There have been just five SEC schools to win the league’s football championship since the turn of the century.
Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Georgia all have that elite distinction in the nation’s toughest conference. But who is next?
The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel was posed this question by a reader in a recent mailbag, and his answer was pretty clear: Texas A&M should be next in line.
Since joining the SEC in 2012, the Aggies have yet to punch their ticket to the SEC Championship game let alone win a league title. Kevin Sumlin was able to guide the program to a Top 5 finish in the AP poll with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback, but the prestige of a league title eluded him during a six-year stint and he ultimately lost his job because of it.
New Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher has a clear mission after signing a 10-year, $75 million contract to leave Florida State for College Station: win a national championship. But before he can do that, he must prove he can get past Nick Saban’s Alabama squad and win the brutally competitive SEC West.
Mandel thinks he should be up for the task.
“There’s no reason he shouldn’t at least contend for conference championships,” Mandle wrote. “A&M has everything a coach could ask for. The school showed under Sumlin it can hold its own in recruiting against the Longhorns, and Fisher has an even better track record in that department. One of the easiest predictions you could make 11 months in advance is that Fisher will sign a top-three class next February.”
We’ll take the discussion a step further. If not the Aggies, then who else? A few thoughts:
- South Carolina won 11 games in three consecutive seasons under the direction of Steve Spurrier, and have since rebounded to a nine-win team in Year 2 of the Will Muschamp regime. With Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel back for another run at things and much of the SEC East being in transition beyond Georgia, there’s a strong case to be made for the Gamecocks as a sleeper team to join the SEC Championship club in this century.
- Missouri showed the ability to advance to the SEC title game under Gary Pinkel, appearing in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. The Tigers appear to be a long way away from that under Barry Odom, however.
- Mississippi State reached No. 1 in the nation with Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott in Starkville, but is that as good as things can get for the Bulldogs? If they didn’t claim a SEC Championship with that duo, it may never happen.
Entering the 2018 season, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia would seem to be the prohibitive favorites to make another run at the SEC Championship. We may have to wait a year or two for Fisher to get things in order at Texas A&M before we see the Aggies join the conversation.
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