SEC West college football offseason preview

Though Nick Saban lost a strong core from his national championship-winning team last season, Alabama boasts a deep roster poised for another College Football Playoff run. Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire

National titles since 2009: SEC West 8, everyone else in FBS 4.

It's pretty jarring when you think about it. Dabo Swinney's Clemson is as close to Bobby Bowden's record of consecutive top-five finishes as anyone has been. Ohio State is dominating the Big Ten and recruiting at a near Alabama level. Georgia has the recruiting part down and nearly won the title in 2017. There are a lot of potential Death Stars hovering at the moment, but more often than not, college football's biggest prize goes through one division.

Alabama obviously leads the way with six titles in that span, but this hasn't been just a one-horse town. When the Tide have slipped, others have picked up the slack. Their two worst seasons in this span came in 2010 and 2019, when Cam Newton's Auburn and Joe Burrow's LSU, respectively, took the crown.

The West is at its best, however, when Bama has competition. That was not the case in 2020, when the division's only other ranked team, Texas A&M, fell by 28 points in Tuscaloosa. LSU fell deeply into a hangover, Ole Miss played well on only one side of the ball, Mississippi State stuttered under Mike Leach and Auburn suffered its worst season under Gus Malzahn (and promptly fired him).

How much will this change this fall? Bama could take at least a slight step backward following the loss of a particularly otherworldly set of talent to the NFL, but is Texas A&M ready to make a more serious challenge? How much will LSU bounce back after the worst title defense in 70 years? Can Ole Miss actually defend? The West is all but guaranteed to be the best division in college football on average, if only because Bama's numbers count in said average. But how close will it get to the best version of itself?

Let's preview the SEC West!

Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East, the top and bottom half of the AAC, the seven Independents, the ACC Atlantic and Coastal, the Pac-12 North and South, the top and bottom half of the Big 12, the Big Ten West and East and the SEC East.

Jump to a team: Mississippi State | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Texas A&M | Alabama

Mississippi State Bulldogs

MSU averaged 37 points per game in four wins and 13 in seven losses in Mike Leach's first season. Stability and predictability are overrated.