The SEC West is the nastiest division in college football history
Editor’s note: This is the first story in a four-part daily series this week on the SEC West’s current stranglehold over its sister division and the rest of college football.
Take a step back to appreciate what’s unfolding before us: construction is almost complete on the marvelous, high-speed bullet train known as ‘The SEC West’ and once it operates at full capacity, no opposing team, standout player or elite coach will be able to stop it.
We know the SEC’s a supernova in terms of college football supremacy with seven national championships since the 2006 season and a Godzilla-sized recruiting stronghold over the rest of the country, but a closer look reveals a genetically-enhanced monster more menacing than the league itself: The Significant Seven.
Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss make up half of the current Top 10, a first for a single FBS division. Nick Saban’s side also includes Mississippi State and Arkansas, two teams who may not carry the same spotlight but are equally impressive in terms of star-quality.
Not long ago, college football’s Power 5 conferences were not separated into divisions, a result of revenue-producing league championship games. In 2009, the ACC Coastal featured three teams in the final AP Poll — No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Georgia Tech and No. 19 Miami — and combined for 30 wins.
The Pac-12 North in 2012 was solid with 33 total victories between second-ranked Oregon, No. 7 Stanford and No. 19 Oregon State, but pales in comparison to the 2014 West’s overall depth.
How terrifying is that side of the SEC in the early going?
South Carolina, perceived as the East favorite with perhaps its highest expectations in program history, was thrashed by a West also-ran in the season opener who was projected as the sixth-best in the rival division following the departure of a lightning rod quarterback.
“Unquestionably, the West teams are stronger than the East teams (right now),” Spurrier said. “There’s no doubt with Alabama, LSU, A&M and the Mississippi teams playing well now. I think all of us will agree with that and that’s just the way it is right now.”
The West has produced five consecutive league champions, winning by an average of 22.2 points per contest in Atlanta. The ‘dominance happens in cycles’ argument holds water based on the East’s reign from 1993-00, but the West’s current stretch contains a different element: even the division’s worst team — Arkansas — appears better than at least three of this year’s competition from the East.
Looking at the early-season results, no division in college football has looked more impressive.
LSU’s season-opening victory over Wisconsin is arguably the top non-league win of the season by any conference pitting two ranked teams and as a whole, the West is 16-0 against non-conference competition. (Credit the Volunteer State for both of the SEC’s non-conference losses).
Six West teams rank in the SEC’s top seven for total offense and total defense. Dominant.
Chew on this projection: there’s a realistic chance ALL seven West teams could be ranked in the AP Top 25 when the Week 6 poll drops on Sept. 28. All it would take is a Mississippi State win at LSU on Saturday night followed by a Razorbacks victory over Texas A&M the following weekend.
The national love affair with college football’s nastiest division is just beginning.