As I was writing this, news of the tragic attack in France came across the screen. It really puts college football, recruiting, etc. and its importance in perspective. On this somber day, I hope this will allow everyone to escape the realities of the real world for a few minutes. My thoughts and prayers with anyone and everyone personally affected by this tragedy.
SEC EASTERN DIVISION
#1 – Tennessee Volunteers
I have questions about Tennessee’s offensive line and Josh Dobb’s ability as a passer, however with two fantastic running backs they will be able to move the ball and put points on the board. Why the Volunteers are atop this list is because of their defense. Their pass rush should be ferocious, Reeves-Maybin is one of the best linebackers in the country and their secondary is experienced and very talented. Tennessee has been building for two years just for this year.
#2 – Georgia Bulldogs
Who will start at QB? Will Chubb and/or Michel be back to 100% sooner than later? Those are the two biggest questions for the Dawgs. That said, the Bulldogs will field the best offensive line in the Eastern Division and have a lot of young talent at the skill positions. On the defensive side of the ball the Bulldogs are young but talented. The focus and intensity in Athens appears different under the staff. If the Dawgs can get by UNC on the opening weekend the schedule is favorable for the Bulldogs to possibly make a nice run.
#3 – Florida Gators
Once again, Florida is going to field a fantastic defense. In Caleb Brantley, Jarrad Davis and Jalen Tabor they have an ALL-SEC player at each level. The question marks for the Gators come on offense. Can Luke Del Rio compete on the SEC level? Can Scarlett or Cronkrite carry the load at RB? However, the biggest question mark is whether their biggest playmaker Antonio Callaway will be able to play this year. The Gators defense will keep them in every game and probably win a few games for them. Their offense on the other hand will struggle to put points on the board.
#4 – Kentucky Wildcats
This is a put up or shut up year for the Wildcats and Coach Stoops. The Wildcats have some talent on both sides of the ball but are not close to the level of the Top 3 in the SEC East. That said, they have enough athletes to pull off an upset against any one of those three teams if they don’t show up ready to play. Their success will be in large part determined by whether Drew Barker can play to the level of his talent.
#5 – Missouri Tigers
Missouri is going to field a talented defense, especially in the front 7, but have nothing but question marks everywhere else on the roster. There is potential their but a lot of players who have not developed as hoped. That said, Barry Odom will have them ready to play hard week in and week out.
#6 – South Carolina Gamecocks
This is the least talent that the Gamecocks have had since before the start of the Steve Spurrier era. They don’t have a QB, no proven playmakers at the skill positions and lost their best defensive player for the season in Skai Moore. It is going to be a long year in Columbia, SC.
#7 – Vanderbilt Commodores
I’m not wasting my time or yours analyzing a team that won’t win a single game in the SEC this season.
SEC WESTERN DIVISION
#1 – LSU Tigers
First and foremost the Tigers are absolutely loaded on defense. As good as the Alabama defense was last season I firmly believe this LSU defense has the potential to be just as good if not better. They have the most athletic and fastest defense in the country and with the addition of Dave Aranda at defensive coordinator they will be ferocious. On the offensive side of the ball they will lean on tailbacks Fournette, Guice and Williams. Brandon Harris has to be better, right? If he can just convert a few third downs with his arm and throw an accurate deep ball the Tigers will be one of the best teams in the country.
#2 – Alabama Crimson Tide
As long as Nick Saban is roaming the sidelines in Tuscaloosa it is incredibly difficult to pick another team to be atop the SEC West. With the best coach in the country and the most talented roster in the country the Tide have the potential to develop into a dominant team over the course of the season. Once again the Crimson Tide will field a dominant defense and an offense with some very explosive playmakers. For the first time in years, the biggest question for the Tide is at the running back position. I don’t know that Scarborough, Harris and Emmons will be productive enough. That said, my biggest concern is the fact that the Tide lost a number of leaders. Jake Coker, Ryan Kelly, Reggie Ragland, A’shawn Robinson and Derrick Henry were all team leaders. I don’t know that they have players ready to step up and take that role.
#3 – Texas A&M
I’m taking a leap of faith here with the Aggies. There are still a lot of question marks on this team headed into the season but they also have some big time strengths. Their wide receiver corps is the most talented in the Nation and their pass rush is elite. Also, I am a believer in Trevor Knight and believe he will bring stability to the QB position that the Aggies have not had in years. I have no doubt that this offense will explode on several occasions against SEC opponents.
#4 – Ole Miss Rebels
The start to the Rebels season is brutal with Florida State, Alabama and Georgia amongst the Rebels first four games. It doesn’t help that the offseason has been full of distractions around the program with NCAA investigations, etc. If the Rebels get off to a slow start it could all unravel pretty quickly. With that said, the Rebels still have a lot of talent and the best QB in the conference which will be enough for them to rebound from a tough start and win 8 games.
#5 – Auburn Tigers
The Tigers will return an outstanding front 4 bolstered by the return of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams. Also, their interior offensive line will be a strength. But the question marks exist at every other position. The one thing we do know with Auburn is that if they get solid QB play they can surprise just about anyone. It will be very intriguing to see what John Franklin, III can do because if he is better than expected the Tigers will undoubtedly be better.
#6 – Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas is going to do what they do under Bielema which is run the football and play physical on the defensive side of the ball. The problem for the Razorbacks is that they lost a lot of talent on the offensive line and their top running backs so they will likely not be as effective with their rushing attack. Also, Brandon Allen was very underrated at QB last year and will be missed tremendously.
#7 – Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs return a great deal of experience but they lost Mr. Everything (aka Dak Prescott) and do not have anyone capable of replacing him. Their offense will struggle playing in the strongest defensive division in the country. Also, on defense they simply lack the playmakers that other teams in the division have. They will struggle to win more than 5 games.