SEC remains loaded in season when little else is normal

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts the ball from Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Stingley Jr. was selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first-team, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts the ball from Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Stingley Jr. was selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first-team, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Southeastern Conference is trying to carry its football season on amid the COVID-19 pandemic while Georgia, Alabama and LSU forge ahead without their star quarterbacks.

In a precarious season when almost nothing feels normal, the SEC does feel like, well, the SEC — even without its most prominent passers. The powerhouse league approaches the delayed, shortened season with four teams ranked in the top 10.

No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Florida and others nurse championship hopes. However, the Crimson Tide must replace prolific passer Tua Tagovailoa, Georgia is without Jake Fromm and defending national champion LSU no longer has Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick Joe Burrow.

With the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences bowing out this fall because of COVID-19 concerns, that cuts the potential field of contenders for a “national” title down. But the SEC would have figured prominently on that list anyway.

And the league opted to continue working toward a season that will include just 10 SEC games with a Sept. 26 start. Alabama coach Nick Saban said that schedule under the circumstances will be good for the fans and players alike.

“I mean, I’ve been a guy that’s been wanting to play 10 SEC games for a long time, so this year we get to do that,” said Saban, whose team added games against Kentucky and Missouri. “I think it’s good for our players who get the opportunity to create value against 10 really quality opponents in our league. ”

The SEC does have seven teams in the preseason Top 25, a list that includes leagues that aren't playing. Auburn is No. 11 and Texas A&M is No. 13, with quarterbacks Bo Nix and Kellen Mond, respectively, returning. No. 25 Tennessee has 25-game starter Jarrett Guarantano back.

There's also the usual crop of elite NFL prospects hoping for another season to improve their draft stock and compete for titles.