I’m not sure a division that’s accounted for six national championship appearances in the last five seasons – think about that for a minute – needs pointing out how good it is, but then again I’m not sure if this division has ever been better.
Take a look at the media’s preseason rankings. Let’s ignore the top of the rankings for now and work our way from the bottom up:
4. Ole Miss
5. Mississippi State
6. Texas A&M
– Arkansas has shown dramatic improvement from a year ago. A team that skunked its way through the SEC in Bret Bielema’s debut season doesn’t appear to be headed that way in 2014, not after pulverizing Texas Tech for 438 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in a 49-28 blowout. The Hogs can do one thing exceptionally well – a whopping 9.4 yards per carry through three games – and that’s usually enough to win games in college football. At 2-1, I see Arkansas as a team that could win seven or more games in any other division in college football. With six games against ranked opponents in their final nine it won’t be easy, but this group will improve upon their win total from a year ago.
– This almost looks comical in retrospect. Through three weeks it’s clear Texas A&M looks more like a top six team in all of college football, let alone the nation. The Aggies’ 52-28 blowout of South Carolina is this season’s most impressive win this side of Eugene, and the overall talent level has risen high enough through three Sumlin era recruiting classes that I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Texas A&M in the Playoff.
– Mississippi State has struggled mightily to beat good teams in the Dan Mullen era (2-22 against ranked opponents). They haven’t had a chance to dispel that reputation yet this season, but a 131-37 cumulative score thus far is a good sign this team could be what many expected heading into the year.
– Ole Miss is another group that has taken care of business and then some through three games. A 35-13 win over a more-than-capable Boise State team, a 41-3 thumping of Vanderbilt and Saturday’s 56-15 blowout over a respected Louisiana-Lafayette program are as impressive a start as anyone could have hoped for. I wouldn’t have a quarrel with anyone ranking this team in the top 10 at this point, especially with Bo Wallace firing eight touchdowns and one interception in his last nine quarters.
– You know what you’re getting with the top three. An LSU team with a defense that will squeeze you like a boa constrictor and a physical running game, an Auburn team with a San Antonio Spurs offense and an improving defense, the same old bully in Alabama.
This division is 19-1 this season, and is undefeated against everyone not in the SEC West. That number, of course, will fall as conference play begins. And that’s the sad reality of it all. This division will probably produce one Playoff team, and maybe two, while some other really good team will go 2-6 in conference play.
It will be fascinating and horrifying to watch it happen.