Every offseason has its storylines, and one of this year's is that the SEC West actually wasn't all that good. After sweeping all of their regular season non-conference games, the division's teams went just 2-5 in bowl games. Maybe, the narrative goes, it wasn't as good as we thought after all.
Don't buy it. Not for a second.
I went to F/+ to see just how good the division was a year ago. I went all the way back to 2005, which is as far back as F/+ goes, to give a comparison through time. Here's how that went:
For clarity: Texas A&M is only included from 2012 and on.
The average F/+ rank for SEC West teams in 2014 was 14.3. That edges out 2010's average of 17.3 for best in the span. In addition, the worst F/+ rank in the division last year (Texas A&M, 42) is better than the worst of 2010 (Ole Miss, 57). The only way that 2014 doesn't come out as clearly the toughest year, if you even want to use this data point for that purpose, is that the best team only rated F/+ No. 2 (Alabama) instead of No. 1 (tie, 2009-12).
The only way this narrative works out is if you're going off of something like the selection committee's first rankings from mid-season when the SEC West had four of the top six teams. I guess that works. But, we told you at the time that those rankings were an artifact of the schedule, that they wouldn't hold up, and that getting more than one SEC team in the playoff wasn't something to bank on. Overreacting to those rankings then wasn't smart, nor is overreacting to the division's dismal bowl record.
I don't know if the West will be as tough next year. It probably won't be, if for no other reason than that it's improbable for any division to be that good in any given year. Mississippi State should take a step back after losing a tremendous number of key contributors, and Alabama might too with its loss of Amari Cooper compounding its quarterback questions.
Arkansas is definitely on the upswing, though. LSU's offense should improve over last year when eight of the ten players who had more than 10 throws, rushes, and/or receptions were underclassmen. New defensive coordinators at Auburn and Texas A&M should make those teams better given that their offenses shouldn't regress. I can't see why Ole Miss should fall off any unless it truly doesn't have a quarterback among its three contenders. But that's enough of that. This post isn't really about next year.
No, the bowl results shouldn't do anything to burnish the SEC West's reputation. They shouldn't sully it either. From top to bottom, 2014 was the SEC West's strongest year in the past decade, which means it was probably its strongest year ever.