The SEC Blog: A football September to remember
Any SEC historian worth his sugar falling out of the sky knows the importance of the 1961 football season. That year, Paul "Bear" Bryant led Alabama to the first of his six national championships with the Crimson Tide.
The SEC finished with three of the top five teams in the final Associated Press poll that season with LSU at No. 4 and Ole Miss at No. 5. What made that collective finish even more impressive: The Tigers and Rebels each received a first-place vote of their own, giving the conference three teams that appeared at the top of at least one ballot.
It wouldn't be the last time that would happen, but it would be the latest occurrence on the calendar until - checks notes - Sunday Sept. 29, 2019.
That's right. Fast forward 58 years - the current life span of LSU coach Ed Orgeron - and the last AP poll of the first full month of this season looked like the itinerary for SEC Media Days with a bonus. There were three teams in the top five, four in the top seven, five in the top 10 and a sixth at No. 25.
Not unusual, you say? OK, but do this math. What did No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 7 Auburn have in common? They each received first-place votes - plural. The Crimson Tide got 29 nods at No. 1, the Bulldogs four and the Tigers three. When a national collection of media members concludes that three different teams in your league deserve to be the No. 1 team in the land this deep into the season, it means you've set the stage for something special.
In this case, it means you've put together an August and September to remember.
Of the 18 undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision teams entering October, five are from the SEC. The Big Ten also has five unbeatens. No other conference has more than two.
Of those 18 unbeaten teams, 11 are 4-0 and seven are 5-0. Only one conference is home to three of the seven 5-0 teams. It's the SEC with No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Auburn and No. 10 Florida. No. 3 Georgia and No. 5 LSU each sit at 4-0.
Given the Dog-eat-Dog, Tiger-eat-Gator, Gator-eat-Tiger nature of this league, Auburn or Florida will drop from the unbeaten ranks Saturday when they meet in the season's first All-SEC Top-10 showdown. It won't be the last.
When's the last time the SEC sent five of its teams into October with unbeaten records? Actually, it's become a habit. This is the fourth time it's happened in the last eight years. In 2012, six conference teams rolled into October unblemished.
This season stands out because it's already produced three marquee non-conference wins. Auburn stunned No. 11 Oregon on a late touchdown pass from true freshman Bo Nix that looked like a high-def repeat of the throw made by his dad, Patrick, to help win the 1993 Iron Bowl. LSU introduced its Threaux and Geaux Joe Burrow Offense to a national audience with a thrilling shootout victory at No. 9 Texas. Georgia continued its lifetime unbeaten streak against No. 7 Notre Dame with a rock 'em, sock 'em TKO between the hedges.
Meanwhile, with Tua Tagovailoa throwing touchdown passes and DeVonta Smith catching them at a record pace, Alabama ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the latest AP poll. That means the Crimson Tide has been ranked No. 1 at some point during each of the last 12 seasons, extending a record that may never be approached, let alone surpassed.
Of course, all these unbeaten teams can't stay that way given the SEC's round-robin division play - and blockbuster cross-division games such as Auburn-Florida, Florida-LSU and Georgia-Auburn. This football Fight Club tends to leave almost everyone with bruises eventually, as only once in its 27 years of existence has the SEC Championship Game featured two undefeated teams.
It happened in 2009 when 12-0 Alabama dethroned 12-0 Florida in Atlanta enroute to the national title, but it wouldn't be unfamiliar territory for the current Fab Five unbeatens. In the last decade alone, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida each has run through an undefeated regular season. The Crimson Tide has done it three times, including twice in the last three seasons.
When you have five undefeated family members marching into October, and three of them get first-place votes in a national poll, you've done something special. You've increased the possibility of making history.