basis, there are some interesting things that are in play this time of year. Those items are particularly interesting with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the mix. Travel partnerships that had been long standing in SEC volleyball have been disbanded.
Let’s first of all look at a few records of note:
• LSU is 4-5, but of their five losses, four come to teams in the top 25: Texas, San Diego, Washington, and Purdue. Talk about playing a schedule to get ready for conference play. The Tigers won’t be intimidated by anyone the rest of the year, that you can be sure of.
• Kentucky: 6-4, with losses to Oregon and No. 1 Nebraska in four sets. Again, it’s not just wins and losses; it’s about how you prepare for the conference schedule.
• Florida is 6-2, with their two losses coming to Texas and Stanford.
• Texas A&M is 8-1, with that loss coming to Southern Cal.
• And it would not be fair to not recognize South Carolina for starting out 11-0. They may not have played teams in the top 20, but this is a program that clearly wanted to get off to a good start and establish themselves going into the SEC season.
So, what does the schedule look like this week? What are the interesting match-ups? And winning on the road in the SEC in ANY sport is hard, and volleyball is no exception. With the Friday-Sunday schedule, road teams often have to find a way to prepare for two opponents, and if you win the first one, how do you get refocused on the 2nd match?
This week includes:
• Alabama hosting LSU then Tennessee: The Tide are 10-1, and now we will find out if they are ready to step up to play high-powered offenses like they will see from the Tigers and Vols.
• Auburn on the road at Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The Tigers are 9-1, and this will be a long and challenging road trip.
• Florida: at Arkansas, and at Kentucky. This will be challenging, but Florida no longer has what I always thought was the toughest road trip in the SEC, with Kentucky and Tennessee making life tough for the Gators. This is not easy at all, but it will be different preparing for this pair of opponents.
• Ole Miss – at Texas A&M, and at Missouri – This may be the new very hard travel combination in the SEC. A lot of travel and two very tough and seasoned teams back to back.
Now, before fans of other programs get upset, you could make cases for other teams as well, but the idea was just to highlight the new members of the SEC and the new road trips. We will do this every week, and see how the new teams fare in the SEC Competition.
I hope you follow the programs and go out and see one or more SEC mtches when you have the chance.