Game of Thrones is a remarkable television series that has just started its final season. It is also home to perhaps the most dominant army in television history—the Army of the Dead. This, in turn, begs the inevitable question of whether the Army of the Dead could handle the grind of an SEC schedule? I address this important question today by balancing the Army of the Dead’s strengths against its weaknesses.
First, the strengths:
1. Recruiting. When the Army of the Dead defeats you, you become one of them. So we have to assume that if they beat an SEC team, they then get their pick of the defeated team’s best players. That’s a tremendous recruiting advantage.
2. Depth. The Army of the Dead is the largest force the Seven Kingdoms have ever seen. You destroy one of their soldiers, and another, virtually identical soldier steps right into its place. Kirby Smart literally dreams of having a stack of soulless destruction machines on his sideline like the Army of the Dead.
3. Durability. The Army of the Dead doesn’t have an injured reserve list, because they don’t need one. The only way to get them off the playing field is to completely destroy them.
4. Coaching. The Army of the Dead is led by the Night King, an unflappable, ruthless individual who never utters a word. His orders—which are followed without question—come through steel-eyed stares and hand gestures. Nick Saban’s ultimate goal for years has been to transform into a mute authoritarian who destroys everything in his path with a determined look, so you’ve got to respect the Night King for his accomplishments. The ability to communicate without words would also benefit the Army of the Dead when dealing with a hostile SEC road crowd.
Now let’s consider the weaknesses:
1. Weak Schedule. Who the hell has the Army of the Dead played, exactly? The Night’s Watch? That was a bunch of old men, criminals, and other societal outcasts. Imagine a state prison and a senior citizens home combined to create a football team, and that’s the Night’s Watch. Not impressed. The Wildlings? They were a wannabe 1980’s Miami team of undisciplined renegades, but without the immense talent. And that’s pretty much it. Thus, the Army of the Dead is basically 2007 Hawaii without Colt Brennan or June Jones.
2. Cold Weather Team. There is absolutely no chance the Army of the Dead could handle the heat and humidity of an early-season SEC road trip. Time and time again we’ve seen what happens when a team from outside of the south ventures down to the SEC for an early-season matchup. They wilt almost immediately in the heat and humidity (see State, Boise 2005). The Army of the Dead is even less prepared, because they’ve spent their entire existence playing in the snow. Send them down to Columbia, South Carolina on a humid, early September aftertoon when it’s 96 degrees, and let’s see how much good an ice-breathing dragon does them.
3. No SEC Speed. The Army of the Dead has been trudging south since 2011. That’s eight years, and they haven’t even gotten to Winterfell yet. I haven’t done (and, indeed, will never do) the math, but you’ve got to imagine they all have double-digit forty times and downright horrendous shuttle numbers, and that just isn’t going to cut it against the sideline-to-sideline speed you see in the SEC. There’s no chance their offensive line could handle a Quinnen Williams or a Roquan Smith or that their defense could set the outside edge against an Alvin Kamara or Sony Michel. Remember the 2006 national championship between Ohio State and Florida? Now imagine that Ohio State had played with cement blocks glued to their cleats, and you’ve got the Army of the Dead.
4. Scholarship Limitations. Given the Army of the Dead’s sheer size, it appears that the Night King has taken a page out of the Bear Bryant playbook by handing out scholarships like candy to each and every recruit that crosses his path. That might have been a good strategy fifty years ago, but it won’t cut it today with the 85-scholarship limit. And from what I can see, the Army of the Dead is mostly made up of scrawny two-stars, not the four and five-star specimens needed to win the battle in the trenches against a top-tier SEC team.
When you balance these factors, it’s pretty clear that the Army of the Dead simply could not handle the grind of an SEC schedule. Yes, they have an impressive head coach and remarkable physical durability, but ultimately, the speed, size, depth, and experience of the SEC would overwhelm them. I’ve got them going 3-9 overall, and 0-8 in-conference with competitive losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas.