Late Wednesday night, Rece Davis sent out this into the ether:
Just finished first draft of kickoff column. Look for it on Espn.com Thurs. Will this weekend signal the end of sec title run?— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) August 29, 2012
My succinct answer was, "This weekend? No." To my great surprise, Davis replied, saying "foreshadowing. Early perception" [sic]. He also reply all'd to someone who responded to me backing me up by asking "would it Change your perception of leagues power for this year if that happened" [sic], referring to a sweep by ACC schools in Atlanta and an Alabama loss.
A series of non-conference losses first weekend only means bad things to the conference's image if you're looking for a reason to see it falling. If Alabama loses to Michigan, well, it's to another top 10 team. It could be anther 2010 for Alabama, and that certainly didn't hold the league back any.
If Tennessee loses to NC State, then I'm sure plenty of people will blame it on the distraction of Da'Rick Rogers. More importantly, UT turned over seven of its 10 coaches. That's going to make the first game a bit tougher.
If Auburn loses to Clemson, so what? It's a team with two brand new coordinators coming off of an 8-5 season losing to a reigning BCS conference champion that is No. 14 in both polls. There's not really any shame in that.
LSU has North Texas, and Georgia has Buffalo. Both of those games will be blowouts, so at least two of the league favorites will be getting through the first weekend unscathed. Among the secondary division contenders, Arkansas and Missouri have I-AA teams and Florida has Bowling Green.
If all of those non-conference losses happen and South Carolina loses to Vanderbilt, then we can talk about a potential weakening of the league. That would make two real contenders going down with the Gamecocks and Crimson Tide, to a theoretically much weaker team in the former's case, but again, LSU and Georgia will still be 1-0.
There's not really a reason to even bring up this issue ahead of time, unless you've got a narrative to push of course.