No SEC teams on list of most improved? Here's why

BY foxsports • June 17, 2015

Phil Steele is widely known among the college football community for having some of the best and most in-depth analysis in existence. This week, as he continues with his barrage of season-preview content, he came out with a list of the teams he expects to improve the most in 2015, based on a variety of factors. 

But what's interesting isn't necessarily which teams are on the list but which teams aren't, as Steele has zero SEC teams among his list of 15. 

Now, one of the main reasons for that absence is that there is a very specific requirement in place to be eligible for the list: The team must have had a losing record last year. That rules out teams such as Tennessee and Arkansas, both of which went 7-6 last season but certainly seem to be improving/heading in the right direction. 

But there's another factor at play, too: The SEC, as it currently stands, has a distinctly tiered system of haves and have-nots. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and even Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M have established themselves as national-title contenders in recent years. In a second tier, or perhaps a 1(b) tier, Missouri and South Carolina have been strong-but-rarely-elite programs for some time, and Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida are still very competitive but in various stages of development under relatively new coaching staffs. 

And at the back of the pack are Kentucky and Vanderbilt, the stragglers who have a metaphorical chasm between themselves and the SEC favorites and thus face an uphill battle for win-loss improvement given that they have to play all the teams mentioned above. 

There will be improvement in the SEC this year, of course. Perhaps Arkansas takes a leap and produces a double-digit-win season, turning the West into a seven-way battle royale in the process. Perhaps Tennessee makes the same sort of progress and beats out Georgia to win the East. (Note that Steele has both Arkansas and Tennessee ranked in his preseason top 25.) 

But the teams at the top of Steele's most-improved list -- Miami, Akron, Michigan, Pitt, Indiana, etc. -- have the opportunity to go from bad to good. That same opportunity doesn't seem to exist in the SEC, where almost all of the teams are already decent to elite and the teams that aren't have a long way to go to be described the same way. 

(h/t 247 Sports

Image Credit: Stacy Revere, Getty Images

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