By Thomas Jeffrey
For quite some time now the Southeastern Conference has been very predictable: Alabama will roll right through it. So has been the case for these past few years, but recently the SEC has become much more interesting. Although Alabama did make it into the College Football Playoff and won the National Championship, they did not even make it to the SEC Championship. With teams like Georgia and Auburn steadily molding into national powers, and LSU poised to make a surge to its former glory, the SEC may not be so predictable.
One thing that college football fans took away from both this past season and the offseason is that Georgia and Kirby Smart is here to stay. The Bulldogs were SEC champions, Rose Bowl champions, and were three points away from being National Champions. They proved they were legit by beating traditional college football heavyweights. For example, in Jake Fromm’s first collegiate start, Georgia was able to defeat Notre Dame in South Bend. Also, they were able to defeat Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in a shootout, a type of game that heavily favors the Sooners. Judging by those wins, Kirby Smart is shaping into an elite coach. Not only is he an elite coach, but Smart is also an elite recruiter. He just hauled in the nation’s top recruiting class, which includes Justin Field, the number one overall recruit. Expect Georgia to have the SEC East locked up for the next couple years.
Although Auburn dropped two straight games and filled to bring home any hardware, they still had a successful season with impressive wins over both Georgia and Alabama. One obvious aspect of Auburn’s team that allowed them to do this was quarterback play. The Tigers never seemed to be able to replace Nick Marshall because of their recent years featuring abysmal quarterbacks, but Gus Malzahn finally found his guy. Jarrett Stidham, a transfer from Baylor, reinvigorated Auburn’s offense with his arm and leg talent, and he ended arguably being the SEC’s best quarterback. Now Stidham is a Heisman hopeful and is one of the best returning quarterbacks in college football. If Auburn is able to maintain the talent at the quarterback position, they’ll be able to compete with Alabama and the rest of the SEC without a doubt.
LSU is just like Auburn. They haven’t had a good quarterback in what seems like forever. But now coach Ed Orgeron may have gotten his guy. Joe Burrow decided to transfer from Ohio State to Death Valley and he is very talented. In the limited playing time that he had at Ohio State, Burrow exhibited a strong arm, intelligence, and good decision making. Not to mention he got to learn from J.T. Barrett, arguably Ohio State’s best quarterback of all time. Although LSU has a crowded quarterback room, Burrow should get the nod to be the starter. Burrow is capable of bringing the Tigers back to being contenders in the SEC. If he is able to do so, then the SEC West just got a whole lot more blurry.
Alabama is still the King of the SEC and college football. But there are SEC teams knocking on the door to dethrone the Tide. With Georgia’s sudden rise to dominance, and Auburn and LSU’s newfound capability at quarterback, the SEC just underwent a refreshing makeover.