Southeastern Conference Football Preview
Southeastern Conference Preview
We have come to the last of my previews, and this one will be shorter than the others as I will have the whole conference in this one article. with shorter previews of each team. Can anyone knock off the Tide? Georgia? Texas A&M? Florida? LSU? As always, there are many good teams in the Southeastern Conference, which again is the best conference in the nation. So let’s take a look at how the SEC will stack up this year.
All team and player rankings are courtesy Of Phil Steele’s College Football Preview.
Teams are in predicted order of finish.
SEC West Division
Alabama Crimson Tide: I swear, one of these years, I will be able to pick someone else to win the SEC besides the Crimson Tide. Alabama has just 11 starters back from last year, including just three on offense, but you can expect they will still put up 40+ pg this year. Mac Jones is now the starting QB for the New England Patriots but fear not, as Bryce Young could be just as good. Young was the 2nd ranked QB recruit in the nation two years ago, and he will set up behind the 6th best OL in the country. The running game is in good hands with Brian Anderson, and the wide receiver corps ranks 12th best in the nation. The Tide are always built by their defense, and this one will again be one of the best in the nation. The defensive line ranks 5th in the nation, while both the linebacking corps and secondary both rank 1st. Alabama allowed just 19.4 ppg last year, but they should chop that down to around 14 ppg. They have challenging road games against Florida, Texas A&M, and Auburn, but still another SEC West title is in the cards for the Tide, along with another trip to the NCAA playoffs.
Texas A&M Aggies: If there is any team in the west that has a chance to knock off the Tide, it is Texas A&M, especially since they host Alabama on October 9th. The Aggies went 9-1 last year, and they have 15 starters back from that team, including nine on defense. This defense is loaded with the 6th ranked defensive line, and the 6th ranked secondary in the nation, and they will surely allow less than the 21.7 ppg and 317 ypg that they surrendered a year ago. The Aggies must replace QB Kellen Mond, who is in the NFL right now, but Hayes King is more than capable of having a big year. He was the 7th rated QB recruit two years ago. The offensive line is rather average, but the running backs rank tops in the nation, while the wide receiver corps ranks 5th in the land. The offense will be dynamite this year, and it will easily average more than the 32.6 ppg it put up a season ago. Texas A&M does have a challenging road game against LSU to end the year and that home game against Alabama, but the rest of the schedule is very easy. We should see the Aggies bag at least ten wins and be in a nice bowl game at the end of the year.
LSU Tigers: Ed Orgeron has done a solid job here at LSU, which included a 15-0 mark back in 2019, but the Tigers will be looking to bounce back from a mediocre 5-5 season last year. The Tigers are the 2nd most experienced team in the SEC, with 18 starters back and 49 lettermen overall. The offense fell 16 ppg from 2019 last year but will see their 32 ppg rise back up this season. The Tigers have nine starters back on offense, including QB Myles Brennan. He will be playing catch with the 14th rated wide receiver corps in the nation and will be protected by the 16th best offensive line. John Emery will be the featured back after rushing for 376 yards and three TDs last year. Watch out for freshman RB Armoni Goodwin, the 8th best recruit in the nation this year. The defense has nine starters back, and they added three top ten recruits in their positions coming into the season. The front seven are above average, but the secondary ranks 4th in the nation. The Tigers have challenging road games against Ole Miss and Alabama, which will keep them from moving up in the standings. Still, at least nine wins for the Tigers this year.
Mississippi Rebels: It’s a toss-up between Ole Miss and Auburn in this spot. I went with the Rebels as they have a bit more experience. Ole Miss has 17 starters back from a team that went 5-5 last year, and they rank as the most experienced team in the SEC. Eight starters are back on offense, including QB Matt Corral, who Phil Steele has as the top-rated QB in the SEC. He threw for 337 yards with 28 TDs and 14 INTs last year, but we note that his wide receiver corps is not as good as last year’s. Their top two receivers depart, but the unit has depth with their next nine pass catchers all returning. The running game is good hands with Jerrion Elay (745 yards, 9 TDs) back and an offensive line that rates as 4th best i9n the SEC. The defense will look to be improved after the Rebels allowed 38.3 ppg a year ago. That was 11.8 ppg more than 2019. They have nine starters back on that side of the ball, but still, all three units rank 9th or worst in the SEC. The defense will be an issue for the rebels again, but this is a good team that will land a decent bowl game somewhere.
