S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!
It's a chant embraced by the South and universally reviled everywhere else. The pompous, downright braggadocious attitude many SEC supporters have seems to irk other fans the wrong way, but can you blame them? The conference has won thirteen national championships since 2000, easily ahead of the other Power 5 conferences combined. They have been home to five of the past ten Heisman trophy winners and, if recruiting rankings tell us anything, should expect some more in the near future.
Objectively, the SEC is simply ahead of the rest of the country. That's quite the achievement, but where do these football powerhouses rank amongst each other? How do these ancient rivals match up for 2022? Which teams could make a surprise push to the College Football Playoff? Let's take a look at what should be another hard-hitting, high-flying season down South.
The Contenders: Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Arkansas, & Kentucky
Not much has changed at the top of the conference; defending national champion Georgia and title-game loser Alabama should be ranked as the best two teams in the country, let alone the SEC. The Dawgs did lose quite a bit of firepower to the NFL, as a record number of players from last year's dominant defense were drafted in April. Still, Kirby Smart is no stranger to reloading, and the program does return top contributors like quarterback Stetson Bennett, tight end Brock Bowers, and linebacker Nolan Smith. The defense might not be quite as good as last season, but the offense is in a position to pick up more of the slack.
'Bama is in a similar boat as Georgia, but Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young's sophomore campaign could make the nation's seventh-best offense even more potent. Despite the departure of notable talents on the offensive line and at wide receiver, expect players previously buried on the depth chart, such as wideout Traeshon Holden and defensive lineman Tim Smith, to become household names by the end of the season. Nick Saban's recruiting prowess is well documented, but the Tide develop future stars better than anyone else in the country.
If anyone can challenge last year's division winners, it's Texas A&M. The Aggies welcome in the nation's top recruiting class and should enter the season as a top five team in the AP Poll. Jimbo Fisher has yet to lead the program to the playoffs, but a healthy Haynes King at quarterback (assuming he wins the job) and a revamped offensive line gives him his best shot, even without star running back Isaiah Spiller. A Week 3 showdown against Miami will tell us a lot about A&M before they start conference play.