Alabama and Georgia head into the 2022 college football season as the heavy favorites to meet in Atlanta for the SEC championship. Although both teams lost some key personnel to the NFL, the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide will simply reload and make another run at the national title.
But the SEC isn't just a two-team conference this year. The league has plenty of quality depth from the East, as Tennessee is poised to continue to improve under coach Josh Heupel, and Kentucky has won 10 games in two out of the last four years. South Carolina also looks poised to improve in coach Shane Beamer's second season. Texas A&M won the offseason with the No. 1 recruiting class and could make a run at a College Football Playoff spot if the quarterback position stabilizes. LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State could all be top-25 teams this upcoming year.
Alabama and Georgia are likely to be the consensus picks to win the respective divisions in the SEC this year, but some uncertainty remains about which team ranks behind them in the power rankings. Is it Texas A&M? Or is Kentucky or Tennessee the No. 3 team in the SEC for '22? Athlon editors and college football contributors debate who is the third-best team in the SEC this season:
SEC Football: Which Team is the Best in the Conference After Alabama and Georgia in 2022?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I'll take Texas A&M as the best team in the SEC after Alabama and Georgia for the 2022 college football season. The Aggies finished 8-4 last year, but that record should come with an asterisk, as coach Jimbo Fisher's squad lost its starting quarterback (Haynes King) in the second game of the season. Despite losing King, Texas A&M managed to knock off Alabama and all four of its defeats came by 10 points or less. King returns to a quarterback room that now features a five-star recruit (Conner Weigman) and a proven transfer (Max Johnson from LSU). Running back Devon Achane is poised for a breakout year as the No. 1 back, and the Aggies should possess one of the top lines in the SEC. The Aggies held teams to just 15.9 points a game last season, and despite a new coordinator (DJ Durkin) and a significant amount of turnover up front, it's hard to be worried about this group. Fisher has raised the level of talent in College Station and the expectations are only increasing after landing the No. 1 recruiting class. Texas A&M is on track to push again for a spot in the CFB Playoff - perhaps as early this fall - and should be right behind Alabama and Georgia in the SEC power rankings.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
I think it's pretty clear-cut that Texas A&M is the third-best team in the SEC behind the two reigning division champs and most recent national championship game participants. Jimbo Fisher has been building up this roster for years and his efforts reeled in not only the nation's No. 1 recruiting class but one of the most impressive hauls ever. That's not to say that this class will be rife with instant-impact contributors but that also speaks to the current depth the Aggies boast. There is some question about quarterback but even there, Fisher has three solid options to choose from, a considerably better situation than what he had to deal with at the position last year. This also is the team that beat Alabama last year, so Texas A&M has shown it's capable of hanging with anyone. Now, it's just a matter of putting forth that kind of effort week in, week out. But on paper, I'll take the Aggies over any other team in the SEC not named Alabama or Georgia.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Although its quarterback situation is unsettled, Texas A&M has a strong claim to be the third-best team in the SEC. Years of strong recruiting should pay off with a deep array of weapons and defenders. Don't expect the nation's No. 1 recruiting class to make too big of a splash right away — true freshmen making a Caleb Williams-sized impact is the exception, not the rule — but the sheer amount of talent is hard to ignore. This dominant defense that finished third in points allowed should only be getting better. The Aggies are unlikely to be true title contenders unless Haynes King or Max Johnson breaks out, but there’s lots of upheaval in the SEC quarterback ranks, and third place in the conference is not a bad place to be.
Antwan Staley @antwanstaley)
I have to go with Texas A&M. The Aggies have some talented receivers and quarterback Max Johnson who could be the starter. The biggest question is can Texas A&M navigate its schedule. Not only do the Aggies have three consecutive road games against Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina, but they also will host Ole Miss, Florida and LSU. The margin for error is so small, so they will need to beat all of the teams they’re expected to win against.
Eric Sorenson (@Stitch_Head)
Can’t believe I’m putting Ole Miss down here, but for 2022, I’d say the Rebels are the next best in line. And that’s mainly because Lane Kiffin is the "King of the Portal" and has brought in some high-profile talent, over a dozen transfers in all. The best of those is QB Jaxson Dart, the USC transfer, who is going to light it up for them this fall.
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
Most of the way-too-early Top 25s have Texas A&M as the third-best team in the SEC. But part of the hype is due to their incredible recruiting class and relying on true freshmen - no matter how talented - is a risky proposition and there is still a big question mark at quarterback.
So I will jump on the Lane Train and pick Ole Miss. The Rebels also have a quarterback vacancy, but USC transfer Jaxson Dart should emerge as the starter, and TCU transfer Zach Evans will run the ball well. If the defense again makes strides in 2022, the Rebels could find themselves in a major bowl game next holiday season.
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