Nearly two years ago, Alabama lost a football game to Ole Miss, causing a trio of college football officianados over at FS1 to proclaim the Crimson Tide dynasty dead.
Alabama promptly won its next 26 games, including a fourth national championship in seven seasons and came within a hair of winning a fifth in eight seasons.
Even in an industry currently built on hot takes, this one was blasphemous from the start. Luckily, it’s all on video for the world to make fun of.
While all three have since repented for their sins, two of them — Joel Klatt and Colin Cowherd — now have bigger fish to fry: The entire Southeastern Conference.
Both agree that Nick Saban and his Galactic Empire are an unstoppable force, but both no longer consider the SEC college football’s premier conference. It appears that after burying themselves alive last time, they’ve decided to use their second chance as an opportunity to revisit the shed and grab the shovels again.
However, this time, Cowherd and Klatt have an ally: Vegas.
That’s right. According to Vegas Insiders, a handful of SEC teams are underdogs heading into the opening week.
It’s unfair to simply label their argument as a Vegas one, as both agree that aside from Saban, the SEC head coaching situation is a strikingly average. Ed Orgeron is the new face at LSU, and that should excite nobody after Coach O burned Ole Miss to the ground. Speaking of Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze is out after an unfortunate case of accidentally dialing a hooker. Gus Malzahn has Auburn stuck in 8-win purgatory. Bret Bielema has Arkansas stuck in 7-win purgatory. Does any coach in the SEC East really move the needle?
Meanwhile, the ACC and Big Ten — the two conferences most commonly dubbed college football’s strongest — are stacked with quality head coaches. Clemson is 60-9 with a national championship under Dabo Swinney since 2012. In that same span, Florida State is 59-9 with a championship under Jimbo Fisher.
The Big Ten has the strongest collection of coaches in Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), James Franklin (Penn State), and Mark Dantonio (Michigan State). With P.J. Fleck now at Minnesota, the conference is officially on coaching steroids.
Lastly, both point out that the SEC isn’t dominating recruiting like they used to. Currently, 247Sports has zero teams in their top-5 composite rankings for the 2018 recruiting cycle.
Cowherd and Klatt both make valid points on why the SEC is no longer what it used to be. My contort is simple — of course it isn’t. An SEC team won the championship every year from 2006-2012. During the first-ever unveiling of the College Football Playoff in 2014, three teams from the SEC West made the cut. When it comes to producing NFL talent, no conference can compare to the SEC over the past 15 or so years.
It’s no surprise the SEC had a down year where every team not named Alabama lost at least four games. It was bound to happen, but there’s simply too much elite talent for the downward trend to continue. But simply because the SEC experienced a minor dent in its armor doesn’t mean they’ve relinquished the throne just yet.
The problem that plagued the SEC last season was quarterback play. Heading into 2017, while a few teams still face questions at the position, it’s a lot more solidified across the board, and that should help the conference tremendously.
In regards to the Vegas odds, while the people over at Sin City are extremely intelligent, basing an arguments over point spreads in games featuring teams we know very little about is a tad ridiculous. After all, Alabama was only a 9.5-point favorite over USC last season and Roll Tide rolled over the Trojans by 46 points.
While there isn’t a strong counterpoint to the coaching argument, what separates the SEC from every other conference is the talent level. While no team in the conference currently ranks in the top 5, two of the teams within the top 5 feature new coaches (Texas, Oregon), another two have newfound momentum thanks to excitement surrounding recently hired coaches (Miami, Penn State) and the other is Ohio State. This one slight edge in recruiting for a class that won’t be relevant until 2020 doesn’t mean the SEC’s talent is crumbling before our very eyes. Because in 2016, the SEC’s mid-level teams were still destroying the Big Ten’s mid-level teams by scoresof 45-6 and 31-3.
The SEC facing a serious challenge is great for college football, but if you think for a second the conference is no longer the cream of the crop, be careful what you wish for.