Despite always incredibly high expectations, Alabama Football under Nick Saban never qualifies as a potential bust team. Nick Saban once joked if the Alabama Crimson Tide ever lost three games in a season, he would probably be fired. He would not, but a season with three Alabama losses would absolutely be a bust. It has happened once in Saban’s Alabama tenure since his first season in 2007. There were three losses in the 2010 season and one of them required bad luck striking twice in that season’s Auburn game.
So what follows does not apply to Alabama Football. It is possible that in 2023, the SEC West has no bust teams because for varied reasons Alabama and three other teams in the division don’t meet ‘bust’ potential. But the other three are at risk.
Alabama Football and Other No-Bust Teams
Along with Alabama, three more ‘no-bust’ teams are LSU, Auburn, and Mississippi State. LSU could fail to match expectations, but Brian Kelly’s team has too much talent and he is too good of a coach to be a 2023 bust.
The Tigers and Bulldogs will have something close to new coach honeymoons. No matter how bad it gets in Starkville and Auburn, stories will be spun that Hugh Freeze and Zach Arnett are rebuilding their teams for 2024 success.
The remaining three SEC West teams are at risk for major disappointments in the 2023 season.
Arkansas is the potential bust team with the best chance to perform well. Not only does Sam Pittman return one of the SEC’s most experienced quarterbacks, but the Hogs also have an outstanding running back in Rocket Sanders. At center, Beaux Limmer should be one of the SEC’s top offensive linemen. LSU transfer, Dwight McGlothern should improve the Arkansas secondary.
It is difficult to define any SEC West team as having an easy schedule, but the Hogs have a more favorable schedule than most teams in the division. Arkansas won seven games last season and based on the schedule, seven wins (or more) are achievable again.
Surely Texas A&M hit its Jimbo Fisher floor last season with just five wins. Eight to ten, 2023 wins are in the range of possible for the Aggies. But improved performance in 2023 could also stop at seven wins. If that happens, Fisher’s massive buyout might not save him. Firing a head coach and having to pay him a $70M buyout would certainly qualify as a bust season in College Station.
The one team left for consideration is Ole Miss. The Rebels collapsed at the end of last season, losing their last four games to finish 8-5. Lane Kiffin has proven himself as an accomplished roster builder in the new ‘every season is a turnaround’ era. But, that is also a dice-rolling scenario. One season it will not work. With the toughest schedule of all SEC West teams, 2023 might be that season.
Even if the Rebels are an SEC bust in 2023, one win to count on is at Auburn. Kiffin, who many think has hopes for one day becoming Nick Saban’s successor, will give added focus to beating the Tide’s old rival.