Why the SEC Won't Miss the College Football Playoff Anytime Soon

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 3:04 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 6, 2018 3:04 PM UTC

The SEC is primed to contend in College Football Playoff for years to come; top recruiting, cutthroat competition and easy non-conference scheduling helps.

The SEC is considered by most the best conference in college football. It lures the greatest coaching minds and top prep players year after year, a combination required to contend for titles. Nine of the last 12 national champions, in fact, hail from the powerhouse conference. Last year, Alabama topped SEC foe Georgia 26-23 as a 3.5-point favorite to win the College Football Playoff. It is not surprising they sit as the first and fourth betting choices on the oddsboard to claim the national championship via 5Dimes:

School National Champion Odds
Alabama +200
Georgia +850
Auburn +2500
LSU +3600
Florida +5500
Texas A&M +7500
Mississippi State +11000
Missouri +13500
South Carolina +27500
Ole Miss +40000
Tennessee +40000
Arkansas +50000
Kentucky +75000
Vanderbilt +120000

There isn’t going to be a CFP drop off anytime soon in the cutthroat conference due to the perennial batches of prospects. In 2017, six SEC programs made up the top 10 best recruiting classes nationally over the last five years per Rivals.com: Alabama (1.2 class rank), LSU (5.8), Georgia (7.8), Auburn (9.6), Texas A&M (10.8) and Florida (11.6). One reason for the constant influx of superior talent is in response to Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. He has changed the recruiting game, creating a pseudo-player personnel department and constructing facilities (weight room, dining hall, etc) rivaling that of the NFL teams. Alabama compiled the consensus No. 1 class of incoming players nationally eight years in a row, ending this year. Saban has attracted 40-plus 5-star players since 2008.

SEC programs also benefit from a fairly benign schedule. It is one of two (ACC) Power Five conferences not required to play a 9-game division schedule. Often, this spot on the calendar is reserved for a lesser FBS or FCS program. Since 2001, the SEC has scheduled 289 games against Conference USA and Sun Belt schools alone. The average line is -21.3 points. This “gimme” game helps SEC programs avoid a potential defeat to a conference rival while allowing a week to recuperate. It almost assures at least one school concludes the regular season with one loss or less, therefore meeting the unwritten qualification for a CFP invite.

Top SEC College Football Playoff Contenders

Alabama (+200)

2017: 13-1 SU, 6-8 ATS

The reigning college football champion is the favorite once again to win it all at +200 odds. Until Saban retires, this spot will be reserved for the program each year. It has played in the CFP championship game in each of the last three seasons, claiming victory twice.

The 2018 schedule is particularly easy this year. Out-of-conference foes include a rebuilding Louisville, Arkansas State and The Citadel. Advanced lines pit the Crimson Tide 10-point favorites at LSU and 7-point chalk hosting Auburn in the Iron Bowl in their two toughest SEC matchups. Saban has suffered multiple conference losses once (2010, 5-3) since a 7-6 campaign in his inaugural season (2007).

Georgia (+850)

2017: 13-2 SU, 11-4 ATS

The Bulldogs are chock-full of confidence and young talent. They attracted eight 5-star prospects in 2018, most of any program in the country. Their out-of-conference schedule includes Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, UMass and a weakened Georgia Tech. Georgia hosts LSU and Auburn at Sanford Stadium in its two toughest SEC tests. It is a favorite in advanced lines in each, laying just a field goal to Auburn in Week 10; might as well place the Bulldogs in the SEC title game now.

Auburn (+2500)

2017: 10-4 SU, 5-7-2 ATS

The Tigers definitely have a resume-builder for a schedule. It kicks off the season a 4-point favorite against Washington in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They are 33-6 SU against non-SEC Power Five opponents in their last 39 contests as the betting favorite. Alabama State, Southern Miss., and Liberty comprise the rest of the non-conference schedule. SEC battles include home dates against LSU and Texas A&M. Three tough road trips include Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are underdogs in advanced lines for the latter pair. The good news is Auburn has at least one outright win each season catching points in an SEC contest since 2012.

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