No Conference in College Football took advantage of the B(C)S than the SEC. Not only did they win 9 of the 16 B(C)S Championships, but they won 7 in a row and parlayed that into a lucrative partnership with ESPN to create the SEC Network which is launching on August 14th.
These are the salad days for the SEC. They have the best talent, the best coaching and the best facilities across the board. They make policy in college football and they (along with the ACC) will drive the sport either forward or backward as they please.
That said, I don't think they will be as dominant in the new 4-team playoff system for a couple of reasons: One, part of their dominance was due to the fact that both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are the best in the business when given a lot of lead-time to prepare. 2. These things run in cycles, and expansion/realignment is going to have a big effect on who has power going forward.
For 2014/2015 the SEC will consist of 14 teams divided equally into two divisions. (East and West). I'll get to my picks shortly but first, a bold prediction:
Alabama will not receive an invitation to the 2014/2015 College Football Playoff.
1. South Carolina - Steve Spurrier (The Old Ball Coach) is having fun in SC. He's also got one of the better teams he's ever had at his disposal this year.
2. Florida - They get this spot, sort-of, by default. The East is not very strong this year.
3. Georgia - I expect the "fire Mark Richt" movement to pick up some steam. Georgia is an against-the-SC-grain pick for the top spot but I think they're replacing too much.
4. Missouri - A good coach in Gary Pinkel, some decent talent. Overmatched against the bigger schools.
5. Tennessee - Showed some signs of life last year. Will take a small step back this year but could be a team on the rise soon.
6. Kentucky - Is it basketball season yet?
7. Vanderbilt - Lost their coach and all of their NFL quality players. Starting the next 5-10 year rebuilding plan. Does wonders for conference academic ratings however.
Yes, I realize this is a cop-out, but all three of these teams are filling huge holes left by the NFL draft. It will be impossible to get a real feel until some actual games are played.
4. Ole Miss - At some point all of that talent has to pay off.
5. Texas A&M - As much as people are obsessing over the loss of Johnny Manziel, I actually think that QB is one position where the Aggies are OK. What they had better do is learn how to play defense. The jury is still out on whether or not HC Kevin Sumlin can field one.
6. Mississippi State - The Bulldogs just don't have the resources to compete consistently with the rest of the conference.
7. Arkansas - Karma I'm not a fan of Bielema as a coach. I think he rode the coattails of Alvarez after Barry retired (Alvarez was still a part of Wisconsin for Bielema to fall back on after he retired.) and I think we're seeing just how out of his depth he is.
Conference Champion: South Carolina (Receives invitation to College Football Playoff)
Other thoughts: The SEC is given the title of "best conference" but, for quite some time, this has only been true at the very top. The fact is the bottom 10 of this 14-team conference are not very strong. This has been a hidden problem for the SEC for a while now, something that they've taken to covering up with hilariously weak OOC scheduling.
This year there are so many questions surrounding the top teams that I don't see a possible scenario (as some are suggesting) that they receive a 2nd playoff berth. As a matter of fact, I'm fairly confident they only get one, and might even lose in the first round depending on seeding.
One thing in their favor: The rankings people (who's thoughts will be taken into consideration by the committee) love them some SEC regardless of how many flaws it appears they have.