The SEC is the best football conference in the game. We’ve heard that for years now, because it was always true. Look at the National Championships from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers since 2003. The Tennessee Volunteers won the first BCS National Championship in 1998 and by the last one in 2013, the SEC had won more than the other conferences combined. This included a run beginning in 2006 when the Gators beat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the championship game all the way to 2013 when the Florida State Seminoles beat Auburn in the final seconds finally giving a championship to another league. After the Buckeyes won it in 2014, it was back to business as usual in 2015 with the Tide winning yet another one.
But, also with the SEC wasn’t just that they would win the championship, but they were brutal from top to bottom. They had teams like the Texas A&M Aggies, who haven’t won the whole thing, but produced a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Johnny Manziel. They have had several big years since joining the league, with some big bowl wins. The Ole Miss Rebels, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, South Carolina Gamecocks and Missouri Tigers have all had success in recent years. Georgia was very close to playing for a National Championship in 2012, when they wound up winning the Sugar Bowl. Ditto Ole Miss last season. South Carolina had three straight 11-win seasons under Steve Spurrier. Mississippi State played in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago. Mizzou won a Cotton Bowl.
So when five (so far) SEC teams lost in their season opening games this weekend to non-conference teams, that was huge news. It wasn’t just that five of them lost to outsiders, but it was also who beat them. The South Alabama Jaguars? The Southern Miss Golden Eagles? The Wisconsin Badgers? The West Virginia Mountaineers? OK, nobody was shocked at the Clemson Tigers beating Auburn. That was actually a lot closer than people thought it would be. But Wisconsin was unranked and beat the #5 Tigers. West Virginia was favored over Mizzou so that’s ok. But the Kentucky Wildcats were up 35-17 on Southern Miss and wound up losing 44-35! Ouch. And the South Alabama Jags beat Mississippi State?
But, that’s not all. Let’s talk about several other games where the SEC won, but not impressively. Appalachian State went to Knoxville and took Tennessee into overtime. In actuality, they should have won. The Arkansas Razorbacks had to pull out a one point win over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 21-20. The Gators were in a 10-7 game after three quarters against the UMass Minutemen before winning 24-7. And in the one SEC game this weekend, the Gamecocks and Vanderbilt Commodores played a 13-10 snoozer which Carolina pulled out at the end.
Of the 14 SEC teams. only the Tide, Georgia, Auburn and Texas A&M came away feeling good about themselves and Auburn lost while A&M had to go to overtime to beat the UCLA Bruins at home.
So while Alabama could very well win another National Championship, everyone else in the SEC is beatable. If Ole Miss loses to FSU on Monday night, they may not be any better than the third or fourth best conference.