Auburn Tigers: Bryan Harsin comes in from Boise State to take over an Auburn team that went 6-5 last year. The Tigers have 57 lettermen back, including 15 starters, but they still are 96th in the nation in terms of experience. Last year broke a string of seven seasons in a row that the Tigers won at least seven games. The offense was very average last year as the Tigers put up just 25.1 ppg, but Harsin is an offensive Minded coach, and they have eight starters back on that side of the ball. Bo Nix is back at QB after throwing for 2415 yards with 12 TDs and seven INTs last year. Nix has a world of talent that Malzahn was never able to tap into fully. Maybe Harsin will have better luck, but we note that the receiving corp ranks 11th in the SEC. The running game should be good with the 4th best set of running backs in the league, which will set up behind a very good offensive line. The defense allowed just 24.7 ppg last year, and it should be just as solid as they have seven starters back on that side of the ball. The LB corps ranks 8th best in the nation, and Harsin had some outstanding defenses at Boise State. Auburn does get Ole Miss at home, but they also face the likes of Georgia and Alabama at home, plus road games against LSU and Texas A&M will be very tough. The Tigers will finish 5th in the SEC West but will still grab a bowl invite.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Mike Leach went just 4-7 in his first year here at Mississippi State, but we should see some improvements this year. It may not translate into a bowl invite as the schedule is tough with roadies against Texas A&M and Auburn, plus home games against NC State, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss. The first thing Leach has to do is fix an offense that put up just 21.8 ppg last year. That is unheard of for a Mike Leach-coached team as they are used to 30+ point outputs. Eight starters are back on that side of the ball, including QB Will Rogers, who could have a very good season as he will be tossing the ball to the 3rd best set of receivers in the league. Their top two running backs return, but they combined for just 537 yards and seven TDs last year. Leach is not a fan of running the ball, and the offensive line rates as one of the worst in the SEC. Still, they should top last year’s numbers. The defense allowed 28.1 ppg, which could be improved this year with 24 of 28 lettermen back, including eight starters. The defensive line is below average, but the back eight has a chance to be very solid. MSU will be improved on both sides of the ball, but I see them falling just short of a bowl bid.
Arkansas Razorbacks: The Hogs went just 3-7 in Sam Pittman’s first year at the helm, and they could be in for another rough season. Arkansas has 57 lettermen back, including 19 starters, but the overall talent is not there for them to be a factor in the rugged SEC West. The offense was average last year as they hung up just 25.7 ppg, but it could be slightly better this year. KJ Jefferson takes over at QB for the departed Feleipe Franks, and he was the 29th rated QB recruit two years ago. He has the 3rd best set of receivers in the SEC to throw to but will get no help from a ground attack that looks to be one of the weakest in the league. The Hogs struggled on the other side of the ball as they allowed 34.9 ppg, but we should see some improvements this year. Arkansas has ten starters back on defense, and while the line ranks 11th in the league, the linebacking corps and secondary rate 5th best in the league. The schedule is tough with road games against Georgia, Mississippi, LSU, and Alabama, plus a home game against Auburn and a neutral site game against Texas A&M. They may be improved on both sides of the ball, but it will not translate into more than four wins.
SEC East Division
Georgia Bulldogs: The Georgia Bulldogs went 8-2 last year, and they have 58 lettermen, including 13 starters back this year. Georgia does rank 110th in the nation in terms of experience, but they also brought in the 3rd best-recruiting class in the land. Just another SEC team that reloads each year. The offense was solid last year in putting up 32.3 ppg, and it should be even better as they have eight starters back on that side of the ball. JT Daniels is back at QB, and Phil Steele has him as the 2nd best QB in the SEC. Georgia is still led by their power running game, and they have one of the best backs in the league in Zamir White, who ran for 779 yards and 11 TDs last year. He will set up behind an offensive line that ranks as 7th best in the nation. The WR corps is no slouch either as their top seven pass catchers return, and that group ranks among the best in the SEC. The Dawgs have just five starters back from a defense that allowed 20 ppg a year, but it should be much better this year with the country's 2nd rated DL, and the 4th ranked LB corps. Georgia has a challenging road game against Auburn and neutral site games game against Florida and Clemson. However, they should breeze through the rest of their schedule while going at least 2-1 in those three. Georgia is a bonafide contender for a spot in the NCAA playoffs, and they are also could take down Alabama in the SEC title game.
Kentucky Wildcats: That’s right, I am picking the Wildcats to finish in 2nd place in the SEC East. The Cats lack overall experience, but they do have 57 lettermen back, including 12 starts, plus Mark Stoops has been recruiting well here with the 31st rated class in the nation. QB Terry Wilson is gone, and Will Lewis will take over after transferring from Penn State. The receiver corps has their top three back, and Kentucky also returns its top running back from a year ago in Chris Rodriguez, who ran for 785 yards and 11 TDs last year. Kentucky put up just 21.8 ppg last year, but I see this edition putting up at least 28 ppg. The defense allowed 25.9 ppg last year, and with just five starters back on that side of the ball, it could struggle some this year. The Wildcats are not that strong in the front seven, but the secondary looks to be solid, despite replacing two starters. Road games against South Carolina and Georgia will be challenging, as will home games against Florida and LSU. I expect the Cats to beat the Gators at home, which will give them the 2nd spot in the SEC East.
