One reason why every SEC team won't reach the College Football Playoff
National analyst and former Georgia star David Pollack was one of the first to project two SEC teams in the College Football Playoff this season, selecting Alabama and Georgia among his four picks on Thursday. It seems unrealistic that the SEC, winners of seven of the last eight national championships, is a two-bid league considering the cannibalization factor out West.
One would assume the SEC champion is worthy of a selection from the committee, but here’s a reason why every team in the conference will be locked out of the only meaningful part of the 2014 postseason:
Alabama: Late-season losses were crippling to the elites, notably Oregon, during the BCS years and the Crimson Tide could see themselves in a similar spot after toss-up games down the stretch against Auburn and the SEC Championship this fall.
Auburn: Do the Tigers still have their rabbit’s foot? Gus Malzahn’s relentless offense pounded the opposition en route to a league title during the 2013 season, but had it not been for two once-in-a-lifetime game-winning plays, Auburn would’ve finished second in the Western Division. Is this year’s team stronger? We don’t know yet.
Arkansas: Based on opponents’ 2013 winning percentage, the Razorbacks have the nation’s toughest schedule this season. That’s a fate-sealer for a squad coming off a winless SEC campaign regardless of the backfield talent.
Florida: Can Kurt Roper’s offense flourish without worry during its inaugural campaign? The Gators think so, especially Jeff Driskel who has the talent to be an all-league performer but hasn’t shown it yet in Gainesville. Scoring points is a necessity in the Alabama and Georgia games, contests that may keep Florida from where it wants to get at season’s end.
Georgia: Will Hutson Mason produce? Aaron Murray’s replacement doesn’t have the lofty stats that defined his predecessor, mainly because he’s rarely seen the field since his arrival in Athens. The first hurdles for the fifth-year senior are nationally-ranked games against two Palmetto State foes, contests the Bulldogs need to win. Georgia’s been outscored 52-13 over its last two games at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium and the Gamecocks have won a nation-leading 18 straight at home coming into the 2014 season.
Kentucky: The Wildcats aren’t there yet. More talent’s needed before Kentucky thinks championships.
LSU: Too many freshmen, right? LSU’s top-to-bottom talent compares to any of the nation’s best, but the Tigers will potentially face seven ranked opponents during the regular season, a brutal number for any program. Maneuvering through that with a first-year starting quarterback will be treacherous.
Mississippi St.: Immense pressure to perform at a near-Heisman level could be too much for Dak Prescott, a player who has seven career starts with a 4-3 record. The SEC’s mass quarterback exodus after last season immediately put the spotlight on the few players returning players at the position and by default, Prescott was thrown in that mix.
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel’s group no longer has the luxury of donning the cloak of anonymity after winning the 2013 Eastern Division title. They’re going to get every division opponents’ best shot, especially from the Bulldogs and Gators. Despite not receiving much preseason media love nationwide, opposing teams are aware of the Tigers as a threat and understand that dual-threat quarterback Maty Mauk’s just as talented, if not better, than James Franklin.
Ole Miss: From Weeks 6 through 10, the Rebels will battle Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. There may not be a more difficult five-week stretch without a bye for any program in the country.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks haven’t beaten Auburn since 1933 and have won once (2010) at Florida in school history. They’ll need to do both and capture the program’s first SEC Championship this season to reach the College Football Playoff.
Tennessee: College football’s only program faced with the task of replacing every starting offensive and defensive linemen, the Vols are still a couple years away from competing for division — and national — titles.
Texas A&M: Facing a challenging schedule, there’s still too many questions on defense to consider the Aggies a serious competitor in a loaded SEC West.
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason says the Commodores have the talent to compete for a division championship this season, but that’s being too optimistic. Jordan Matthews was a substantial loss for an offense that relied on the talented receiver for big plays.