The SEC West reigns supreme again

We all know that the college football world can be cyclical. Teams and conferences fluctuate all the time, leading to even more excitement and frustration.

But the SEC's Western Division cycle just doesn't seem to be running out. During the league's magical run of seven straight BCS national titles, the East has been represented twice, both by Florida in 2006 and 2008. All five other titles have been won by Alabama (three), Auburn and LSU.

This season, the West is yet again king of all that the southern sun touches. Heading into Week 13, the West holds an 8-4 lead in head-to-head games against East opponents. In those eight wins, the West has a margin of victory that totals 166 points (20.8 ppg). Four West teams have winning records against Eastern opponents, while only South Carolina is 2-0 against the West.

Of the seven SEC teams ranked in the BCS standings, five reside in the West, and as we get closer to bowl season, the West currently has five bowl eligible teams to the East's four. The East also has four teams with losing conference records, while the West has just two.

"It's a really tough game every week, and the only way you have a chance to be successful in our league, or in this division, is to play well every week and be very, very consistent in how you prepare and how your players [use] their mental edge they go into every game with," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of playing in the SEC West. "You're being successful because you really can't afford to lose a game."

With the state of the West now and in the future, it appears that it will only continue to be the SEC's breadwinner.

The East has been more exciting with its divisional races in the past couple years, but it just hasn't matched the West's overall strength. And with the division likely having even more questions in 2014 with perceived powers Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the East could fall behind yet again.

In the West, things are only looking up. Alabama and LSU are still recruiting like elite teams do, as both hold top-11 recruiting classes in ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings, but they aren't alone. Texas A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss are all ranked within the top 15. The East does have three teams ranked in the top 10, but Kentucky (No. 17) is the only other East member ranked in the Top 25.

Last season, the West had six teams ranked inside the Top 25 of the class rankings, while the East had four. The year before, both divisions had four teams ranked in the Top 25 of the rankings.

So the future is very bright for the West, which is both good and bad for the division. The East hasn't won the conference since Florida did in 2008 and was ravaged by injuries this season. It continues to swirl into the unknown, while the West is plowing ahead.

There's the resurgence of Ole Miss and Auburn, and the arrival of Texas A&M. The Aggies have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the league's best offense two years running and a very impressive 19-4 record since joining the SEC in 2012.

I think the challenge is tremendous. It's a responsibility, if you will, to be ready to roll. You better be able to pick that helmet up and play full-on, hard-nosed football.

-- LSU coach Les Miles, on playing in the SEC West

Auburn rose from below mediocrity this season to rank sixth in the BCS standings with a 10-1 record and a shot at both the West crown and a return to the BCS title game.

And after winning just six games combined during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Ole Miss ranks 24th nationally and has won seven games in back-to-back years, with a chance to win 10 with a bowl victory this season.

If recruiting holds, those teams don't appear to be vanishing anytime soon, along with traditional powers Alabama (searching for its third straight BCS title) and LSU. So the bad news is that the division will only continue to get stronger.

"I think the challenge is tremendous," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It's a responsibility, if you will, to be ready to roll. You better be able to pick that helmet up and play full-on, hard-nosed football. It's every week, and I can't imagine anybody wanting to play in another division that's as exciting and competitive as there is."

Just like the East held the edge during the 90s, the West has its own stranglehold on the conference and is continuing the trend as the toughest division in college football.

"I think this Western Division is going to be a dynamic group of football teams," Miles said of the division's future. "We look forward to competing in it.

"They make you play in it. It doesn't make any difference who it is, it's a quality team."