As usual, the SEC boasts a combination of strength and depth for the 2021 college football season that no other conference can match. But while plenty of good teams will line up across the conference this fall, only Alabama and Georgia start the season as likely contenders to win the SEC championship.
Alabama comes into the season as the defending national champion, having gone 13-0 in 2020 and capping the campaign with a 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the CFP National Championship.
Alabama looks to repeat as SEC, national champion
The Crimson Tide always enters the fall as a contender. They haven’t ranked outside the top three in the AP preseason poll since 2009, when they started the year all the way down at No. 5 – only to finish as the undefeated national champions.
Alabama won five more national titles since that time. FanDuel rates the Crimson Tide as the +200 favorite to win the CFP National Championship yet again this season. But winning comes at a cost in college football. Alabama will have to repeat without six first-round draft picks among many other losses, including offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who will now take over as head coach at Texas.
“The penalty for success when you win a national championship is you won because you had a whole lot of good players,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “They were well-coached, so you had a lot of good coaches. When you lose some of those players and you lose some of those coaches … that’s why rebuilding is a tremendous challenge. That’s why it’s very difficult to repeat.”
But Alabama always brings in new talent, and always contends, even if it doesn’t always win titles. The Crimson Tide enter the year as the -160 pick to win the SEC Championship, and the -450 choice to top the SEC West.
Bulldogs ready to contend behind Daniels
The biggest threat to Alabama comes from the SEC East, where the Georgia Bulldogs reside. Georgia sits fifth in the AP poll, and many pundits see the Bulldogs as a serious threat to win the SEC Championship and a national title. Junior quarterback JT Daniels will lead Georgia into the season with an opener against Clemson, a huge game on the first full weekend of college football.
Daniels missed much of last season while recovering from a torn ACL, but is healthy for the 2020 campaign.
“I am extremely confident in his preparation and his focus,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart told reporters. “The concern is who we have to block, the players around JT.”
|SEC Championship Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Alabama: -160||Georgia: +190|
|Texas A&M: +1200||Florida: +1800|
|LSU: +2500||Mississippi: +3000|
|Missouri: +4000||Auburn: +5000|
|Kentucky: +6000||Tennessee: +10000|
|Mississippi State: +10000||South Carolina: +15000|
|Vanderbilt: +25000||Arkansas: +25000|
Georgia comes into the season as the +190 pick to win the SEC Championship, and the -450 favorite to take the SEC East crown.
While Alabama and Georgia expect to reign supreme, each division has a clear potential spoiler with eyes on a long-shot bid to win the SEC Championship. In the West, Alabama will have to contend with a Texas A&M (+1200) squad that boasts an impressive defensive unit that ranked first in the SEC last year.
Meanwhile, Georgia could face a stiff challenge from defending divisional champion Florida (+1800) in the East, as the Gators bring in a talented squad that has gone a combined 29-9 in three years under head coach Dan Mullen.