First, thanks to Kyle for allowing me to post what will probably be both my first and last guest posting at Dawg Sports. (Because, really, if you create a very long post about soccer on what is primarily a college football and baseball blog, should you expect to get invited back?)
I am a soccer fan. My two favorite sports, in order, are college football and soccer. Not only that, but soccer has been able to make a "blip" back onto the radar of the average sports fan in our country recently with the USA's highly improbable run to the Confederations Cup final and subsequent
stomping-on of our face with a hobnail boot loss to Brazil. Heck, even MaconDawg used a soccer analogy in one of his recent posts. In addition, soccer fans around the world are the only group that tend to be more fanatical and bent on rioting and destruction than college football fans outside of West Virginia.
So, rather than coming up with a run-of-the-mill 2009 college football prediction, I've chosen to pair each SEC team, plus a few other notable teams from around the country, with a national soccer team that they share many similarities with, both on and off the field. Your
personal mockery joke about Zinedine Zidane feedback is appreciated.
1) Florida - Spain - Depending on who you ask, either the #1 or #2 team in the world. Easily one of the favorites to win it all. While being stacked with talented players, however, this team has holes that can be exploited by the right teams. They won't lose many games, and could certainly win a championship, but a couple of losses and a disappointing (for them) finish shouldn't be that surprising, either. Also, both states have great beaches, beautiful ladies, and at least 4 very distinct demographic regions, none of which really like each other.
2) Georgia - Germany - Distinguished history of great coaches, players, and championships, but wandered through the sporting wilderness for what seemed like forever in the '90's. Has recently enjoyed a resurgence of prestige, and has been generally considered one of the best teams in its league consistently over the past few years. Off the field, the state was split for many years in the past between the fun-loving, free, geographically-diverse crowd and their no-sense-of-humor, mostly from the city, lord-every-athletic-win-over-you-as-an-example-of-how-superior-they-are neighbors. Several years ago, however, certain barriers were breached, and now the state is generally unified in support of the good guys. They'll be good, but it would be a moderate upset if they win a championship.
3) Kentucky - Switzerland - Really a very good team, but the league they're in is just too tough to advance much farther than the place they are now. Also, lots of financial transactions that men don't want certain governmental agencies (or their wives) to know about happen in this place.
Was this picture taken in a Swiss bank vault or in the counting room at Churchill Downs on Derby Day?
4) South Carolina - Japan - Fans are to be commended for their long-time ardent and strong support of their team. Given the team's consistent mediocrity, however, one wonders if hara-kiri isn't a less painful option. Despite their diminutive geographical size, both of their respective states have managed to start two of the bloodiest wars in U.S. history. Also, both have had a field general generally regarded in the past as an evil genius. They have no chance to win a championship of any kind.
5) Vanderbilt - Scotland - Forgotten second-fiddle in their own home. Their team has promise but significant inherent disadvantages (being an academic power in an athletics-focused conference, being a beautiful mostly-wilderness
quasi-country semi-autonomous region really just a part of another country where it's cold and dark much of the year). Most of their real accomplishments on the field occurred many years ago. They make noise every now and then, and their fans get excited at the prospect of a tie or a close loss, but you'll never see a championship from them. This year, as usual, both teams have the chance to be good, but neither probably will be.
6) Tennessee - Czech Republic - Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once unquestionably among the best every year (The Czechs inherited the history of Czechoslovakia), this team's recent results have just been embarassing. They have lost to teams they had no business losing to, and they've failed to consistently compete against the top-level teams. They've recently hired a new coach, and the jury is decidedly out on whether the new guy will help or harm the current situation. Personally, I think the coach is overrated, and the talent level, while not terrible, is certainly depleted somewhat, so I think both teams will crash and burn in the next year.
I know Coach Kiffin thinks his team is more like a combination of Brazil and Argentina, except better, but I'm afraid it just ain't so until you prove it on the field.
1) LSU - France - The off-field comparisons are obvious. Both states are filled with native french speakers, and their fan bases display far too many fleur-de-lis to be considered manly in virtually any other environment. French fans almost always bring live chickens to their matches, since it's their mascot (seriously), while some of the drunker LSU fans have been known to eat live chickens right before their games. (Ok, I'm making that one up. But doesn't it sound like something a drunk Cajun would do?)
