By MIKE McCALL
November 11, 2012
Eventually, the results tell the story.
During the course of a season, preseason predictions and the idea of untapped potential are validated or proven false through wins, losses and performance.
After seven games, that’s the point we’ve reached with Southern. And the conclusion makes sense.
This is not a Southwestern Athletic Conference title contender. And it’s also not a hapless bottom-feeder. For all the analyzing and guessing — even hoping and wishing — it looks like the Jaguars are right about where you’d expect from the most basic of observations.
They returned most of the key players off teams that went 2-9 in 2010 and 4-7 in 2011, and they appear destined to finish this year about the same or just slightly better.
At 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the SWAC, SU is just about done in the conference championship race. The clearest path would be to win out and have Arkansas-Pine Bluff drop three of its last four — and both of those events are pretty unlikely.
None of Southern’s final four games are cakewalks. Alabama A&M and Alabama State are arguably the best two teams in the league, and even the easiest games remaining won’t be freebies.
Prairie View, which started 0-5, has reeled off two straight wins and piled up 52 points last week. And Grambling, whose only win came over Virginia University at Lynchburg, only has one thing left to play for in its dismal season: beating SU in the Bayou Classic.
And thus, anything is still possible for this squad, which has been all over the map performance-wise. But this far into the season, patterns have emerged.
Don’t expect more than two or three touchdowns from the offense, which has only deviated significantly from that average against the conference’s best and worst defenses. The receivers aren’t just going to run by everyone and catch the ball — that last part is especially no guarantee — on every drive, but the talent will shine through on occasion.
The offensive line won’t magically congeal into an NFL-caliber unit capable of creating a running game, and while the defense has played very well for most of the year, it’s not going to pitch a bunch of shutouts.
Kicking, as always, is a wild card, and with a slew of injuries across the board, none of these areas are going to start playing their most consistently now.
This year brought hope that things would click and that 2012 would mark the return of the Jaguars. But in the end, it’s mostly the same players doing the same things they’ve done in the past, maybe just a tad better.
All that remains are two title contenders, a team on the rise and a heated rival. That’s not the recipe for a flawless finish, and in all likelihood, they’ll split them and wind up just ahead of last year’s pace at 5-6.
In truth, that’s about where they should be, and Southern doesn’t appear due for any kind of magical transformation into a winner in the next year or two.
It’s not the end of the world; it’s just the way it is.
The record proves it.