clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Alabama is the best team in college football's best conference, again

Half the SEC's teams could play like top-10 teams this year, but the question of which is the conference's best is pretty simple.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

At the end of each conference preview series (here's the whole SEC), I look at how I perceive the conference's balance of power heading into 2015. This is in no way based on schedules. These are not predictions. They're just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each.

So before we get to the SEC rankings, let's talk conference power. I wrote this part earlier:

After rubbing its success in the faces of foes, the SEC has earned the backlash and gleeful mockery following a disappointing bowl showing. You reap what you sow.

Ole Miss looked horrendous in getting trounced by TCU. Mississippi State's offense was fine, but its defense got run in circles by one of the two or three best offenses in the country. LSU and Auburn lost tossup games to teams ranked lower.

Alabama lost by a touchdown to Ohio State, the only team better than the Tide. Arkansas looked spectacular in destroying Texas. Texas A&M was fine in disposing of West Virginia. And the inferior SEC East went 5-0, with performances ranging from fine (Florida, South Carolina) to good (Missouri), to tremendous (Georgia, Tennessee).

The SEC went 7-5 in bowls. The Big Ten, which emerged from bowl season as a RISING!! conference that is ON ITS WAY BACK!!, went 6-5. Narratives are funny.

Still, the West did go 2-5. The division we were calling perhaps the best ever last October did not live up to the hype.

Win expectancy data suggested Alabama, LSU and Auburn should have gone 2-1 instead of 0-3. Arkansas and Texas A&M did their parts. But Ole Miss and Mississippi State, who ranked first and third in the country in October, looked miserable.

It was a lot harder to make the Best Ever case for the West at the end of the year. Yep, the West had to settle for Best Division of 2014 instead. (And guess who's going to be the best in 2015?)

The offseason is for overthinking.

Could the Pac-12 end up better than the SEC? More specifically, could the Pac-12 South end up better than the SEC West? Of course.

Similarly, it's possible someone other than Alabama or Georgia could win the SEC West and East, respectively.

But for each of those questions, it's a no-brainer who should start out on top. Rage against that if you want. Pick someone else if you want. It's a free country.

Tier 1

1. Alabama

So here are my rules for the teams in each tier. If I have no doubt that you're a top-tier team, you're in Tier 1. If I think you could be a top-tier team, but I'm not completely sure, you go in the tier below.

For the six teams below, I would not at all be surprised if they ended up playing at a top-10 level, but I don't know for sure that they will.

I know Alabama will. That's why the Crimson Tide are in Tier 1 by themselves. That doesn't mean I think they are miles ahead of everybody else in the conference; it just means that I trust them more than the others. And why shouldn't I?

Tier 2

2. Georgia
3. Ole Miss
4. Auburn
5. LSU
6. Arkansas
7. Tennessee

The top three teams in this tier are breaking in new quarterbacks, and the next team didn't really like its QBs last year. Of these four, whoever likes the answers to its QB questions this fall will probably be a top-tier team.

And if Arkansas or Tennessee has some injuries luck (and thus far in fall camp, neither has), they have top-10 potential as well. I'm not betting on it, though. 

Tier 3

8. Mississippi State
9. Missouri
10. Texas A&M
11. Florida
12. South Carolina

It feels weird thinking that a team is being underappreciated or underrated, then putting it between eighth and 12th on this list, but here we are. All five of these have top-15 or top-20 potential, but that puts their ceiling lower than others'. Such is life in college football's deepest conference.


Get all kinds of NCAA Football stories, rumors, game coverage, and pictures of Puddles in your inbox every day.

Tier 4

13. Kentucky

UK is only a few breaks away from the top 40, but that still puts the Wildcats behind everybody else. Get to a bowl, keep recruiting well, and move up in future years.

Tier 5

14. Vanderbilt

It's a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long road back for the Commodores.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

SEC West

Team 2014 Record (Conf.) 2014 F/+ Rk 5-Yr F/+ Rk 2-Yr Rec. Rk 5-Yr Rec. Rk 2014 TO Luck/Gm Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)
2014 2nd-order wins
Alabama 12-2 (7-1) 2 1 1 1 -3.3 11 (4, 7) 12.3 (-0.3)
Ole Miss 9-4 (5-3) 5 36 21 21 +3.4 16 (9, 7) 9.1 (-0.1)
Auburn 8-5 (4-4) 7 19 5 7 +0.5 11 (4, 7) 8.8 (+0.2)
LSU 8-5 (4-4) 22 4 7 5 +0.2 15 (9, 6) 7.3 (+0.7)
Arkansas 7-6 (2-6) 9 25 28 33 +1.3 15 (9, 6) 8.1 (-1.1)
Mississippi State 10-3 (6-2) 13 27 29 29 -1.0 12 (5, 7) 9.5 (+0.5)
Texas A&M 8-5 (3-5) 42 13 8 18 -2.1 16 (8, 8) 7.5 (+0.5)

SEC East

Team 2014 Record (Conf.) 2014 F/+ Rk 5-Yr F/+ Rk 2-Yr Rec. Rk 5-Yr Rec. Rk 2014 TO Luck/Gm Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)
2014 2nd-order wins
Georgia 10-3 (6-2) 4 8 10 6 +3.5 12 (7, 5) 10.4 (-0.4)
Tennessee 7-6 (3-5) 24 45 6 13 +0.3 17 (9, 8) 7.0 (+0.0)
Missouri 11-3 (7-1) 20 18 31 30 -0.5 13 (7, 6) 9.3 (+1.7)
Florida 7-5 (4-4) 32 23 13 8 -2.8 8 (2, 6) 8.0 (-1.0)
South Carolina 7-6 (3-5) 38 9 18 20 +1.6 12 (4, 8) 6.5 (+0.5)
Kentucky 5-7 (2-6) 68 80 27 31 +3.4 14 (7, 7) 5.2 (-0.2)
Vanderbilt 3-9 (0-8) 115 75 48 40 -4.9 18 (9, 9) 2.8 (+0.2)

Previous conferences