The SEC was a big reason we have a College Football Playoff these days as the conference was arrogant enough to push for the playoff because it thought two SEC teams could make it some years. Could the SEC actually be shut out in 2015? We examine.
Been While Since SEC Didn't Have Title Shot
The last time an SEC didn't play for the national championship -- and I'm including last year's Alabama squad as doing so because it least had a chance by reaching the College Football Playoff but losing in the Sugar Bowl to eventual national champion Ohio State -- was in the 2005 season when Vince Young and Texas won that thrilling Rose Bowl over Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and that dynastic USC team.
The next season, Florida thumped Ohio State in the first BCS National Championship Game to start a string of seven straight SEC national champions. That ended in the final BCS national title game two season ago when Florida State held off Auburn in another thrilling game at the Rose Bowl.
For a while last season, it looked like the SEC might get two teams in the playoff. In Week 9 of the AP Poll, Mississippi State was No. 1, Ole Miss No. 3, Alabama No. 4 and Auburn No. 5. In the first College Football Playoff rankings, Mississippi State was No. 1, Auburn No. 3 and Ole Miss No. 4 with Alabama at No. 6. Obviously the problem being that those four teams were all in the SEC West and obviously had to play one another.
Things worked themselves out. Mississippi State lost two of its final three regular-season games, at Alabama and Ole Miss. The Rebels lost three of their final five, at LSU, home to Auburn and at Arkansas. Auburn lost three of its final four, home to Texas A&M, at Georgia and at Alabama. The Tide didn't lose again in the regular season following a 23-17 defeat at Ole Miss on Oct. 4 and entered the playoff as the No. 1 team.
So what would have to happen for the SEC to miss the playoff? I would say one of two things. The first is that the SEC champion has one loss, and that it's not a good one, while the other four Power 5 Conferences, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, all have undefeated champions. It seems farfetched that happens. Maybe Ohio State runs the table in the Big Ten and either Baylor or TCU does in the Big 12, but the ACC is fairly wide open and the Pac-12 might be deeper than the SEC this season.
The other possibility would be for the SEC champion to have two losses (I'm assuming three losses is out of the question). What I'd really like to see is what if a two-loss Georgia beats an unbeaten Alabama or Auburn in the SEC title game? Do the Dawgs get a spot ahead of the Tide or Tigers? I do think the chance of any SEC team running the table in the regular season is very unlikely -- most of the top teams are replacing last year's starting quarterbacks or have QB questions.
Alabama is the +300 favorite to win the SEC at 5Dimes and +190 to make the four-team playoff. The Tide obviously face every SEC West team, including a trip to Auburn, and also have a tough neutral-site season opener against Wisconsin. Georgia is the +450 second-favorite to win the SEC and +450 to make the playoff. The Dawgs, who still don't know who their starting quarterback will be, could win every SEC East game but have to host Alabama, visit Auburn and close the regular season with a tough non-conference game at Georgia Tech.
Auburn is +475 to win the SEC and +350 to make the playoff, has the rugged SEC West schedule (including trips to LSU and Arkansas) as well as having to host Georgia. Of the Top 3 contenders, Auburn does have the best QB back in Jeremy Johnson, who replaces Nick Marshall but did see time as his backup the past two seasons. Some think Johnson might be better than Marshall.
I don't think any team but the three listed above has a shot at winning the SEC title game. Maybe LSU could be considered for College Football picks if the Tigers had a quarterback to go with star running back Leonard Fournette.
Free College Football Pick: SEC gets one, but just one, team in -- the league is just too well-respected.