2018 SEC Preview and Predictions

For the first time in the (albeit short) history of the College Football Playoff, two teams from the same conference played for it all. Alabama took down Georgia in an extremely entertaining national championship game. The Tide rolled in OT to win an unprecedented 5th title in the last 9 years. They brought in freshman QB Tua Tag0vailoa for the second half and OT and he looked great. The QB competition/controversy surrounding Tua and Jalen Hurts will be one of the major storylines this season in the SEC. The other is the 5 new head coaches in the league. Some of them are established head coaches like Jimbo Fisher and others are up and comers like Joe Moorhead. Who’s ready for another great season of SEC football?

SEC West
The middle of the SEC West could be very interesting this season. I think there is the possibility for some major upsets and some weird outcomes. The only team I am confident in is Alabama. Everything else is just my best educated guess.

1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Auburn (6-2)
3. Mississippi State (6-2)
4. LSU (4-4)
5. Texas A&M (4-4)
6. Arkansas (2-6)
7. Ole Miss (1-7)

Alabama
Predicted SEC Record: 8-0
Wins: at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, at Arkansas, Missouri, at Tennessee, at LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn
Losses: none
Alabama is coming off another National Championship, and with Nick Saban at the helm I am not worried about this team. The biggest question is at the QB position. Will it be the sophomore and NCG star Tua Tagovailoa or the experienced junior Jalen Hurts. Both have pretty high upsides but Tua probably has the highest ceiling. I believe that Hurts is on track to graduate in December so don’t be surprised if he stays this season and then goes somewhere else as a grad transfer. Both QBs should get some playing time this year and I expect Bama to be Bama. They get the benefit of playing Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn at home this year. Louisville is their opener and I doubt the Cardinals can challenge them. I expect the Tide to go undefeated this season and would be surprised if anyone but Auburn really gave them much of a scare.

Auburn
Predicted SEC Record: 6-2
Wins: LSU, Arkansas, at Mississippi State, Tennessee, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Losses: at Georgia, at Alabama
Auburn had a great season last year. They took out Georgia and Alabama when both were ranked #1 in a span of 3 weeks. If they had been able to win the SEC Championship game against UGA, they would’ve been in the playoff. Their loss to LSU wasn’t good, but they gave Clemson all they could handle early in the season. This year Auburn gets back QB Jarrett Stidham and he should be the focal point of the team. This should be a very exciting offense. Having to go to both Georgia and Alabama to end their season will make it very difficult for them to maintain a high ranking late. That being said, this is the team that should pose the biggest challenge to both Georgia and Alabama. Out of conference, they need to be ready from the get go as they play Washington in Atlanta to start the season. The matchup of Stidham with Jake Browning should make for a great game that is a must win for Auburn.

Mississippi State
Predicted SEC Record: 6-2
Wins: at Kentucky, Florida, at LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, at Ole Miss
Losses: Auburn, at Alabama
I think I might be giving too much credit to this team. They have a new head coach after Dan Mullen left to take over at Florida. Joe Moorhead is the new leader in Starkville. He comes in after two very successful seasons as the offensive coordinator at Penn State. He will have the benefit of veteran QB Nick Fitzgerald leading the offense. The Bulldogs won 9 games last year and gave Alabama almost more than they could handle. Then the next week they almost stumbled against Arkansas. They blew a lead in the Egg Bowl after losing Fitzgerald to a pretty gruesome injury. This team could be very good, but having a new coaching staff could hurt them. The games against LSU and Texas A&M could go either way. They should be able to make it through their non-conference games unscathed.

LSU
Predicted SEC Record: 4-4
Wins: Ole Miss, at Florida, at Arkansas, at Texas A&M
Losses: at Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama
I don’t really know how LSU is going to do this year. They get to play Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama in Death Valley, but those should be very tough games. They might upset one because they are at home. Their road schedule is relatively easy except for Auburn. If the Tigers get consistent QB play then I think they can be successful. They have to start off their season against Miami in Cowboys’ Stadium and I’m not sure they can win that game. Their early loss to Troy last year made it impossible for them to be a real contender. They need to win the games they are supposed to win, and that still might not be enough. This could be a surprisingly good team or a mediocre one. It all comes down to if they can run an efficient offense without their big name running backs.

