Four New Coaches and eight pre-season ranked teams. The conference is stacked, the teams are stacked, yet we aren’t quite sure how each team will perform this year. Let’s make some predictions.
Vanderbilt: 1 – 9
Vandy’s returning cast is subpar, and the only positive coming with the state of the season is the returning coach. I think their only win comes versus Ole Miss. They have a good returning receiver in Cam Johnson, which if he remains healthy, should be a benefit to Derek Mason’s offense.
Usually I would rely on coaching as a gauge for how well a team will perform in the season; however, Derek Mason’s record is not a show stopping record. Derek Mason’s record as a head coach is 27-47. I also look at the recruiting class Vandy brought in (53rd according to 247 Sports), which doesn’t improve the outlook for Vandy’s season.
South Carolina: 2 – 8
Hilinski is returning as the presumed starter for the Gamecocks, and they have surrounded him with 6 four star receivers, but their offensive line is mediocre at best. They don’t have a great cast of running backs or defensive players. They don’t have a great SEC West schedule this year, I could see them beating Ole Miss this year, but I wouldn’t take that to the bank.
As with Vandy, I want to look to South Carolina’s recruiting class, while the freshmen class is good (19th), that doesn’t ensure victories. Most of these players won’t reach college speed until midway through the season. I think they can steal a win against Missouri later in the year.
Missouri: 2 – 8
The 51st recruiting class. They have a grad transfer in Shawn Robinson, from TCU, as their projected starter. Robinson will add maturity to the team, and will hopefully be a calming presence in the huddle. However, in his two years at TCU, Robinson has 12 TDs and 8 INTs. He hasn’t been impressive.
Another factor in Missouri’s low expectations comes from their new coach with a new QB. They don’t have a relationship that will help them in the early part of the season. Missouri has struggled in the SEC since their addition to the league, and I think that Missouri is structured like a Big 12 team in a league that demands sustained drives and tough defense.
Kentucky: 4 – 6
Kentucky went 3 – 5 in conference play last season, they relied mainly on Bowden for much of their offensive production. Sawyer Smith is returning, but he wasn’t very impressive and I couldn’t tell you if that is a positive at the moment. Their recruiting class is the 25th in the country, and as with many of the teams, the freshmen likely won’t be impact players day one.
Their D-Line is reloading with this incoming class, two big DTs that should start to help stop the run game. I think they’re on the way up, but this is a year that we’ll see them struggle and their SEC West opponents are not favorable.
Tennessee: 5 – 5
Pruitt is a very good returning coach, the QB battle will offer as a distraction in the early season. I really only have them losing to Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas A&M. I think their age and their mediocre quarterback play is their downfall, but I see them as a team that can begin to trend upward. The next few years should get interesting.
Georgia: 7 – 3
While the dominant team in the East will still have a good record this season, it won’t be the same playoff run that the Bulldog fans are becoming used to. They don’t have a quarterback, and the lack of an off-season is going to halt the development of QB/WR relationships.
Their recruitment class is the top of the country as of now, but mainly they’re loading up on the defensive side. UGA needs development at wide receiver, and with Kirby Smart’s traditional play calling, they’ll need the athletes to overwhelm their opponents.
Florida: SEC East Champion 10 – 0
Florida has the pieces of the puzzle for a magic run. Their coach stayed, their QB returned, and their supporting cast is stout. Florida gave LSU 3.5 quarters of hell last season. Trask should continue to develop and we should see him grow into a true leader, and Dan Mullen is traditionally skilled at building young men into leaders of men.
With a top ten recruiting class, Florida continues to load up their defense. Their defense is led by the mastermind of Mississippi State’s 2018 top defense, Todd Grantham. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and LSU are Florida’s Western foes this season, and I suspect they’ll make easy work of three of them, and I think they’re still much better than A&M.
Arkansas: 0 -10
Can we please not even talk about Arkansas? They haven’t won an SEC game in two years. They have a new head coach. They have a top 30 recruiting class, which is alright, but that isn’t going to turn a program around in a season. They have god knows how many QBs taking snaps this season, it was three QBs last season, and they won’t have an easy go on offense. You have to feel bad for Boyd this year.
Ole Miss: 2 – 8
New head coach, who is relatively unproven in the SEC. Was his success a byproduct of Saban or Kiffen’s greatness? We all know who was actually the driver in that scenario. Plumlee is generally heralded for his LSU game, but they forget that Ole Miss struggled all season long, they couldn’t put together big end of game drives.
Their recruiting hasn’t been great since losing their coach and the Egg Bowl in 2019. I look at Lane Kiffen as an attempt at making their team cool and making season ticket holders happy, but in the end season ticket holders don’t matter this season and Twitter likes don’t win games.
Mississippi State: 6 – 4
The SEC’s leading rusher has returned, and the four-star prospect KJ Costello got into town in the spring, and the star-linebacker Erroll Thompson is going to be leading the defense still. The secondary, however, is largely young still. Last season 9-10 starters were freshmen, so Mississippi State will be returning some battle-hardened sophomores.
This offseason, Mike Leach took over for Joe Moorehead. Leach brings the air-raid offense which should get Alabama transfer, Shavers, and Osirus Mitchell some nice stats before they declare. There should be some nice folds added to the offense…in week 4 or 5.
LSU: 5 – 5
I wouldn’t be surprised to see LSU lose their opener to Mississippi State. They returned their coach, but not many of the coordinators. You’re rebuilding the team, oh yeah and your top receiver opted out. LSU had a magical run in 2019, but 2020 won’t be that friendly to them.
Texas A & M: 8 – 2
The Aggies return their coach and QB, and expect that they’ll do about average. Jimbo has a tendency to under-perform in the biggest games, he loses his creativity. They have a rough second and third game; however, they should have a smooth ride to the end of the season. I could see them stealing an extra win, and for the second time in Jimbo’s career at A&M he’ll sweep the state of Mississippi.
A&M runs the state of Texas in recruiting, and years of building up recruits should benefit them in a weird season without any non-conference games. They have the benefit of coming in with a very mature team that shouldn’t need as many reps to get back to full speed.
Auburn: 8 – 2
Gus comes back, and the electric Bo Nix is back. They won’t have the support of the bid DL from last year, but the team has been ready to replace their defensive pieces. The only weakness will be Bo Nix’s weapons, for we don’t quite know how good they are until they’re in the middle of battle.
I believe they’ll struggle with A&M and Alabama, but other than that, they seem to be in a good position to win most of their games. Their East games are soft, but I could see them dropping the game to Tennessee with how Pruitt was able to bring together his guys last season.
Alabama: SEC Champion 10 – 0
It’s the typical revenge tour, it’s the staple of Saban’s tenure at Alabama. They were beaten in front of the President last season and a mental error cost them the Iron Bowl; consequently, Mac Jones is going to be playing top ball, and Waddle will show off his ability to take over where Jeudy and Ruggs left off.
I don’t see anyone beating them this year, but they will have tight match ups against A&M and Auburn. I think they’ll take the West and Mullen hasn’t bested Saban yet. Mullen is an offensive coach who Saban reads like a book.
When your coach is the notorious task master, you should be able to recover from a “bad” season. I think the next generation of Alabama players will continue the legacy of the program.