SEC West football preview: Alabama again team to beat, but potential runs deep in division

It took nearly 15 years, but former pupils finally got one over on the master. Alabama's Nick Saban had never lost to a former assistant until Jimbo Fisher's Texas A&M squad did the deed with an early October upset; three months later, Saban lost to longtime protege Kirby Smart and Georgia in the national title game. Then Fisher outdid Saban in recruiting as well, which eventually led to the offseason's huffiest storyline.

Is this the long-awaited moment of Saban vulnerability? Probably not. Alabama heads into 2022 with questions, but they're mostly of the Alabama-style "Which of these eight blue-chip sophomores will step up?" variety. The Tide have maybe the two best players in the country -- quarterback Bryce Young (who won the Heisman) and outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (who would have if I ran the world) -- and there's a very good chance they start out the season No. 1 in the preseason polls.

They start out as the favorite in the SEC West, too, though every team in this division has top-20 potential, and every intradivision game will have subplots galore. This should be both the best and most dramatic (exhaustingly so) division in college football in 2022. Let's preview it!

Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 131 FBS teams. The previews will include 2021 breakdowns, 2022 previews and burning questions for each team.

Earlier previews: MWC West | MWC Mountain | AAC (Nos. 6-11) | AAC (Nos. 1-5) | MAC East | MAC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | Conference USA (Nos. 6-11) | Conference USA (Nos. 1-5) | Independents | Pac-12 South | Pac-12 North | ACC Atlantic | ACC Coastal | Big 12 (Nos. 6-10) | Big 12 (Nos. 5-1) | Big Ten West | Big Ten East | SEC East