The SEC made its way back to the top of the college football world last season. Alabama thumped Michigan State in the semifinals then went on to beat Clemson for the National Championship. This season has the makings to be another exciting season for the SEC.
Ah, the SEC West: the best division of the best conference in college football. This makes it very hard to predict. This division beats up on itself on a weekly basis and all 7 teams have the ability to win the division. Last season I picked Auburn to go undefeated in the SEC and win the national title. That didn’t happen. I don’t know if we can match the awesomeness of the Henry Heave (aka the Lateral, Swine Intervention, etc) or the craziness of the Bama-Ole Miss game or the stressfulness of the Arkansas-Auburn 4OT game. I do know that new crazy things will happen this season and those things will undoubtedly ruin my predictions.
1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Ole Miss (7-1)
3. Arkansas (6-2)
4. LSU (5-3)
5. Texas A&M (3-5)
6. Auburn (2-6)
7. Mississippi State (2-6)
Predicted SEC Record: 8-0
Wins: at Ole Miss, Kentucky, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Texas A&M, at LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn
Ole Miss has been a thorn in Bama’s side over the last two seasons. If it wasn’t for Arkansas, Ole Miss would have won the West last season. I find it hard to believe a Nick Saban coached team will lose to the same team for the third season in a row. Alabama loses Heisman winner Derrick Henry as well as RB Kenyan Drake. Jake Coker is also gone, but Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett are still there. Whoever ends up playing QB will have some great receivers in Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and TE OJ Howard. The defense has to replace A’Shawn Robinson, Cyrus Jones and Reggie Ragland. And while I am glad that we don’t have to face these players anymore, I’m sure there are new guys who will cause just as much trouble. Picking Bama to win is usually a safe bet when you don’t know which team to pick. That is the strategy I’m going with this year.
Predicted SEC Record: 7-1
Wins: Georgia, at Arkansas, at LSU, Auburn, at Texas A&M, at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State
With Chad Kelly still at the helm of this offense, I think Ole Miss will once again be a very tough team to beat. I think their only SEC loss will come against Bama. The Rebels start the season off on Labor Day against Florida State, so we should get a good idea what kind of team this will be. Ole Miss lost some key playmakers, but I think other guys will step up. It is possible that I am overhyping this team, but having seen Chad Kelly in person, I know this team should score a lot of points and force other teams to try to keep up.
Predicted SEC Record: 6-2
Wins: vs Texas A&M, at Auburn, Florida, LSU, at Mississippi State, at Missouri
Losses: Alabama, Ole Miss
I believe Arkansas has the talent to win the West this season. But unfortunately, the Hogs have not been able to string a full season together in the last couple of seasons. The Hogs also have to play this season without three major players on the offense: QB Brandon Allen, RB Alex Collins and Mackey Award winner TE Hunter Henry. Brandon’s younger brother Austin will be taking over at QB and there are plenty of receivers and RBs to help him out. The secondary has been a major concern for the Razorbacks in recent years, but new secondary coach (and former Iowa St HC) Paul Rhodes has joined the staff and should make a difference. I think this team will once again be competitive in every single game they play this season. If the Hogs can make it through their non-conference games, I think they have a great chance of surprising everyone.
Predicted SEC Record: 5-3
Wins: Mississippi State, at Auburn, Missouri, at Florida, at Texas A&M
Losses: Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas
Much like Arkansas, LSU has the potential to do great things this season. They return the majority of their starters including Heisman hopeful RB Leonard Fournette. That being said, I think that stretch of Ole Miss, Alabama and then at Arkansas is going to be a tough one to get through. Arkansas has had the Tiger’s number (17: Hogs won 17-0 in 2014 over #17LSU to snap their 17-game SEC losing streak and it was also the 17th time Arkansas has beat LSU since 1917, and they won by 17 again in 2015) over the last two seasons and I don’t think the Hogs are going to give up that Boot. LSU’s offense will once again be a force to be reckoned with. Not only do they have one of the best RBs in the country, but they have a great receiving core. Last year the offense struggled against top defenses. Their defense will need to improve because there are some deadly offenses in this conference.
Predicted SEC Record: 3-5
Wins: at Auburn, at South Carolina, at Mississippi State
Losses: vs Arkansas, Tennessee, at Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU
The QB issue at Texas A&M is a big concern. Although Trevor Knight is a proven QB from Oklahoma, I don’t know if he can come in and make all the problems go away. He will have an amazing group of receivers to throw to in Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds. Their defense wasn’t bad last season and they do return DE Myles Garrett. This team starts of their season at home against a UCLA team with a lot of potential. This team has had so many issues off the field in 2016, and I’m not sure they will be able to overcome all of it during the season.
Predicted SEC Record: 2-6
Wins: at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Losses: Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at Georgia, at Alabama
I thought Auburn would win it all last season. I was totally wrong. I think this will be another tough year for the Tigers. They open their season against Clemson. Then the get a very good Arkansas State team before hosing A&M and LSU. The Tigers don’t go on the road until October 8th when they travel to Starkville. It is almost time for Auburn to have an amazing comeback season, but that doesn’t usually happen until they get a new coach. That might be soon if Malzahn continues to underachieve in the SEC. Auburn also needs to find a consistent QB to run their offense. There are just too many questions about this team for me to have much confidence in them.
