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Who is the No. 2 Team in the SEC Behind Alabama?

Connor Shaw

Connor Shaw

The SEC still reigns as college football’s premier conference in 2013. Alabama ranks as the No. 1 team in the BCS standings, and five other teams from the SEC are among the top 15 in the latest release.

While Alabama is clearly the No. 1 team in the SEC, there’s plenty of debate at No. 2.

Missouri, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina each have a legitimate argument for the No. 2 spot. And if healthy, Georgia deserves to be a part of the discussion.

LSU will have a chance to stake its claim to the No. 2 spot against Alabama this Saturday and in a late-season matchup against Texas A&M.

Auburn also has two huge opportunities in the coming weeks, as the Tigers still have to play Georgia and Alabama.

Who is the No. 2 Team in the SEC Behind Alabama?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s definitely no obvious answer to this question. I like the way Auburn is playing, but this team lost to LSU earlier this year. If these two teams played tomorrow, would the outcome be different? Perhaps. Texas A&M’s defense is too much of a liability to pick the Aggies at No. 2 – even with two of the best offensive players in the nation in quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans. If the choice isn’t Auburn and Texas A&M, then the selection has to be LSU, Missouri or South Carolina. Considering the Gamecocks beat Missouri, LSU and South Carolina are the only two teams left to choose from. It’s essentially a tossup in this battle, but I give a slight edge to the Gamecocks. Even if Steve Spurrier’s team isn’t overwhelming on the stat sheet, there's still plenty to like about this squad. Running back Mike Davis is one of the best in the SEC, and quarterback Connor Shaw just finds a way to win. The defense, which is led by one of the nation's best defensive lines, ranks third in SEC only games in fewest yards allowed, and only one opponent has managed more than 30 points (Georgia) on this unit in 2013. And with three home games to finish the year, South Carolina should finish 10-2 and will have a chance to edge Missouri for the SEC East title. If Georgia was at full strength, I would take the Bulldogs over the Gamecocks. But South Carolina is healthier, and the combination of Davis and Shaw is tough to beat. 

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I’ll take LSU. The Tigers are flawed and don’t appear to be playing at the same level we’ve seen the last three seasons, but which team should be ranked higher than LSU? Georgia has dropped off since it beat LSU at home on Sept. 28. Auburn is playing at a high level, but LSU won the head-to-head matchup without too much trouble. Texas A&M will have a chance to show its better than LSU when the two teams square off in Baton Rouge later this month, but right now Texas A&M’s defense and two home losses hurt the Aggies’ resume. Missouri? Not yet. LSU still has elite talent on both sides of the ball and has the ability to score with anyone in the country if quarterback Zach Mettenberger takes care of the football. Alabama has looked like it’s clearly the No. 1 team in the SEC. LSU has spent the last two weeks hoping to prove otherwise. We’ll see on Saturday how wide that gap is between No. 1 and 2.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The best team in the SEC other than Alabama is South Carolina, and I don’t know if there’s much doubt. The funny thing about South Carolina is they’re not the best in the SEC in anything. They’re not even in the top two or three of most categories. South Carolina doesn’t have the offense of Texas A&M, the defense of Alabama or even the pass rush of Missouri. But Carolina is solid around the board. Steve Spurrier can count on Mike Davis to give him 150 yards from scrimmage in every game. He can count on Connor Shaw to play sound quarterback and grind out yards on the ground. And, though, Jadeveon Clowney had his question marks early in the year, Spurrier can count on his defense to give his team a chance to win. In this SEC this season, where injuries and bad defenses abound, that’s enough to be No. 2 behind Alabama.

Mark Ross
LSU may have two losses in conference play already, but I think the Tigers are the second-best team in the SEC. Both of LSU's losses have come by three points and were on the road. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrived in first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's offense and even though the defense lost a lot of talent to the NFL, it's still a borderline top-20 unit nationally. As well as Missouri has played, I'm not sold on its defense and think those Tigers have benefited from an easier schedule and gotten some significant breaks along the way. South Carolina is in the conversation, but the Gamecocks have been too inconsistent for my tastes, while Auburn drops out by virtue of its earlier loss to LSU. That leaves the Bayou Bengals, who to me are the most talented SEC team on both sides of the ball not named Alabama, and I think that balance is what gives them the edge here. We'll see on Saturday how well these Tigers match up with the two-time defending BCS champs on their own home turf. No better way to prove you're No. 2 then by going toe-to-toe with No. 1, right?

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
None of the above? This is a great debate with literally half of a dozen answers. Auburn is playing the best football of any other team in the West right now but was defeated on the road early in the year in fairly convincing fashion by LSU. This isn't a vintage Auburn roster, either. The Bayou Bengals have the second-best roster in the West but aren't playing very well and have defensive issues. Texas A&M has the best player in the league but little else to support him. That leaves, in my opinion, Missouri and South Carolina battling for second best. Both are playing excellent football right now with the exception of the Tigers’ final 15 minutes against the Gamecocks two weeks ago. Both have storied coaches, great defenses and confident leaders under center. Frankly, all of these teams are about the same: Missouri, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M. In fact, a slightly healthier Georgia belongs in that conversation too. The good news is the answer will fall into our laps. Should Missouri go unbeaten the rest of the way by beating Ole Miss and Texas A&M, then Mizzou would be the clear-cut No. 2 team. If the Tigers lose and the Gamecocks get to Atlanta, then the answer is clearly South Carolina. And because Alabama will put both LSU and Auburn in their rightful places, the winner of the East would be my final answer. And for now, that is the Gamecocks due to a head-to-head victory on the road.