The 7 SEC teams that could make 12-team College Football Playoff in 2023, if it were in place
Pour one out for the four-team College Football Playoff. This is its final go before the playoff expands to 12 teams in 2024.
A bigger playoff will bring more SEC teams into contention. In fact, in the past nine years, nine SEC teams would have made a 12-team playoff at least one time.
How many SEC teams would make a 12-team field this year, if it were in place?
On today's episode of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams debate that topic.
Adams considers two SEC teams to be preseason contenders for the four-team playoff – Georgia and LSU – but he adds Alabama and Tennessee to his list of teams that would be in the hunt for a 12-team playoff.
Toppmeyer argues that's too stingy. He highlights seven SEC teams that would have a preseason claim as a playoff contender for a 12-team field. Here's his list of SEC teams that he'd view as preseason candidates for a 12-team playoff.
Georgia: The two-time defending champions lost several talented players but return plenty, and they continue to recruit and develop as well as any team. A soft schedule awaits, too. The biggest question: Any hiccups replacing Stetson Bennett IV? – Toppmeyer
Adams says: They're a candidate for a playoff of any size.
LSU: Nine starters return to an offense led by a proven quarterback, and Harold Perkins is back as the defensive cog. A tough schedule that includes a Week 1 game against Florida State in Orlando and a November road test at Alabama will be the tallest hurdle. – Toppmeyer
Adams says: Anyone still doubting whether Brian Kelly can succeed in the SEC? Nick Saban isn't.
Alabama: New quarterback. New coordinators. Same GOAT. Nevertheless, Kirby Smart interrupted Saban's reign two years in a row. And Alabama faces more offseason questions than usual. Never, though, is Alabama devoid of talent. – Toppmeyer
TOPPMEYER:Could a 2-loss Alabama football team miss 12-team playoff? Crazy, right? Not quite
ADAMS:Tennessee Vols on track to become the most hated program in college sports
Adams says: The lack of clarity at quarterback would not concern me for a 12-team field in the way it does for a four-team playoff.
Tennessee: If the Orange Bowl win against Clemson was a fair indication, Joe Milton and UT's young wide receivers will be just fine. The more relevant offensive question surrounds the Vols' tackles. The top question period is focused on pass coverage, a persistent bugaboo. – Toppmeyer
Adams says: The defense won't be good enough for Tennessee to make a four-team playoff, but the Vols could score their way into a 12-team field.
Texas A&M: This might be the rare occasion where the Aggies are underrated in the preseason. Get your final wisecracks in now, because that young talent that wasn't ready to propel the Aggies last season is more seasoned. Also key, Bobby Petrino has the keys to the offense. Now, he must develop Conner Weigman. – Toppmeyer
Adams rebuts: When the Aggies lose to Alabama, Tennessee and LSU, who will that leave as a marquee victory?
South Carolina: If the final impressions of the Gamecocks from last season carry forward, this is going to be a dangerous team. Spencer Rattler and Antwane Wells Jr. accelerated last November. If that continues, the Gamecocks could threaten many opponents. – Toppmeyer
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Adams rebuts: Sure, South Carolina beat Tennessee and Clemson. It also lost to Florida and Missouri. Shane Beamer's teams can beat nearly anyone. They also can lose to nearly anyone.
Ole Miss: The Rebels will have one of the SEC's best rushing attacks and should improve at quarterback. Either Jaxson Dart will be better, or he'll give way to Spencer Sanders or Walker Howard. New coordinator Pete Golding must improve Ole Miss' defense. – Toppmeyer
Adams rebuts: Remember what Ole Miss did in the second half of last season after the competition stiffened? Not much.
Later in the episode
The hosts discuss the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 field, and they ponder a current SEC coach who might be a good fit to replace John Calipari, if the Kentucky job ever opens.
Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is the senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or check out the SEC Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.