The SEC has long been the most dominant conference in college football. Years have come up here and there when perhaps the ACC was nearby. Or, lately, the Big Ten has been in the conversation.
But for the better part of the last 20 years, the SEC were kings.
Maybe not anymore.
Two weeks worth of football is not enough time to make strict determinations, certainly. But far and wide, from the bottom to (almost the) top, the Southeastern Conference appears to be in its worst shape in years.
Keep in mind, “worst” when describing this league, is a relative term. It simply means, for the purposes of this column, “maybe not the clear-cut best or perhaps even second.”
To start locally, Arkansas may be sitting at 2-0 after Saturday’s Week 2 win over Kent State, but it hasn’t been pretty. The defense has not allowed a touchdown…against an FCS team and perhaps the worst team in FBS. The offense is stagnant. The path to eight wins remains; it just appears more difficult than it did 15 days ago.
Or does it, actually? Consider the teams on Arkansas’ tier in the SEC.
Kentucky struggled against FCS Eastern Kentucky in a 28-17 win. South Carolina was handled by North Carolina, then beat FCS Furman by 26, about the same margin Arkansas had against Kent State. Florida may have handled FCS McNeese State with ease, but looked awful against a good-not-great Utah team.
In the West, Auburn scored two touchdowns against a California Golden Bears perennially in the bottom of the soon-to-be-defunct PAC 12. Mississippi State beat fellow Pac-12 bottom-feeder Arizona by a single touchdown. Ole Miss didn’t put Tulane away until the fourth quarter. Texas A&M lost to a middling Miami (FL) team.
And Alabama and LSU? They’re not all the way out of the national championship conversation, but they don’t have room for error after dismantlings at the hands of Texas and Florida State, respectively.
Only Georgia has held up its end of the expectation weight. The Bulldogs continued to look like a potential three-peat champion through two regular-season weeks.
In the grand scheme of things, does any of it really matter? Is something lost if the conference, as a whole, isn’t spectacularly dominant? Of course not. In an age in which consolidation rules, being No. 1 is increasingly irrelevant in the conference hierarchy when it comes to on-the-field results, anyway.
Around here, it might be a good thing in the short-term. As mediocre as Arkansas has looked, the Razorbacks’ future opponents haven’t been much, if any better.
Maybe those eight wins can come after all.