Article by: Harrison Weaver
Growing up as a college football fan, I remember first-hand what the landscape usually looks like. Ever since I was a kid, I’d wake up on Saturday mornings, anxious to start my day with College Gameday and to watch the big headliner games throughout the day. Penn State was always on the TV, along with whatever the nationally broadcasted games were on. I distinctly remember a lot of them being colossal SEC battles. I also remember when South Carolina upset #1 Alabama back in 2010. Oh, and the instant classic #1 LSU versus #2 Alabama game from back in 2011. How about in 2009 when #1 Alabama blocked the game-winning field goal attempt to survive against Tennessee, or the famous Auburn kick-six to win the Iron Bowl in 2013. The list could go on and on. My point is that growing up, the SEC has run college football, and often times these conference matchups would play a huge part in who was the national champion that year.
However, in recent years, things have been a bit different.
In case you were one of the people making the argument that the SEC has declined in terms of depth and the number of title contenders it produces every year, you may have had a valid point for a little while. With the rise of the new Clemson dynasty in the ACC, a loaded Big 10, and a generally more balanced scale of power in college football, the SEC hasn’t been lights-out dominant like it was a few years ago. Let me highlight what that dominance looked like. For six straight years, from 2006-2012, an SEC team brought home the National Championship trophy. Florida and Alabama won 2, and LSU and Auburn both won once. The SEC has won 10 out of the last 15, and at least one SEC team has been featured in 11 of the last 12 National Championship games.
There is a catch though, strictly when it comes to discussing the balance of conference power. While all of those stats above are true, the SEC has only won 2 championships the past 6 years and each of those were thanks to Alabama. The SEC has been very top heavy as of recent. Most of the weight has been carried by Alabama and Georgia while teams like LSU, Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee, etc., have all been relatively disappointing over that span. With the Big 10 featuring Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa constantly in the Top 25, the Big 12 with Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and the ACC with Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Virginia, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, the PAC12 with Oregon, Washington, USC, Utah, Stanford, Washington State, Cal, Arizona State, the major conferences have become a lot more balanced top to bottom.
However, this year, we’re getting a little blast from the past. Heading into Week 5, the SEC has 6 teams in the Top 25, and 2 others in Missouri and Mississippi State that are knocking on the door. Of those 6 teams, 5 of them are in the Top 10, and 3 of them are Top 5. Here they are in order: #2 Alabama, #3 Georgia, #4 LSU, #7 Auburn, and # 9 Florida. Alabama is as good as they have ever been under Nick Saban. Georgia is picking up more steam after beating #7 Notre Dame last weekend in a hard-fought game. LSU has been a juggernaut on offense behind Joe Burrow as they’re averaging 57.8 points per game. For anybody who doubted Auburn and freshman QB Bo Nix, they’ve done nothing but impress with speed on offense and some impressive early victories. As for Florida, in case you were wondering how they’d do after losing starting QB Feleipe Franks to a season-ending injury, they’re humming right along with excellent defense and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.
The real fun begins next week when Auburn and Florida tee it off. This will be the beginning of the classic cannibalism that takes place as the top SEC teams beat each other up and it turns into a survival of the fittest. The following week, Florida takes on LSU and Alabama goes on the road to A&M. Week 9, we get LSU versus Auburn. Week 11, the brawl between Alabama and LSU. Week 12 we get a rematch of the Miracle at Jordan-Hare between Auburn and Georgia. And finally, on Week 14, the good ole Iron Bowl.
To sum everything up, the SEC is back and better than ever. We have yet to see who is going to win out in these matchups, or if they can all avoid upsets before they even happen. Either way, conference play in the SEC is going to be absolute war and the playing field is finally about even. All we have to do as fans is sit back and watch it all unfold.
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