We all know how strong the SEC is year in and year out, but could one side of the conference qualify as the greatest division of all time?
The question has been raised and ESPN insider Brad Edwards is wondering if this year's SEC West could be the strongest division not just in the nation but ever.
For now, his all-time leader is the 2008 Big 12 South, that featured "two of the top three, three of the top seven, and four of the top 13 teams in the final BCS standings." Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all finished the regular season at 11-1 and were 1-1 against each other.
Oh, and Oklahoma State's only regular-season losses came at the hands of, yep, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.
So can the 2011 SEC West compete?
I think so.
The West features an Alabama team that will begin the year ranked No. 2 in the country and features a defense that might be the scariest in the country. Offensively, running back Trent Richardson is one of the best at his position and that veteran offensive line should keep its first-year starter pretty comfy in the pocket.
LSU has a young, but extremely athletic defense that will put tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and take passing threats away with budding stars Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has improved and big things are expected from receiving playmakers Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard. Not to mention running back Spencer Ware should have a big season.
Arkansas lost dynamic running back Knile Davis and is working with a young line, but few will find a better passing attack than Bobby Petrino's, which should be fun to watch with Tyler Wilson and his receiving foursome. The defense is also much better, making this team that much more deadly.
Then there's Mississippi State. The sexy dark horse pick of the bunch. The Bulldogs return a high-powered offense led by dual-threat quarterback Chris Relf and his band of talented receivers. Throw in running back Vick Ballard and the Bulldogs should be fun to watch.
Auburn and Ole Miss are dealing with handfuls of inexperienced players, but have the young talent to get better throughout the season, so they could surprise a few teams here and there.
Here is some of what Edwards wrote about the league:
Preseason expectations can be miles apart from end-of-season reality, but as of now, the SEC West appears to be facing some hefty competition on its 2011 schedule -- competition that could be much tougher than that faced by the Sooners, Red Raiders and Longhorns in 2008.
LSU plays the Oregon Ducks and West Virginia Mountaineers, Arkansas faces Texas A&M, and Alabama takes on Penn State -- all away from home. Auburn also travels to play the Clemson Tigers, and Ole Miss plays BYU. Tack on three teams from the SEC East (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) that are preseason ranked, and there's little doubt that if the West teams finish with sparkling records this season, they will have earned them.