The first week of the college football season is always supposed to be a showcase for conferences to show their strength. Usually, that means the SEC just beats up on everyone else. Last year, for example, the SEC went 12-1 on opening weekend, with wins over North Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisville, and Arizona State among others.
But this year, the mighty SEC looked very, very beatable. The league lost a whopping six games on opening weekend for the first time since 1995, and it still has one very losable game to play, as Ole Miss meets Florida State on Monday.
Wins and losses can be flukey, but virtually every SEC team—minus Alabama—showed major flaws.
- Auburn, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State, and Missouri all lost. Kentucky, LSU, and Mississippi State's losses were all fairly big upsets.
- Tennessee needed overtime—and an enormously lucky fumble recovery—to beat Appalachian State.
- Florida was pushed by UMass well into the second half, leading just 10-7 at halftime.
- Arkansas needed a late touchdown to rally to beat Louisiana Tech by one.
- South Carolina's offense looked awful against Vanderbilt.
- Texas A&M and Georgia both had good resume-building wins, but the Aggies needed overtime to beat a very lukewarm UCLA team, and the Bulldogs showed that they'll be very reliant on their star running back Nick Chubb in order for the offense to maintain efficiency.
In what looks to be a crazy year in college football—where nearly everyone looks beatable—the SEC appears to be losing some ground. The SEC West is probably still the best division in college football, since it still has Alabama, but some of its other College Football Playoff contenders appear very flawed. LSU was a trendy pick to make the Playoff—possibly even alongside Alabama—but after losing to Wisconsin, the Tigers would need to win the rest of their games to make it. That's not happening.
The SEC East, which was already considered the weaker division, looks like a flaming pile of garbage. Sure, Tennessee and Georgia are both fine teams, but the Vols—a trendy dark horse pick to win the SEC—showed little to help believe that their offense is finally consistent, as we had been promised this offseason. Georgia's offense will be one-dimensional, and it met a mediocre North Carolina defense at their own level. Beyond those two, the SEC East is basically a lot of 7-5 or much worse.
The SEC is still probably the best conference in college football, on account of the fact that no conference is that great this year. But the aura of invincibility that surrounded the league heading into this season—and every other season—was firmly lifted on opening weekend. Come Playoff selection time, when the selection committee weighs strength of schedule in its picks and seeding, that could be a factor the SEC has long assumed it didn't have to worry about.