SEC Outsider: How did the nation's most dominant conference become Alabama and 13 also-rans?

The race is on in America’s Greatest Football Conference…for distant second.


I can't remember more "blew by you" drop off in a league that prides itself on top-to-bottom fitness.

What in God’s creation is going on in the Southeastern Conference?

On top you have almighty Alabama, maybe the best Alabama team Nick Saban has assembled, and then you have…what?

Tuesday’s third release of the College Football Playoff ranking was revealing in many ways.

What caught my eye was seeing only ONE school from the SEC ranked among the top 14. Now, that school happens to be the best team in the country, in my opinion, by a long hoot and pack of Chesterfield's. And I consider Alabama the most prohibitive favorite to win the title since any team I can remember since Miami in 2001, or USC in 2004.

The rest of the SEC, however, has slipped on some hog slop.

The second-ranked SEC team in the CFP ranking is three-loss Auburn at No. 15. And those mighty Tigers are coming off a disturbing loss at not-so-gorgeous Georgia.

Ok, somebody, please identify the SEC’s second best team?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

It’s not every day, this late in the season, when the Pac 12 has twice as many teams ranked in the top 15 than the SEC.

And the Big Ten, at least this year, has supplanted the SEC for playoff-hogging candidates.

The Big Ten has four teams ranked in the top eight—Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State.

The Big Ten is making the argument for two teams in the playoff, which has got to tick off Hootie and all the Blowfish who thought the four-team playoff was created to expand the SEC's championship options.

The SEC takes pride in being the best conference EVERY year but--truth serum time--this year it is only “Alabama” great.

The rest of the league is sub par by its own high standards. There is still a lot of “beating each other up” going on and the SEC West is still rules as college football's best division. On the other side, though, the seven-team SEC East is the worst among the four power-conferences that split sides.

Here's how ratings guru Jeff Sagarin breaks it down:

 1 SEC-WEST (A) = 86.18 86.48 ( 1) 7 86.16 ( 1)
 2 PAC-12(SOUTH) (A) = 79.02 78.33 ( 4) 6 78.65 ( 3)
 3 PAC-12(NORTH) (A) = 78.89 79.08 ( 2) 6 79.02 ( 2)
 4 BIG TEN-EAST (A) = 77.63 78.57 ( 3) 7 77.57 ( 4)
 5 ACC-ATLANTIC (A) = 77.33 77.79 ( 5) 7 77.46 ( 5)
 6 BIG 12 (A) = 77.21 75.95 ( 7) 10 76.75 ( 6)
 7 ACC-COASTAL (A) = 77.09 76.30 ( 6) 7 76.52 ( 7)
 8 BIG TEN-WEST (A) = 75.25 74.34 ( 8) 7 74.83 ( 8)
 9 SEC-EAST (A) = 72.34 73.22 ( 9) 7 73.02 ( 9)


The Pac 12 and Big Ten are far more balanced, with quality ranked schools representing the sides.

The SEC is, simply, down. Play at quarterback has been shaky. The league is starting four true freshmen at the position—although one of those is Alabama’s fabulous Jalen Hurts. Florida is starting a quarterback who couldn’t make at Oregon State, and LSU is starting a quarterback who bailed out of Purdue.

South Carolina still hasn’t recovered, under Will Muschamp, from the last days and of Steve Spurrier. Texas A&M is the tease it’s always been, jumping off to a 6-0 start but now losers of three of its last four.

And look at the Mississippis? Two years ago, Mississippi State and Mississippi were ranked No.1 and No. 3 at one point during the season. This week the schools are a combined 9-11.

What a difference one Dak Prescott can make.

The good news at Mississippi is that freshman quarterback Shea Patterson, who took over for the injured Chad Kelly last week, looks like a superstar in the making.

Injuries have taken a toll in the SEC this year, particularly at Tennessee, which looked like a top 10 team before players started to drop.

So, back to our question, who is No.2 in the SEC right now?

I’m going with the winner of Florida at LSU this week, the hurricane make-up game.

The Gators are a ho-hum 7-2 and clearly have not impressed the selection committee, which ranked Florida at No. 23 this week. That was one spot behind Washington State, which lost this year to Eastern Washington.

Florida is also ranked behind Boise State and Western Michigan--ouch, that has got to hurt.

LSU is 6-3 but still ranked a solid 16 in the CFP.

The committee is rightfully crediting the Tigers for their renewed spunk under interim coach Ed Orgeron. LSU is 5-1 since Coach O replaced Les Miles after the Auburn loss. And the “one” was a solid, 10-0 loss to Alabama.

I still think LSU has the league’s second-best talent base behind Alabama. I think the Tigers will defeat Florida in Baton Rouge and end up winning a pretty good bowl game.

Mostly I think, though, the SEC this year is Gladys Knight (Alabama) and the pips. I also expect that not to be tolerated. [/membership]