Also, in the most recent international war fought on their home soil, both states spent most of the war occupied and collaborating with the enemy. On the field, however, both teams are formidable, and have won a number of championships. They also both figure to be good this year, though they have struggled at times.
Can't you totally picture Les Miles doing this to a reporter who, while interviewing him at halftime, asked if he was still planning to leave for the Michigan job?
2) Arkansas - Australia - In the interest of friendship, I will restrain from making a criminals and crazy-people joke. (Also, the crazies and criminals in Arkansas would probably hunt me down and kill me. For some reason, though, Australians seem to take pride in the fact that they were settled by criminals and crazies.) Recently switched from a league with more natural geographic similarities to one with better competition and a better chance to win it all. They have been surprisingly good over the latter half of last year, and look like they could seriously be a team to be reckoned with, if they can keep their form.
3) Alabama - Italy - These teams have great history, and have won more championships than virtually any other team in their sport. They also have a reputation, not altogether undeserved, as rampant, unapologetic cheaters. In addition, they are losing much of their best talent due to eligibility (Bama) or advanced age (Italy). They've got some promising younger players, but in the league they're in, youngsters are just as likely to get eaten for lunch as have success. Their coach is considered a miracle worker, and many people think he alone could take them to the promised land again. These people forget, however, that coaches can't play on the field. These teams will disappoint (by their definition) this time around.
4) Ole Miss - England - They've only won 1 real national/world championship, but somehow they still seem to think that they're the lords of all the football world. Up until last year, they'd been positively putrid on the field recently. After hiring a new coach, though, they've seen a remarkable turn of form and have been very impressive. Most people have them as one of the league favorites right now, but I just don't think they'll turn out to be as good as everyone thinks they are. Just like they usually do, they'll find a way to screw it up when expectations are high. (Unlike England, however, the Ole Miss fans still have the beautiful ladies and the Grove to look forward to.)
God Bless America
5) Auburn - Mexico - These guys have had some great times in the past, but they're done and dusted for the time being. They both had coaches with good track records, but somebody in the administration must not have a very good memory, because they also both recently fired those coaches. Now they've hired a coach with virtually no big-time track record, and they're going to suffer for it... until they fire him, too. They might even suffer the ultimate humiliation of not being bowl eligible/not qualifying for the World Cup.
There are other similarities, too. Note that in the picture, the man holding the sign is wearing a Mexico jersey, and has his face painted in the colors of the Mexican flag.
6) Mississippi State - Azerbaijan - Undersized and under-funded in a league built for big boys. You're not exactly sure where they're located, and in truth you probably don't really want to know.
Other Notable Teams:
USC - Brazil - The juggernaut powerhouse who always seems to lose at least one game a year that they shouldn't. They never really go away, though, and they almost always step it up big-time in big games. It doesn't hurt that both places are surrounded by women with unreal bodies and bronzed tans that would make even the Pope fidget nervously.
If you look very carefully, you'll notice a Brazilian flag in the picture on the right.
Notre Dame - Portugal - Both teams have a very proud history, and have won championships with great teams and coaches in the past. Also, the
best most celebrated player on both teams is generally overrated and looks totally gay. Both teams are supposed to be really good this year, but in actuality both are terrible.
Ohio State - USA - This team gets a LOT of press because of the fact that they're located in a very populous state with several significant media markets. They play in a weak league, though, and because of that, they're almost never really as good as billed.
Their #1 rival, who used to regularly overshadow them, has tanked recently, and that has helped them solidify their hold as the #1 team in their region (for now). When they play the best in the sport, they've occasionally shown flashes of brilliance, but more often than not they end up running back home with their tail between their legs. (They also almost never voluntarily schedule a game outside their home state.) A championship this year isn't out of the question, I guess, but is a really unrealistic expectation, since it would be a huge upset if it did happen.
If you're an Ohio State and/or USA Soccer fan and expect a championship, this is your lot in life