Using some data, the SEC Football contenders and pretenders

Using Bill Connelly's SP+ as a guide, an early prediction is the SEC has six 2024 Contenders and 10 Pretenders.
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In the optimistic visions of an offseason, contenders are abundant. In the minds of fans, their favorite team will be something special in the coming season.

Reality starts slapping those dreams in the face no later than October. Before Thanksgiving, it will be pretenders that are in abundance.

When Playoff fields were four teams, most years between three and maybe six teams deserved to be in late-season Playoff contention. In the 12-team format, that number could be nine to maybe 15. What can be guaranteed is the debates over what teams should get the seven at-large slots will be full-throated and glorious.

Let's get a summer start on those debates by defining the SEC football teams that are 'for real' contenders. Skipping over contention for an SEC Championship, only making the CFB Playoff field will be considered. A quick summary is only six SEC teams are contenders, leaving the other 10 teams as pretenders.

Instead of making only a subjective assessment, data provided by Bill Connelly's SP+ rankings is used. Every year Connelly says his preseason SP+ ranking is predictive but does not predict an end-of-season Top 25 ranking. It is rather a preseason measuring tool.

Bill Connelly appreciates SEC Football

Many SEC football fans should be pleased with Connelly's latest rankings. There are 10 SEC teams in the Top 25. Georgia at No. 1 may not get much attention from Bulldogs fans accustomed to lofty rankings. Texas and Alabama Football are in the top five. The Horns not at No. 1 likely ticks off more than a few Texas fans. Many Alabama Crimson Tide fans are likely relieved that, without Nick Saban, Bama is ranked No. 5.

College football experts believe a 10-2 team from the SEC or the Big Ten will have a great chance to make the Playoffs. Connelly projects just five SEC teams to have a better than 50% chance to finish 10-2. Alabama has the smallest chance of the group at 52.3%. With greater chances are Ole Miss, Missouri, Texas, and Georgia. LSU is not a long way behind the Crimson Tide.

Even without Connelly's calculation, I would choose the same six teams as the SEC's Playoff contenders. That makes Tennessee, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and six more SEC also-rans - Pretenders. According to Connelly's calculation, the best of the SEC also-rans is Auburn.

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