SEC Depth Chart
By BJ Bennett
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
Take away the best and the worst of the SEC and what do you have? A league that still might be as good as it gets in college football.
Considering the SEC has won six straight BCS national championships and last year's title bout was essentially the conference championship game, take II, it's easy to focus on the thought that this could be yet another banner year for the league. Alabama and LSU are both regulars in the pre-season top three of seemingly all polls released this summer; Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina have not been too far behind.
With last season's finale in mind, the top of the SEC may very well be the best in college football. That said, the rest of the league, ironically enough, could be even better.
Conferences often pride themselves on their depth and balance. Such arguments on blogs and forums have long focused on the "meat and potatoes" of the various leagues, the center slice that many believe is the best representation of just how good a conference actually is. Take away the best (Alabama, LSU) and the worst (Kentucky, Ole Miss) of the SEC and what do you have? A league that still might be as good as it gets in college football.
"There's no question about it," acknowledged Lindy Davis of Lindy's Sports Annuals about the rising competitiveness in the SEC. "It's been a brutal league for a long time and it's just getting better and better."
Even without the Crimson Tide and Tigers, the SEC would have three likely pre-season top ten teams this fall in Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina. The Razorbacks, based on talent alone, appear good enough to make a run at the national championship. The Bulldogs return veteran quarterback Aaron Murray and ten starters from a top five defense in the country a year ago. Fresh off of their best season in school history, the Gamecocks bring back star running back Marcus Lattimore from injury.
Beyond those five, Florida is expected to make considerable progress in year two of the Will Muschamp era. Auburn is being projected to finish 5th in their own division by prognosticators, yet still has high expectations after 30 total wins the past three seasons. Mississippi State, with two straight bowl victories, continues to move in the right direction. Tennessee is led by now-healthy quarterback Tyler Bray, who some expect to be the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Even Vanderbilt made an appearance in the Liberty Bowl a year ago and is riding an unprecedented wave of momentum under head coach James Franklin.
Then, there are the newcomers.
Missouri won eight games in 2011 and is being led by a dynamic offense in their venture east. Quarterback James Franklin scored 36 total touchdowns last season, tailback Henry Josey rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and the Tigers will welcome the nation's number one recruit, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, to the perimeter. Texas A&M enters after leading all of college football in sacks a season ago. The Aggies won just seven games, but lost five games by one score.
"I think there is a bigger buzz around the league. It's always exciting around this time every year,but I think A&M and Missouri coming in has created a bigger buzz around the conference. The SEC will elevate both of these programs, they both come from big markets. I think they will be players in this league and make it an even stronger league," Davis added.
In what will be a historic season in the SEC, this will again be a conference defined by its top teams. It will be the rest of the league, however, that in some ways truly makes the SEC what it is.