Florida Gators: Dan Mullen has gone 29-9 here at Florida, and he has another solid team on his hands this year. The Gators are one of the least experienced teams in the nation as they have just ten starters back from a team that went 8-4 last year, but they do have the 13th ranked recruiting class in the nation and a very manageable schedule. Five starters are back on offense, and they will have a new signal-caller in Emory Jones, who was the 6th rated QB recruit in the nation a couple of years ago. The receiving corps loses its top three pass-catchers from a year ago, so they have some rebuilding to do there. Florida’s WRs rank 7th in the SEC. The top two running backs return, but it is not a talented group while the OL is average. It will be challenging for the Gators to come close to the 39.8 ppg they put up last year. The Gators will could have some problems on defense as well, after allowing 30.8 ppg a year ago. They have just five starters back on that side of the ball, but we note that they have the13th best defensive line in the nation and the 4th best set of LBs in the SEC. Florida must improve on a pass defense that allowed 258 ypg last year, but the secondary is not all that strong. Florida has tough road games against LSU and Kentucky, plus a home game against Alabama and a neutral site game against Georgia. I will call for them to finish in 3rd place in the SEC East.
Missouri Tigers: The Missouri Tigers went 5-5 last year but missed out on playing in a bowl game at it was canceled. They were supposed to play Iowa. The Tigers have 14 starters back from that team with 53 lettermen overall, and they rate as the 5th most experienced team in the SEC. The Tigers are also in the 2nd year of Elijah Drinkwitz’s schemes, so we should see an all-around improved team. Eight starters are back on offense, including QB Connor Bazelak, who threw for 2366 yards with seven TDs and six INTs last year. He has six of his top seven wide receivers back, but Bazelak may not get much help from a ground attack that lost Larry Roundtree. Missouri’s running backs rate at 11th in the league, as does the offensive line. The defense allowed 32.3 ppg last year, after giving up just 19.4 ppg in 2019. Missouris has six starters back on that side of the ball, and all three defensive units rank 10th or worst in the SEC. The offense will score plenty, but the defense will give up plenty of points. The Tigers may get to a bowl game this year, but it will not be easy.
Tennessee Volunteers: It was not a good year for the Vols last year as they went just 3-7. That prompted the firing of Jeremy Pruitt and the hiring of Josh Heupel, who went 28-8 in three years at Central Florida. The Vols are the least experienced team in the SEC, but I still like them to finish 5th in the SEC and flirt with a bowl bid. A big reason is that they get Vandy and South Carolina at home, along with Bowling Green, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee Tech. The offense has just five starters back, and they must replace QB Jarrett Gaurantano. Joe Milton takes over after transferring from Michigan, and he was the 24th rated QB when he left high school a few years ago. Tennessee’s skill players and offensive line are among the worst in the SEC, but they should easily top the 21.5 ppg they put up last year. The defense is where we should see significant improvements after allowing 30.1 ppg last year. The Vols have 26 of 32 lettermen back on that side of the ball, including seven starters, and they will be led by a defensive line that ranks 18th best in the nation. Five wins max for the Vols this year, but they are headed in the right direction.
South Carolina Gamecocks: The Gamecocks went just 2-8 last year, and they are headed for another long season. Will Muschamp is out, and Shane Beamer, who has never been a head coach at the college level, takes over. He inherits a team with 14 starters back but still ranks 117th in the nation in terms of experience. Eight starters are back to an offense that put up just 23.5 ppg last year. Luke Doty will take over at QB, and he was the 9th rated recruit at the position a couple of years ago. He threw for 405 yards with two TDs and three INTs last year. The receiving corp is weak, so he could struggle this year. This year, the offense will be led by their ground game as Kevin Harris returns after rushing for 1138 yards and 15 TDs last year. He will set up behind the 4th rated OL in the league. If the ground game gets going, it will make life easier on Doty. The offense will be better than last year, while the defense couldn’t be any worse after allowing 36 ppg. The defensive line is average, but the back 8 are among the worst in the SEC. Still, with Shane Beamer being the son of Frank Beamer, you can expect him to focus on the defensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks have cupcakes against Eastern Illinois and East Carolina to start the year. Still, eight of their final ten games are very tough with roadies against Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Missouri, plus home games against Kentuck, Florida, Auburn, and Clemson. Four wins at most for the Gamecocks this year.
Vanderbilt Commodores: That brings us to the Vanderbilt Commodores, who will be the worst team in the SEC this year. Vandy went 0-9 last year, and they were -157.4 ypg in conference play, so despite the fact that they have the 3rd most experienced team in the SEC, they have too much ground to make up to escape the basement of the SEC East. They have nine starters back on offense, including QB Ken Seals, who threw for 1928 yards with 12 TDs and 10 INTs last year. His top 4 receivers return, but that group is still rated 11th in the SEC. The Commodores have the worst group of running backs, and the offensive line ranks 13th in the league. Despite all that, we should see Vandy top the 14.8 ppg and 300 ypg that they averaged last year. The defense gave up 37.3 ppg last year, but we could see some improvements there with eight starters back on that side of the ball. The pass defense is their most significant area of concern, after ranking 119thy in the nation in that department last year. The bad news is that they have the worst secondary in the SEC this year. Still, Vandy should chop a few ppg off of what they allowed last year. I see wins against East Tennessee State and UConn at home but can’t find any more wins on the rest of their schedule. It will be a long first year for Clark Lea.