Alabama has dominated not only the SEC, but the entire country for over a decade. Nick Saban will likely go down as the best coach ever and he will have plenty of hardware to prove it. However, all things must come to an end and the sun is setting on Alabama.
The SEC has long been considered the best conference in football. While their is definitely truth to that statement, the gap between the SEC and the rest wasn’t as far as most would claim. Alabama has been dominant and other SEC teams have floated from good to great to average. Overall, the SEC is around a .500 conference over the last few seasons against other Power 5 conferences. The SEC is real familiar with the FCS ranks and G5 teams before they get into conference play.
I don’t want to get it twisted, the SEC is the best conference in college football. However some of the flaws of teams in the middle and lower end of the pack are hidden by the elite. A rising Crimson Tide lifts all boats. Alabama had a benefit in some years to play against teams that were down from their usual standards. Couple that with some of the greatest recruiting classes in college football history and you have a clear path to a dominant run. However, it looks like the run is winding down as the conference as a whole is ramping up.
Growing Strength of the SEC
The SEC has vastly improved their coaching staff’s over the last few years. Not only have the coaches improved, the entire conference is becoming increasingly more competitive. Kirby Smart, Dan Mullen Coach O and Jeremy Pruitt have all made major strides with their programs which were down by their school’s standards before they arrived. Mark Stoops has made Kentucky competitive while Mike Leach, Sam Pittman and Lane Kiffin get into the mix in 2020. There is plenty of uncertainty in conference in 2020. But the SEC features some of the very best coaches in the country out of the ones I mentioned. That list doesn’t even include Jimbo Fisher who is looking to build up a promising Texas A&M team in year three.
2020 is full of questions but the SEC has four legitimate playoff potential teams headed into the season. No other conference has more than two. The recruiting potential has also closed exponentially. The SEC had 7 of the top 10 recruiting classes in the entire country according to 247 Sports. Kirby Smart has yet to beat Nick Saban but he has beaten on the recruiting trail a few times now.
It was never a cake walk for Alabama but they don’t have many games they can sleep walk through. On top of their SEC West foes, Alabama has USC to start the season. They also catch Georgia and Tennessee from the SEC East. All of this comes with questions about who their QB will be and replacing some of the best receivers in the entire country.
To count Alabama out would be foolish or to call the dynasty dead would just be wrong. But looking at the bigger picture shows an increasingly competitive conference and Saban nearing retirement. While LSU tries to find a way back or Georgia looks to take that last step, Alabama needs to find a way to hang on to their throne. Even if they can navigate the SEC unscathed and make it to the playoff, Clemson is waiting.
This has a very Tom Brady-esque feel to it. While it won’t be Alabama falling off a cliff, we could start seeing some cracks in the armor in 2020.