Texas A&M
Predicted SEC Record: 4-4
Wins: Arkansas, Kentucky, at South Carolina, Ole Miss
Losses: at Alabama, at Mississippi State, at Auburn, LSU
Jimbo Fisher is the new head coach at Texas A&M. He will be making $75 million over the course of his 10-year deal. This comes after having to pay Kevin Sumlin a $10 million buyout. The Aggies were decent last year, but they are not paying Jimbo Fisher to be decent. Nick Starkel will be back at QB and so will Kellen Mond. I expect them to be a good team this year, but I think they will struggle to be better than good. The games against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU all have the potential to go either way. They have to play Clemson in week 2 and I would be shocked if they were in that game very long. They should make a bowl game and should be improved.

Arkansas
Predicted SEC Record: 2-6
Wins: Ole Miss, Vanderbilt
Losses: at Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, at Mississippi State, at Missouri
Last year was a very bad one for the Hogs. They eked out 4 wins and somehow even got a conference win over Ole Miss. That led to the firing of Bret Bielema. The new Head Hog is Chad Morris who spent the last three years as the head coach of SMU and was able to take them to their first bowl game since 2012. Everyone in Fayetteville is excited about the new era of football. The stadium renovation will also be finished for the start of the season. I am interested in seeing how quickly the players will be able to adapt to the new offense and defense. I expect to see an immediate impact, but not necessarily an improvement in terms of win total. I think it will be a totally different team and there will be a great vibe around the program, but it will take a couple years to win in this division. The recruits are signing and that is great. Hopefully the improvement on the field will be good enough to keep the enthusiasm. Arkansas has about 80 QBs on the roster so it will be very interesting to see which one wins the starting spot. If the Hogs win all 4 non-conference games I think they have a decent change of making a bowl game. Both Colorado State and Tulsa pose big threats and can’t be overlooked.

Ole Miss
Predicted SEC Record: 1-7
Wins: at Vanderbilt
Losses: Alabama, at LSU, at Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Mississippi State
The Rebels kind of have a new head coach because the interim tag was taken off Matt Luke. They do lose QB Shae Patterson who transferred to Michigan. They came on strong late in the season but their self-imposed bowl ban kept them out of the post season. I think this team could do much better than what I am predicting. The games against Arkansas and Mississippi State are always interesting and c0uld really change the course of the season. I’m not totally sure what to expect from this team. They start the season against Texas Tech in Houston and that could be a very fun and exciting game.

SEC East
Georgia dominated the East last season. No one else really came close. This division doesn’t have as many new coaches as the West, but there are a couple new faces. I expect Georgia to once again win the division and do in comfortably. I also think the Gamecocks will have another very impressive season. Florida and Tennessee will be very interesting to watch as they have new coaches. Can anyone challenge Georgia?

1. Georgia (8-0)
2. South Carolina (6-2)
3. Florida (4-4)
4. Missouri (4-4)
5. Kentucky (2-6)
6. Tennessee (1-7)
7. Vanderbilt (0-8)

Georgia
Predicted SEC Record: 8-0
Wins: at South Carolina, at Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, at LSU, Florida, at Kentucky, Auburn
Losses: none
The Bulldogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss in the national championship game against Alabama. Some people think there is some sort of QB competition in Athens, but I don’t understand that. Jake Fromm is coming of an amazing freshman season in which he almost won it all. The new guy is Justin Fields and he is supposed to be great, but he hasn’t played a snap of college football. Their biggest loss from last season is Roquan Smith. The defensive star is off to the NFL meaning some guys are going to have to step it up this season. Auburn should be their toughest game of the season. Their toughest out of conference game is Georgia Tech, a team they haven’t beat at home in their last two tries. I expect to see these Dawgs face off with the Tide in Atlanta to determine the winner of the SEC. I wouldn’t be surprised if both made it back to the playoff.

South Carolina
Predicted SEC Record: 6-2
Wins: at Vanderbilt, at Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, at Ole Miss, at Florida
Losses: Georgia, Texas A&M
South Carolina was very good last season. Their biggest problem was their inability to string more than 3 wins together. Their offense is experienced this year and QB Jake Bently is back for his junior season and if he can be accurate, he will have plenty of weapons to throw to. There are a few toss up games in their schedule that could really go either way, but I think they have a chance at another 9-win season. Their toughest games are well spread out (UGA week 2, TAMU week 7, at CLEM week 13) and that should help them. They also get a benefit of a midseason bye. I’m looking forward to seeing how this team does.

Florida
Predicted SEC Record: 4-4
Wins: Kentucky, at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, Missouri
Losses: at Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina
Dan Mullen returns to Florida after spending the last 9 seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State. The Gators are hoping he will be able to bring his QB skills back to the team. Feleipe Franks is the lone returner and is expected to be the starter. There are a ton of returning starters and it will be interesting to see how they respond to a new staff. Last year was not great and is not what is expected from Florida Football. I expect them to be improved, but they still have a lot to fix to get back to being a contender in the SEC.

