Here’s a joke I made up: What do you call the winner of the SEC?
Answer: National Champion.
It’s not a funny joke, but it has the required element of truth. The poweriest power conference of them all has won eight of the last ten national titles, thanks in large part to Alabama (
five four titles since 2009).
Every year, the conference is a gauntlet and emerging as the SEC champ is arguably tougher than winning the two-game College Football Playoff.
Who’s going to conquer the Southeastern field this season? Realistically, a few teams are still in the hunt. But take a wild guess at the overwhelming favorite …
2016 SEC Championship Odds
Alabama Crimson Tide: 1/1
Under Nick Saban, Alabama doesn’t know the meaning of the word “rebuild.” That’s not a shot at the school’s English department; it’s a recognition that, no matter how much talent leaves at the end of the year, the coach ensures there’s just as much coming in. The cupboards are always full.
This year is no exception. The Tide have crushed all comers so far, including four ranked teams. Their offense (45.4 points per game) and defense (15.8 points per game) are both top-ten. They’ve only given up seven touchdowns through six games and lead the nation with 27 sacks.
They’re led by a freshman QB (Jalen Hurts) which might raise some concerns come the post-season, but the rookie has looked like the best Bama pivot in years.
The team has taken three of the last four SEC Championships, including two straight. They’re deserving chalk to three-peat.
Tennessee Volunteers: 5/1
The Vols already have to losses on the year, including a 19-point home blowout at the hands of Alabama. So how are they second in the odds? Because they reside in the East division, while Bama (and A&M) are in the West. Tennessee already owns a win over its biggest East division rivals (Florida and Georgia), setting themselves up nicely to claim the division and earn a spot in the title game.
Both sides of the ball will have to be better if they’re going to conquer the conference for the first time since 1998, though. QB Joshua Dobbs has thrown the most interceptions in the SEC (nine), while the defense is giving up nearly 30 points per game.
Texas A&M: 6/1
The Aggies are the only SEC team besides Alabama that’s still undefeated. They’ve beaten three ranked opponents already this year, including UCLA, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The conference will only have one unbeaten after A&M visit the Tide this weekend. They’re massive, double-digit underdogs on the road, and will all but lose their shot at reaching the conference title game unless they pull the upset.
If they’re going to shock Bama, they will need their potent rushing attack (274.3 YPG, best in the SEC) to control the line of scrimmage. (Much easier said than done against Alabama’s monstrous D-line.) They’ll also need their defense (78th in the nation in yards) to play its best game of the season and generate some turnovers.
The schedule eases after the date with the Tide. Home game against no. 23 Ole Miss and no. 25 LSU are the toughest remaining. The first SEC title in school history will feel well within reach if they somehow get past Saban and company.
Florida Gators: 10/1
LSU Tigers: 15/1
Georgia Bulldogs: 15/1
Ole Miss Rebels: 40/1
Arkansas Razorbacks: 45/1
Auburn Tigers: 50/1
Missouri Tigers: 200/1
Mississippi State Bulldogs: 250/1
South Carolina Gamecock: 500/1
Photo credit: Matthew Tosh (Flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.