The mettle test of the SEC West

Nick Saban's Alabama team once again sits atop the SEC West gauntlet. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How strong is the SEC West this season?

It's so strong that the defending national champion Auburn Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the division by voters in the SEC preseason media poll.

It's so strong that the Mississippi State Bulldogs are a top-20 team in the preseason coaches' poll but are still ranked behind four other teams in the West.

It's so strong that the Georgia Bulldogs are a popular pick to win the SEC East, simply because they don't have to play what are presumed to be the three best teams from the West (Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks).

It's so strong … well, you get the point.

Entering the 2011 season, there is no debate that the SEC West is the toughest division in all of college football. The only question is whether it will go down as the toughest ever.