ESPN weighs in on the team with the best chance to catch Alabama
After Alabama’s dominance of the SEC the past three seasons, there’s no debate about which team is No. 1 in the conference. The question mark of the past few seasons, and in 2017, is which team will catch the Crimson Tide?
ESPN recently posed the question to four of its SEC reporters. Georgia was only the team to get multiple votes, with Florida and LSU getting one each. Noticeably absent from the list is Auburn, the last team besides UA to win the SEC West.
Before AU fans get too upset, Greg Ostendorf, who picked UGA, does see Gus Malzahn’s squad posing a threat in 2017:
In the short term, I think it’s Auburn. With quarterback Jarrett Stidham onboard, the Tigers have a legitimate chance to beat Alabama and win the West. However, looking over the next five years, I like what Smart is doing at Georgia.
Not surprisingly, recruiting was brought up in all four responses. Ed Aschoff opined that if Jim McElwain can win the SEC East without the most talented team in the division, Florida will post a threat to Alabama in the coming years as the Gators’ McElwain makeover takes shape. LSU, on the other hand, has been the most dominant SEC recruiting team behind the Tide, as Sam Khan Jr. noted. Ostendorf and David Ching both cited Kirby Smart’s impressive first two recruiting classes in their reasons for picking the Bulldogs.
It’s interesting that none of the four think that Auburn’s stability, having Malzahn as head coach since 2013 (longer than any of the other three coaches) gives it a better chance than the teams who have made coaching changes since 2014. Malzahn has recruited well quite at Auburn, signing a top-10 class each of the last five years on the 247Sports Composite rankings – something Florida and Georgia can’t claim. Though it’s certainly tough when all those top-10 classes make Auburn the third-best recruiting team in its own division, behind Alabama and LSU.
If you want to see why the four ESPN reporters chose Georgia, Florida and LSU, their explanations can be viewed here.