So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Go figure that a historically dominant Tennessee team didn’t reach Omaha, yet there’s still a possibility for the SEC to have its best College World Series ever.

Well, if you asked those outside of Knoxville, they’d probably tell you a lack of orange in Omaha is probably the conference’s biggest victory. We won’t debate that today.

What is actually worth debating is what it would take in order for this to be the SEC’s best College World Series ever. It’s possible, and not just because the SEC has half the field (and 3/4 of the field if we’re including future SEC teams Oklahoma and Texas). It’s not about simply the amount of teams in the field. Remember, the SEC also had 4 teams in the field in 2019, 2015, 2004 and 1997. The 1997 College World Series is actually the only one of that group that’s even up for the title of “SEC’s best College World Series ever.”

Why? Just like in football, I think we can only call it an all-time great College World Series is if its an all-SEC title game. There were 4 such instances of that:

  • 1997 — LSU vs. Alabama
  • 2011 — South Carolina vs. Florida
  • 2017 — Florida vs. LSU
  • 2021 — Vanderbilt vs. MSU

To a certain extent, it’s irrelevant what happens in the title series. At least if we’re discussing the SEC’s best College World Series ever.

So let’s take it a step further with those 4 series. How many SEC teams made it to the semifinals in each?

  • 1997 — 2 (LSU, Alabama)
  • 2011 — 3 (South Carolina, Florida, Vanderbilt)
  • 2017 — 2 (Florida, LSU)
  • 2021 — 2 (Vanderbilt, MSU)

Ding, ding, ding! We have our winner. The 2011 College World Series is the bar to reach. In addition to having an all-SEC title series, we’d need to see the SEC put at least 3 teams in the semifinals.

Obviously if the SEC puts 4 teams in the semifinals in 2022, shut it down. The discussion is over.

That’ll be a challenge with Auburn and Ole Miss facing off in the opening game, but hey, never say never. After all, we’re talking about a conference that just sent 4 teams to Omaha and its best team wasn’t one of them.

The SEC coaches in the field have all been to Omaha before, and they have a combined 21 victories in Omaha (Butch Thompson has 0, Mike Bianco has 2, Dave Van Horn has 8 and Jim Schlossnagle has 11). Of course, none of them has the most important victory. Nobody has a national title to their name.

Then again, that didn’t matter last year when Chad Lemonis led MSU to the university’s first national title in a team sport. Six of the past 8 CWS champions were led by managers who had never won it all. That trend will continue in 2022 because no manager left in the field has a title. Van Horn is the only manager in the field who finished as a runner-up.

Without Tennessee, the field does truly feel wide open. As of Tuesday morning, FanDuel’s odds to win it all suggest this thing can go a number of ways:

  • Stanford: +450
  • Texas: +450
  • Notre Dame: +550
  • Arkansas: +550
  • Texas A&M: +550
  • Auburn: +700
  • Ole Miss: +1000
  • Oklahoma: +1200

That suggests the field is certainly different than 2011 when South Carolina entered as the defending champs in the midst of a 55-win season, wherein it didn’t lose a single game in the postseason. That year, there were 5 teams who entered the field with 50-plus wins. This year? Nobody in the College World Series has 50 wins yet. There’s parity galore. Shoot, there’s even parity within the SEC teams remaining in the field:

Maybe the “up for grabs” feel to this year’s CWS benefits the conference with the most depth, or maybe that sets up well for a team like Notre Dame that hasn’t been to Omaha in 20 years. Lord knows that didn’t hold the Irish back from walking into Knoxville and pulling off the upset of the year. Perhaps in a very un-football-like development, Notre Dame is about to break more SEC hearts en route to a title.

Obviously, that scenario would eliminate 2022 from any discussion about the SEC’s best College World Series ever. The SEC’s apex would’ve been heading into the weekend.

But more likely is that the national champ comes from the SEC for third consecutive time. The last instance of a conference claiming 3 consecutive titles with 3 different teams was … never (remember that Arizona State and Arizona were part of the WAC in the 1970s). If an SEC champion wins it all this year, well, that stat is coming to an SEC Twitter account near you.

All signs point to the SEC continuing to flex in Omaha. Will it be a historic flex?

There’s definitely a chance.