So, who’s next?
With Alabama again setting the bar in a league trying to reclaim its position as America’s best, which program is best positioned to challenge the Tide in the SEC? And for that matter, can any program?
In fairness to SEC teams, it’s not just them. Nick Saban’s team has won four of the past seven national titles and was seconds from beating Clemson in last season’s championship game, which would have made it five out of seven. But as impressive as the national dominance has been, Alabama’s SEC domination has been ever more impressive.
Not since 2013 has any other program won the SEC. That was Auburn, and it needed a 100-yard return of a missed field goal against the Crimson Tide to do the trick. LSU won the league crown in 2011, but Alabama beat the Tigers in a rematch in the national championship game. Cam Newton and Auburn won the SEC and national championship in 2010.
There have been other strong SEC programs in recent decades. But it’s been spread out.
In an 18-year stretch beginning in 1991, Florida won eight SEC championships, three national championships, appeared in four national title games and produced two Heisman winners. That is about as dominant as it gets. But it seems like that run was light years ago.
Auburn won the national championship in 2010 and made the title game in ’13. LSU won national crowns in 2003 and ’07 and lost to ‘Bama in that ’11 game.
Still, if feels as if this Alabama run has lasted forever. And will go forever. No team replaces NFL draft picks with new NFL draft picks like the Crimson Tide. It is truly astounding how the Tide seems to never have a drop off. It reloads with a garage full of ammunition, basically every season.
But if not the Tide, then who? A few weeks into the season, who looks like the next-best team this year? Mostly, who is best positioned to carry the torch if it changes hands? Here is how I have them ranked.
The Bulldogs cleared a gigantic hurdle by coming from behind to beat Notre Dame last Saturday. No, Brian Kelly’s team is not exactly your grandfather’s Irish, but they look much improved from last season’s 4-8 bunch. Georgia had to prove it could win a big, nationally televised game away from home. The Bulldogs haven’t always thrived in the national spotlight. And they did it with their backup quarterback, true freshman Jake Fromm.
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