After years of lording over college football, is the SEC in for a down year?

Is 2023 going to be a down season for the SEC?

Five SEC teams are ranked in the top 20 of the AP Top 25 after Week 2. A season ago, eight teams were in the top 25 after two weeks. Two seasons ago, seven SEC teams were ranked. In 2019, six were ranked.

No. 1 Georgia is the only team in the top five, too. Three years ago, three SEC teams were in the top five after two weeks. The last two seasons, the Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide occupied the top two spots after the top two weeks.

But after Alabama's loss to Texas on Saturday night and LSU's loss to Florida State in Week 1, two of the SEC's marquee programs are 1-1 and now each is a loss away from essentially being eliminated from the College Football Playoff. Given that they play each other in November, it's safe to assume at least one of those two will be on the outside of the playoff with three weeks to go in the regular season even if they both go undefeated over the next seven weeks.

Texas A&M, the other top contender in the SEC West, is also 1-1. The Aggies dropped out of the Top 25 after losing to Miami on Saturday as the Hurricanes’ passing attack carved up the A&M defense. While there were promising signs from the Aggies' offense in the second week of the arranged marriage between coach Jimbo Fisher and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, this isn't a team that's competing for the national title.

Four teams in the SEC West are undefeated, but they don’t scare anyone. Ole Miss is at No. 17 in the AP poll but struggled at times against a Tulane team on Saturday that didn’t have QB Michael Pratt. Auburn turned the ball over four times and had just 12 first downs in an unimpressive win at Cal late Saturday night. Neither Arkansas nor Mississippi State have cracked the Top 25.

Alabama coach Nick Saban walks off the field following their 34-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama coach Nick Saban walks off the field following their 34-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Georgia is, of course, the preeminent program in the country. The Bulldogs have started slowly in each of their first two games against inferior opposition but showed exactly why they're the two-time defending national champions when they hit the accelerator.

But it sure looks like it's Georgia or bust for the SEC's national title hopes already.

Outside of the Bulldogs, there isn’t much to get excited about in the SEC East, either. Tennessee is 2-0 but has played a Virginia team that may be the country's worst in all of Power Five and Austin Peay. Both Florida and South Carolina have ugly losses to teams currently ranked in the Top 25; Kentucky didn’t look great against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday and Missouri only won by four over a Middle Tennessee team that was blown out by Alabama in Week 1.

Remember, no two-loss team has ever made the four-team playoff. So considering that the two top contenders in the West already have one loss, the best chance the SEC has of getting two teams into the playoff comes down to Alabama or LSU running the table and then beating an undefeated Georgia in the SEC championship game.

The SEC should still be one of the deepest conferences in the country. Its depth may only be second to the lame-duck Pac-12 this season. But it's hard to see how anyone else will be positioned to compete for a national title in January barring some unexpected developments throughout the college football landscape.