I've been saying for months that the most interesting question in college football in 2015 is who will finish last in the SEC West. I've now made a video that explains why I think that's the case. Below the video is a transcript if you aren't able to watch it right now. Also, please answer the poll at the bottom after you've watched it to let me know if you're interested in more videos like this one.
The most interesting question in any college football season is usually who will win the national championship. In 2015, that’s not the case since Ohio State is probably going to win the title.
No, this year, the most interesting question is who is going to finish last in the SEC West. Yes, I mean seventh place, not first.
You always hear about college football being cyclical, but basically everyone in the West is on some kind of upswing. Alabama is still riding high despite losing the Sugar Bowl thanks to half a decade of No. 1 recruiting classes. Auburn and Texas A&M have great offenses, and new defensive coordinator hires should make the bad parts of last year’s teams better. LSU played a ton of young guys on offense who are a year better, and Ole Miss’s blockbuster 2013 recruiting class is hitting its junior year. Arkansas has been steadily building and is poised to break out. Even Mississippi State, which loses a ton of starters from its Orange Bowl runner up team is at a historical high.
What’s more, an ungodly amount of money is going to the coaches. Nick Saban makes the most at $6.9 million. Texas A&M will pay $5 million to Kevin Sumlin to keep him from leaving for the NFL, while Hugh Freeze got a raise to $4.3 million to keep him from leaving for Florida. Les Miles’s decade of success at LSU will also get him $4.3 million. Gus Malzahn’s extension after his 2013 national championship game appearance bumps him up to $4.1 million, while fresh extensions for Bret Bielema and Dan Mullen bumped them up to $4 million.
If you’re doing the math at home, that means someone is going to be paid $4 million in 2015 to finish in seventh place in the division.
It doesn’t look now like there’s a bad team in the bunch either. All seven teams appeared in at least two preseason top 25 rankings in the summer preview magazines, and in the preseason S&P+ advanced stat ranking, four are in the top ten and none are lower than 22.
There are just so many reasons why teams could end up nearly anywhere in the standings. Here is the predicted order that came out of SEC Media Days. Seventh place Mississippi State has the preseason first team All-SEC quarterback. Sixth place Texas A&M has a 5-star QB throwing to 5-star receivers with an all-everything pass rusher and just hired one of the best SEC defensive coordinators of the past 20 years. Fifth place Ole Miss could potentially have four NFL first round draft picks. Fourth place Arkansas has the country’s best running back duo and five live elephants on the offensive line. Third place LSU had no offense last year. Second place Auburn had no defense last year. And first place Alabama may not have a quarterback this year. Nothing about this order is certain at all.
So yeah: some SEC West school is going to be spending crazy amounts of money on a guy who will be coaching a team full of talent that could win several other divisions if not entire conferences and end up being stuck with the label of "last place". Grab your popcorn. This one’s going to be fun.