HomeCultureHow the South Stacks up in the Nation (SEC)

How the South Stacks up in the Nation (SEC)

With six of nine national championships (including the last four in a row) since the NCAA adopted the College Football Playoff format ahead of the 2014-15 season, everyone knows that the SEC dominates college football—even if they don’t want to admit it. The SEC finished the 2022-23 season occupying six of the top 25 spots, including three of the top six.

The first AP poll of the year won’t come out for a few more weeks, unfortunately, as voters hold off until summer practices are in full swing. Here’s a look at how the SEC is expected to perform, though, as the conference appears to continue its run of dominance through the sport.

A Three-Peat in the Making?

One of the things that make the SEC stand out among the rest of the crowd is the ability of its member programs to reload without missing a beat, year after year. Look at the Georgia Bulldogs, who won the 2021-22 national championship game and promptly lost a whopping 15 players to the NFL Draft, including five defensive players in the first round alone.

How did the Bulldogs respond to the talent drain? By running it back with a second consecutive championship, fielding one of the best defenses in the history of college football despite the wealth of players they lost, and seeing another 10 players drafted into the big leagues.

Fast-forward another season, and the Bulldogs are almost certain to be the darlings once again.
It doesn’t matter that Georgia lost quarterback Stetson Bennett to the draft (along with most of the rest of the team). Nor does it matter that the Bulldogs look to trot out Carson Beck, a junior who’s made just 58 pass attempts (nearly all of them in blowouts) across three years to begin his college career. Barring something dramatic happening, the Bulldogs are going to be in the thick of it once again when the 2023 season starts, just as they have been for half a decade.

Quick Turnover

In the era of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals and the free for all that is the transfer portal, the allure of the SEC grows stronger than ever. The Kentucky Wildcats serve as a perfect example of that fact, as they retooled an offensive line that was brutal in 2022 with four new faces from the transfer portal, as well as signal caller Devin Leary (who played lights out in 2021 with 35 touchdowns to just five interceptions before struggling through an injury-plagued 2022 campaign) to replace second-round draft pick Will Levis.

From the outside looking in, the Wildcats left little to be excited for in 2022 after a dismal 3-6 record down the stretch saw them fall below .500 for the season. Even so, their run on the transfer portal shows that they remain a top landing spot for excellent young players, and head coach Mark Stoops could have something special cooking as he enters his 11th season with the Wildcats. Kentucky sportsbook promos have all you Wildcat fans covered as college football is less than a month away (week one begins on August 26 with a slate of seven games), and you can bet the South will be well represented in the AP Top 25 rankings.

Bama, Back to Their Old Ways?

Try though Georgia head man Kirby Smart may, when one thinks of the SEC’s dominance, the conversation often begins and ends with Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who has built an empire in Tuscaloosa as he enters his 17th season with the program (having recorded six national titles in that time). Like the Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide see plenty of players siphoned off to the pros each season. The loss of 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and 2023 first overall draft pick Bryce Young is sure to sting Saban, but the Tide don’t always perform their best when they have an NFL-caliber quarterback at the helm: consider the 2015 season, when Jake Coker (who never played a down in the NFL) led them to a national championship. It’s a fool’s errand to ever count Saban out.

Dark Horses to Remember

It’s difficult to have a bonafide dark horse in a conference with the level of media attention that the SEC draws, though that’s not for lack of trying. Teams like the South Carolina Gamecocks—led by one-time Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler—and the Texas A&M Aggies—one of last year’s pre-season favorites thanks to the potent combo of head coach Jimbo Fisher and the highest-ranked recruiting class in the history of college football before falling flat on their collective faces out of the gate—will get plenty of buzz as the dog days of summer set in during training camp.

The LSU Tigers, similarly, could be set to explode after suffering through growing pains in their first year under Brian Kelly. Even in what felt like a down year (if you can call 10 wins that), LSU managed to win the SEC West crown, and they’ll retain 81 percent of 2022’s offensive production (as well as 60 percent of last year’s defensive output). Keep an eye on the bayou, as the Tigers could be ready to pounce.

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