Some things are more believable than others.

Before 2021, I would’ve surprised the casual fan by telling them that an Alabama quarterback had never won the Heisman Trophy. If you told the average college football fan that MSU has only had 1 winning record in SEC play in the 21st century, I bet they’d be surprised. Before last year, Tennessee hadn’t beaten Alabama in … OK. You knew that one.

But there are plenty of droughts that the average fan might not realize. Maybe they’ll come to the forefront this year. Or maybe they’ll continue.

Either way, they’re on my mind for one reason or another heading into 2023:

1. Georgia hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2002 … and that’s the only one ever

Not AJ Green, not George Pickens, not Mecole Hardman, not first 2 years Brock Bowers. Terrence Edwards is the lone Georgia player to ever hit the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver, and it happened in 2002.

Yes, I understand in that timeframe, it also had elite running backs like Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift. At the same time, programs like Alabama have had plenty of elite backs in the past 2 decades, and they’ve still had 12 receivers hit 1,000 yards since Georgia’s last one. Could Bowers end that drought this year? It’s possible, though it’s hard to imagine him taking another step up in his game as a receiver, and he had the benefit of Georgia reaching the national championship in each of the past 2 years.

Maybe it’s someone like Mizzou transfer Dominic Lovett, who had 846 receiving yards with Brady Cook last year. Or perhaps with Kirby Smart’s never-ending supply of 5-star talent will eventually yield that.

2. Texas A&M hasn’t played in a conference championship game in the 21st century

Remember that Mizzou was in the same conference as A&M throughout the 21st century and it played in multiple conference championship games in the Big 12 and the SEC. For all the 1939 jokes about A&M’s last national title, I think more pressing is the fact that it has yet to play for a Power 5 conference title since 1998. That’s 25 years.

To be fair, the Aggies did have 3 seasons in which they might’ve been a touch unlucky. They “shared” Big 12 South division title honors with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 2010, but they missed out on the conference championship game by virtue of the BCS standings tiebreaker. In 2012, the Aggies had their best AP Top 25 finish since 1939 during the Johnny Manziel season, but a 6-2 mark in SEC play wasn’t good enough to edge Alabama’s 7-1, despite the Aggies head-to-head advantage. And in 2020, A&M went 8-1 against an all-SEC schedule but missed out on a trip to Atlanta because Alabama won the West with a perfect 10-0 mark against the conference.

Still, though. It’s hard to take A&M as a legitimate Playoff contender until it can at least get to a conference title game.

3. Auburn hasn’t had a top-40 passing offense since 1997

Shoutout Dameyune Craig.

That’s a long time. Like with Georgia and the 1,000-yard receiver drought, some would point simply to the run of great backfields, which is certainly part of the top-40 passing drought. But the only instance that Auburn even flirted with a top-40 passing offense in the 21st century was in 2004 when Jason Campbell led the No. 43 passing offense. Neither Campbell, nor Cam Newton nor Nick Marshall could lead a top-40 passing offense.

Hugh Freeze, on the other hand, led 5 top-40 passing offenses at Ole Miss and Liberty. Will that trend turn around instantly in Year 1 at Auburn? Maybe not, but it does feel somewhat imminent for a program who hasn’t had a top-60 passing offense since 2009 … before Newton arrived.

4. Arkansas hasn’t had a player hit 10 sacks since 2011

Drew Sanders would’ve hit 10 sacks if he hadn’t opted out of a bowl game. He finished his All-American season with 9.5 sacks in his one and only season in Fayetteville, but the drought remains. Jake Bequette was the last Hog to hit double-digit sacks. In the SEC alone, 27 players hit that mark since Bequette did so in 2011.

It was a major area of need prior to Sanders’ arrival because one of the few similarities between the Hogs’ past 3 coaches is they’ve all struggled to find those impact guys off the edge. Sanders did the majority of his damage lined up in the box in Barry Odom’s scheme. Now that Odom is off to UNLV, will Travis Williams’ defensive line-focused background yield a double-digit sack season? That’s the goal.

5. South Carolina hasn’t had a quarterback drafted since the NFL Draft went to 7 rounds

I wrote about this a bit when Spencer Rattler transferred to South Carolina last year. A program that couldn’t get a 5-star quarterback recruit or an all-conference quarterback with Steve Spurrier wasn’t used to having someone like Rattler running the show.

The irony is that after an up-and-down season that finished in impressive fashion, Rattler probably could’ve been the Gamecocks’ first quarterback drafted since Todd Ellis came off the board in the 9th round of the 1990 NFL Draft. Instead, he opted to return to Columbia … where he’ll try to become the program’s first All-SEC quarterback since it joined the conference 3 decades ago.

6. Mizzou hasn’t won a Power 5 game as an AP Top 25 team since the 2014 season

Here’s your rundown of Mizzou games played as an AP Top 25 team against Power 5 competition in the past 8 seasons:

  • 2015 at Kentucky: L, 21-13
  • 2018 Liberty Bowl vs. Oklahoma State: L, 38-33
  • 2019 at Vanderbilt: L, 21-14

By the way, those 3 teams that Mizzou lost to went a combined 6-19 in conference play in those respective seasons.

That’s wild to me. Yes, Mizzou won 3 nonconference cupcakes as an AP Top 25 team in 2015. But if you’re wondering why the Tigers aren’t nationally relevant, that’s it. The second they get your attention, they find a way to screw it up.

Eli Drinkwitz has yet to play a game as an AP Top 25 team. It’s hard to predict that’ll end anytime soon with Mizzou’s best player on each side of the ball gone (the aforementioned Lovett is now at Georgia and Isaiah McGuire is off to the NFL).

7. Lane Kiffin hasn’t defeated a Power 5 team that won 9 regular-season games since 2011 … and that’s the only one

Yep. As great as Kiffin has been at rebuilding himself into one of the most respected head coaches in the sport, he’s 1-19 lifetime against Power 5 teams who won at least 9 regular season games. Read it and weep:

  • 2009 at Florida: L 23-13
  • 2009 vs. Alabama: L 12-10
  • 2009 vs. Virginia Tech (Chick-fil-A Bowl): L 37-14
  • 2010 at Stanford: L 37-35
  • 2010 vs. Oregon: L 53-32
  • 2011 vs. Stanford: L 56-48 (3OT)
  • 2011 at Oregon: W 38-35
  • 2012 at Stanford: L 21-14
  • 2012 vs. Oregon: L 62-51
  • 2012 at UCLA: L 38-28
  • 2012 vs. Notre Dame: L 22-13
  • 2013 at Arizona State: L 62-41
  • 2017 at Wisconsin: L 31-14
  • 2018 at Oklahoma: L 63-14
  • 2019 at Ohio State: L 45-21
  • 2020 vs. Alabama: L 63-48
  • 2021 at Alabama: L 42-21
  • 2021 vs. Baylor (Sugar Bowl): L 21-7
  • 2022 at LSU: L 45-20
  • 2022 vs. Alabama: L 30-24

Just for a little context, Billy Napier (vs. Utah) and Jimbo Fisher (vs. LSU) got 1 such victory amidst losing seasons this past year. Even Shane Beamer (Tennessee and Clemson) and Josh Heupel (LSU, Alabama, Clemson) both got multiple wins against Power 5 teams that won at least 9 games this past year. Mark Stoops has 3 such wins at Kentucky in the past 5 seasons.

That’s a tough look for Kiffin, who recently joined the $9 million club with a well-deserved raise at Ole Miss. But if he’s going to truly take that next step and become one of the 5-10 best coaches in the sport, that’s a drought that he needs to end in a hurry.