Predicted SEC Record: 2-6
Wins: South Carolina, at Kentucky
Losses: at LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, at Alabama, Arkansas, at Ole Miss
I find it hard to see Mississippi State being able to compete in the West without Dak Prescott. I just don’t think this team can equal the success they have had over the last couple of seasons. This should be a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs. They need to figure out who is going to play QB in Starkville and that decision might not be made before the season starts. It’s going to be a tough season in Starkville.
Everyone is saying that this is Tennessee’s year. I agree. The SEC East has struggled to be strong over the last few seasons. Florida was able to have a great year last season but will they be able to do that again without a QB? Georgia got rid of Mark Richt and brought in Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp is now the HC at South Carolina. Missouri also has a new HC this season following the retirement of Gary Pinkel. I think this will be another year of West dominating the East.
1. Tennessee (7-1)
2. Georgia (6-2)
3. Florida (4-4)
4. Kentucky (3-5)
5. Vanderbilt (2-6)
6. Missouri (1-7)
7. South Carolina (0-8)
Predicted SEC Record: 7-1
Wins: Florida, at Georgia, at Texas A&M, at South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, at Vanderbilt
Tennessee ended their season on a very high note by thumping Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. The Vols began last season by going 3-4 and they couldn’t hold on to a lead to save their life (even if they returned the opening kick for a TD). For the second season in the row, the Vols have a front-loaded schedule. They will have to be ready early. QB Josh Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd are both back and will make a huge impact for the Tennessee offense. This team is extremely experienced and returns 19 starters. I believe this is the year Tennessee finally beats Florida and that they will make it to Atlanta.
Predicted SEC Record: 6-2
Wins: at Missouri, at South Carolina, Vanderbilt, vs Florida, at Kentucky, Auburn
Losses: at Ole Miss, Tennessee
If Georgia can stay healthy this season they will compete for the SEC East crown. RB Nick Chubb is back and so is Sony Michel. Jacob Eason is slated to be the QB for the Dawgs this season. He should have some good help on his offensive line after Smart brought Sam Pittman over from Arkansas. I expect this team to run the ball a lot. They lose star WR Malcolm Mitchell and consistency in the passing game will need to be established early in the season. Georgia opens against North Carolina, a game that should be very good and will tell us a lot about both teams.
Predicted SEC Record: 4-4
Wins: Kentucky, at Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina
Losses: at Tennessee, LSU, vs Georgia, at Arkansas
Last season was Jim McElwain’s first in the Swamp. He led the Gators to an SEC East title. That being said, Florida did not finish the season well. They lost their final 3 games and were outscored 97-24 in those three games. Starting QB Will Grier was suspended for a year by the NCAA halfway through the season, and despite a big win over Georgia, the Gator offense didn’t look good. QB will be a question again at the beginning of the season, but Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is the frontrunner. I don’t really worry about Florida’s defense. They have been consistently good for a while (except for when they end up blocking themselves). If Florida can find stability at the QB position, this team will compete in the East.
Predicted SEC Record: 3-5
Wins: South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at Missouri
Losses: at Florida, at Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia, at Tennessee
Kentucky should have been 6-6 last season. They led Louisville 24-7 at the half but didn’t score again while Louisville scored 31 points. The Wildcats need to finish games and their season. They have come out of the gates hot over the last couple seasons but have been unable to get that elusive 6th win. Kentucky has a pretty veteran offense but their defense only returns 5 and just one on the line. They kick off the season with Southern Miss and that is a potential must win game to get to a bowl.
Predicted SEC Record: 2-6
Wins: South Carolina, at Missouri
Losses: Florida, at Kentucky, at Georgia, at Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Vanderbilt’s defense has been incredible over the last couple of seasons. They can stop almost anyone. If they can get some kind of offense going this team has the potential to be a huge surprise in the SEC. Ralph Webb will be back running the ball for the Commodores and he is a huge asset. QB Kyle Shurmur showed a lot of promise when he was called in last season. He is expected to be the starter and will hopefully bring some consistency (and points) to the offense.
Predicted SEC Record: 1-7
Wins: at South Carolina
Losses: Georgia, at LSU, at Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, Arkansas
Missouri struggled last season. They even had a three game stretch where they were unable to score a TD. Their defense was pretty solid, but much like Vanderbilt, it is hard to win games if you don’t score. The Tigers only scored 15 offensive TDs last season. Let me put that into perspective: 14 combined offensive TDs were scored in the Arkansas vs Ole Miss game. And in the Arkansas vs Mississippi State game. In those two games alone, Brandon Allen threw 13TDs. Missouri needs to find a solution to this problem or it won’t matter how good their defense is. Drew Lock will be the starter this season at QB. Mizzou will also have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years. Barry Odom has been on staff for the last 10 seasons and was the DC last season. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does.
Predicted SEC Record: 0-8
Losses: at Vanderbilt, at Mississippi State, at Kentucky, Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, at Florida
Poor Gamecocks. I still have no idea how they were able to beat North Carolina at the beginning of the season. Steve Spurrier left in the middle of the season and SCAR ended up bringing in another former Florida coach to lead the team. Will Muschamp is now the head coach for SCAR. This year doesn’t need to be a total turnaround, but they need to show improvement when it comes to close games. Though they lost their last 5 games, they held their own. This team only lost to Clemson by 5 points after losing to The Citadel the previous week. I expect the defense to do well with Muschamp at the helm, but the offense will need to do better if they want to start showing some progress.