Last season, the dominance of the SEC West couldn’t be ignored by any rational college football fan, regardless of their loyalties to their respective leagues.
The LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide battled out twice as top-ranked teams. The Arkansas Razorbacks had one of the best seasons in their history only to be third best in the division. Indeed, the SEC West was so deep that with the three split apart, each one could have won any other conference title in the country.
But that was then and this is now. All the hype was back on the table for the West. Even with Alabama losing so many players and being as young as they are, they were expected to compete and they have. But after Alabama, there is a serious drop-off. LSU still sits undefeated on the year, but two lack-luster performances against the Auburn Tigers and the lowly Towson Tigers have generated plenty of speculation as to what they’re capable of, and the pollsters have noticed.
For a rising team like the Florida Gators who play LSU this weekend in The Swamp, it’s like a lion seeing a wounded gazelle hobbling across the horizon in the distance; they’ve already gone to College Station and beat the Texas A&M Aggies, as well as taken a trip to Knoxville and battled out a solid win against a clearly-improved Tennessee Volunteers team.
Florida knows they are capable of beating LSU at home this Saturday. Giving Florida a little added incentive to this game isn’t a good thing either, and that’s exactly what they have since ESPN College Gameday snubbed them in favor of going to Columbia, South Carolina.
With these elements discussed put into consideration, as well as looking at both divisions from top to bottom, it’s time for the question to be asked…is the SEC East better than the SEC West?
Both divisions have the same amount of wins overall. Both have bottom dwellers that haven’t fared very well. To me though, I look at the aforementioned Gators as well as Arkansas. I’ll spare the fans from Fayetteville the additional scrutiny that they’re probably sick of hearing at this point, but obviously they haven’t provided the same intimidation factor they did last year. LSU and Arkansas are down, and it’s affected the image of the division.
Now, one can say that the Mississippi State Bulldogs are having a rising season and I’m sold on that. Many who assume that “it’s just Mississippi State,” I believe, are in for quite a shell-shock. College football is a game of momentum and emotion and the Bulldogs have it all right now. I’m going to make an extremely bold prediction and say that they will beat either Alabama or LSU. It really can be their year.
But is the rising stock of Mississippi State enough to keep the profile of the West looking good? Hardly. We’ve looked at the top, but even at the bottom it’s hard to count out Tennessee or the Vanderbilt Commodores playing against anyone. Tennessee isn’t at all the same team they were last season, and Vanderbilt proved in the first game of the season that they can play a team extremely tough if they’re focused.
The SEC newbies, Texas A&M and the Missouri Tigers have played at about the level they were expected coming into the season. Texas A&M was supposed to beat Florida, but we didn’t know how good Florida was. They’ve destroyed everyone in their path since then. Missouri lost a very good game to Georgia Bulldogs before being destroyed by the South Carolina Gamecocks, but even Mizzou has looked decent in a season where they’ve been the black sheep of the conference.
But to bring this whole point to fruition, it’s all about the two previously mentioned teams in Georgia and South Carolina. Both have a defensive end that should be a first team All-American. Jarvis Jones has even worked his way to the top of Mel Kiper, Jr.’s draft board.
I firmly believe that Georgia will go to Columbia and not just beat South Carolina, but do so convincingly. There’s just no team in the East that can measure up to Georgia. But even with that said, I also believe that South Carolina would beat LSU. And right on schedule, they just so happen to play next week.
To truly convince everyone that the East is better however, I think it will take Georgia beating Alabama in the SEC championship game. Can it happen? It’s simply too soon to tell. Far too much can happen in between now and then for both teams to know who would win this game. One thing is certain though…the Georgia Bulldogs are in national championship form. Is it good enough to take down Alabama? I think we’ll get our answer in December.