Does the streak end for the SEC?

Streaks were made to be broken.

The SEC’s four-year streak of producing the national champion in football is going to end sometime.

Is this the year?

We’ll see how some of those younger players stepping into big shoes at Alabama and Florida perform, but the odds of making it five in a row may be stacked against the SEC this season.

For one, regardless of how well you’ve recruited, you don’t lose a combined 16 NFL draft picks and not have at least some trace of a drop-off.

The defending national champion Crimson Tide have to replace nine starters on defense. The Gators have to replace quarterback Tim Tebow, who scored more touchdowns than any player in SEC history, not to mention five players on defense who were taken in the top three rounds of the draft.

In other words, a lot of new faces will have to come through.

The other thing that’s different this season is that Alabama and Florida won’t both be unbeaten if they play for the SEC championship for a third straight year.

They meet in the regular season for the first time since 2006 when they square off in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2, although the loser of that game wouldn’t necessarily be in dire straits in the national picture if everything falls right the rest of the season.

For example, if the Gators were to lose a close game in Tuscaloosa and then win the rest of their games, drawing a rematch with Alabama in the SEC championship game, they would gain some serious pop with the pollsters by taking down the Crimson Tide -- particularly if the Tide were unbeaten at that point.

In that scenario, it would almost certainly be an Alabama team that was No. 1 in the BCS standings, too, with the Crimson Tide already starting the season No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll.

We’ve seen in the past how much weight a one-loss SEC champion carries with the voters, and it’s only magnified if that SEC champion knocks off a previously unbeaten No. 1 team on its way to the title.

The other thing that helps both Alabama and Florida is that they both are going to start so high in the polls. The Crimson Tide are No. 1 in the coaches poll and the Gators No. 3. That allows you to lose early and still be in position to climb back into the national race.

It certainly doesn’t help Alabama that the Crimson Tide have to face six of their eight conference foes when those teams are coming off byes and have an extra week to prepare.

And for Florida, it’s difficult to see the Gators getting through that stretch in October (at Alabama, LSU at home, Mississippi State at home and Georgia in Jacksonville) without a loss.

Perhaps this is the year somebody other than Alabama and Florida breaks through and wins the league, although there’s not one team you point to and say, “This is the team best equipped to do it.”

In the end, the SEC’s balance -- which should be significantly better than it’s been the past two years -- may end up hurting the league’s chances of winning a fifth straight national title.

Then again, maybe not.

Even if nobody makes it through the league unscathed this season, recent history has shown that a one-loss SEC champion usually fares pretty well when those final BCS standings are unveiled.

Here’s something else history has taught us: When an SEC team gets there, it doesn’t lose.

The SEC is 6-0 in BCS National Championship Game appearances.

Getting back there may be the greatest challenge this season.