Missouri
Predicted SEC Record: 4-4
Wins: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, Arkansas
Losses: Georgia, at South Carolina, at Alabama, at Florida
Missouri scored so many points last season. They started the year 1-5 then won their next 6 games. In those final 6 games they averaged a little more than 51 points. They also only gave up more than 17 points in two of those games (21 to Idaho and 45 to Arkansas). With QB Drew Lock back for his senior season, expect more fireworks from this team. They gave up at least 31 points in each of their first 6 games last year. Their defense will need to play a full season for this team to do well. That is my biggest concern especially since they don’t get back to back games against Idaho and Connecticut to right the ship in the middle of the season.

Kentucky
Predicted SEC Record: 2-6
Wins: Vanderbilt, at Tennessee
Losses: at Florida, Mississippi State, South Carolina, at Texas A&M, at Missouri, Georgia
I feel like I am underestimating the Wildcats this season. They were ok last season and I think they will be ok again. Their blown lead and subsequent 31st consecutive loss to Florida was devastating. They show flashes of greatness but have hovered around 6-6 over the last 4 years. Star RB Benny Snell is back and should be the leader of the offense. They will be playing with an unproven QB and that worries me the most. They could pull an upset or two, but I think this will be a pretty down season for Kentucky.

Tennessee
Predicted SEC Record: 1-7
Wins: at Vanderbilt
Losses: Florida, at Georgia, at Auburn, Alabama, at South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri
Last year was not good for Tennessee. While they started the season with a thrilling game against Georgia Tech, they did not win an SEC game. (Fun Fact: Tennessee currently has a losing streak against all 13 SEC football teams.) They bring in a new head coach in Jeremy Pruitt. Saban DCs tend to do very well so that should bring hope to the Vols. They also get some experience at QB with Stanford grad transfer Keller Christ. This team should look better than last year, but I don’t think the win/loss record will show it. It’ll take a couple years to right the ship in Knoxville. Maybe don’t make a trashcan the representation of the team this year, Tennessee.

Vanderbilt
Predicted SEC Record: 0-8
Wins: none
Losses: South Carolina, at Georgia, Florida, at Kentucky, at Arkansas, at Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee
I 100% expect Vanderbilt to prove me wrong and win a couple conference games. I just can’t pinpoint which ones right now. Their defense was dismal last season. The ‘Dores gave up more than 43 points per game in conference last year (that’s even worse than Arkansas!). They were able to beat Tennessee in the last game of the year but that was their lone conference win. Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee should all be on upset alert when they play Vanderbilt. After last season’s showing, I don’t have a ton of faith in the Commodores.

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Posted in 2018 Season, Football

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CFP Top 25

1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Alabama
4. Penn State

5. Clemson
6. Georgia
7. Oregon
8. Utah
9. Oklahoma
10. Florida
11. Auburn
12. Baylor
13. Wisconsin
14. Michigan
15. Notre Dame
16. Kansas State
17. Minnesota
18. Iowa
19. Wake Forest
20. Cincinnati
21. Memphis
22. Boise State
23. Oklahoma State
24. Navy
25. SMU

AP Top 25

1. LSU (9-0,5-0)
2. Ohio State (9-0,6-0)
3. Clemson (10-0,7-0)
4. Alabama (8-1,5-1)
5. Georgia (8-1,5-1)
6. Oregon (8-1,5-1)
7. Minnesota (9-0,6-0)
8. Utah (8-1,5-1)
9. Penn State (8-1,5-1)
10. Oklahoma (8-1,5-1)
11. Florida (8-2,5-2)
12. Baylor (9-0,6-0)
13. Auburn (7-2,4-2)
14. Michigan (7-2,4-2)
15. Wisconsin (7-2,4-2)
16. Notre Dame (7-2)
17. Cincinnati (8-1,5-0)
18. Memphis (8-1,4-1)
19. Boise State (8-1,5-0)
20. SMU (9-1,5-1)
21. Navy (7-1,5-1)
*22. Texas (6-3,4-2)
23. Iowa (6-3,3-3)
*24. Indiana (7-2,4-2)
*25. Oklahoma State (6-3,3-3)

Dropped Out: 20Kansas State (6-3,3-3), 22Wake Forest (7-2,3-2), 24San Diego State (7-2,4-2)

*New Team

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