It may not have ended with a national championship, but 2021 did end the way a lot of years have ended since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, with the Alabama Crimson Tide hoisting the SEC Championship trophy in Atlanta. Looking into 2022 as we begin fall camp around the country, not many teams stand a chance of halting Alabama's charge to another conference title.
However, that doesn't mean all eight conference foes on the Crimson Tide's schedule won't give it their best shot. Here are the three SEC teams that seem the likeliest to give Alabama a fight for the SEC title.
Teams ready to challenge Alabama for 2022 SEC crown
3. Ole Miss Rebels
Hear me out. Ole Miss is probably a school you'd never have imagined as a legitimate threat to Alabama, and most years you're absolutely right. However, Ole Miss has a couple benefits in its corner. The first is an incredibly easy start to the season. By incredibly easy I mean that Ole Miss has a legitimate shot at starting the year 9-0. The hardest game in that stretch for the Rebels is away at Texas A&M, which while difficult, is still a legitimate possibility of a win.
This gives Lane Kiffin and company time to figure out which of their two sophomores, Luke Altmyer and transfer Jaxson Dart, will lead the Rebels at quarterback. It also helps that they have a bye week immediately before the Alabama game, which is at home in front of what's sure to be a sold out Vaught Hemingway Stadium.
The second is the wave of transfers Kiffin has welcomed to Oxford, most notably the two running backs, Zach Evans from TCU and Ulysses Bentley IV from SMU. Both of them should make Ole Miss one of the most formidable teams in the country on the ground, just as they were in 2021 with the now departed Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner. This is the kind of season that could make Ole Miss into a program to be reckoned with in the future, and Lane Kiffin will certainly be hoping that's the case.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
The other team in the SEC West with a real shot at challenging the Crimson Tide is Arkansas. The Razorbacks are at a culmination point under senior quarterback KJ Jefferson, and with Kendal Briles still calling shots on offense, Arkansas has a real chance to beat anyone.
A tough season opener against Cincinnati provides an early litmus test before the Razorbacks play Alabama at home in Week 5. In Week 7, Arkansas has another tough out-of-conference matchup away at BYU. This makes the schedule tougher than most, but the Razorbacks have it in them to give it an honest go. If they can navigate the early parts of their schedule, expect Arkansas to remain in the national conversation for quite a while.
1. Georgia Bulldogs
Who else could rank No. 1 here? You could probably rank the teams likeliest to challenge Alabama and include schools outside the SEC and Georgia still probably winds up first on the list here. The reigning national champions may be entering 2022 a bit weaker than they were in the season just past, but they're still a contender in every possible definition of the word.
Despite a whole lot of departures on defense, the Bulldogs are still just as fearsome an opponent as they've ever been under Kirby Smart, and they will be hungry to prove their national title was no fluke. The one trophy that hs eluded Smart and company is the SEC Championship, and 2022 is as good a time as ever to tick that box in Athens.