This article is brought to you by the SEC Sports Hub Blog. It is a member contributed piece and its opinion does not necessarily reflect that of SEC Sports Hub.
With the entire national media projecting the Florida Gators football team to play for the National Championship during the 2009 football season, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that the Gators will play in the SEC Championship Game.
However, looking at some recent and historical trends there are more than a few reasons to think the Gators may falter. In addition, the predominant two favorites from the West also have some of the same trends weighing against them.
My prediction is this year's conference final will be played between the LSU Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.
First off, no SEC team has even been to the SEC Championship Game in back-to-back years since the Gators themselves did it during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
This trend is a combination of a few factors, first and foremost among these, increased parity in the league.
Never before has that parity been more clear than during the 2008 season, when no team went unbeaten in league play, including National Champion Florida.
Additionally, the defending National Champion LSU Tigers struggled to a 3-5 conference finish, while perennial cellar-dwellers Vanderbilt won their second bowl game in history, and Kentucky won their school record third straight bowl game.
While Florida may be the best equipped team to repeat as Divisional Champs of any of the teams that failed before, there are a few reasons that they may not. Perhaps the most important of these is a trend that has developed in their series against their main SEC rival, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Despite having only three wins over Florida in the past 19 years, the Bulldogs managed to secure one of those wins following a bye week before the game, during the 2007 season. The Bulldogs once again have a bye before they play the Gators this year, greatly increasing their chances of winning this crucial SEC East contest.
Another interesting statistic: in the three years that Georgia won the Eastern Division this decade, the Bulldogs averaged a preseason ranking of 11th nationally. This year they are 13 according to the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Now, given the parity and the inability of teams to repeat, it's very possible that Georgia could be the surprise team to represent the SEC East in the Championship Game.
On to the SEC West. Let's take a look at the most obvious trend that would suggest LSU will win the SEC West during the 2009 season. The Tigers have won the division every other year since 2001, including National Championships in 2003 and 2007.
Secondly, let's take a look at LSU's major contenders for the SEC West title, Alabama and Ole Miss. Ole Miss has never made it to the SEC Championship Game, so history would indicate they will likely not represent the division in the title game.
As far as Alabama is concerned, the Crimson Tide have not participated in back-to-back SEC Championship Games since the 1993 and 1994 seasons. In addition, head coach Nick Saban has some starting numbers as a head coach that indicate Alabama likely won't repeat this year.
During his tenure as an SEC head coach, Saban has twice followed up 10 or more win seasons with at least three losses. With Alabama winning 12 games last season, Saban's history of inconsistency indicates the Crimson Tide will likely struggle a bit this season.
Another interesting factor that seems to support the claim that LSU will win the SEC West is their schedule. The Tigers have not lost a road game at Alabama or Ole Miss this decade. The Tigers play both on the road this season.
These are just some interesting facts that I thought I would share to suggest an LSU vs. Georgia SEC Championship Game.
By no means am I trying to state that this will absolutely and indisputably be the SEC Championship Game matchup. Just a topic for conversation with just a few more weeks leading up to the season.
The article can be found in its original format at SEC Sports Hub.You can find more stories like this and the latest SEC Football News on our site, as well as participate in interactive discussions with fans from around the SEC on our SEC Message Board.