The SEC is THE football conference each season. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are the measuring stick for the rest of the country. No other conference in the last decade or more has come close to their collective success on the gridiron. With Alabama leading the way, we’ve also seen National Championships from Auburn, LSU, Florida, and even Tennessee over the last couple decades. 11 of the last 20 championships have been SEC teams.
The SEC West is led by Alabama again. QB controversy be damned, Saban will have a great, well disciplined team on the field. RB Damien Harris will assuredly improve on his 1,000 yard season, giving the passing game time to get in sync despite losing all-world Calvin Ridley. And that defense……..this will be a very hard team to beat. But don’t expect Auburn to take this lying down. QB Jarrett Stidham will be among the best in the country. His top receivers are back and they should be connecting early and often. The Tigers boast a solid defense as well. Mississippi State sees the return of QB Nick Fitzgerald. He’s a double threat who spreads the field nicely for the Bulldogs. Aeris Williams will keep defenses honest coming off of a 1,100+ yard season out of the backfield.
Texas A&M is coming off of a 7-6 season and looking at a brutal schedule this year which includes Clemson in Week 2. QB Nick Starkel is back, but his top 2 WRs are gone. Trayveon Williams will look for more touches in the running game to improve on his 798 yard effort last season. LSU is likely headed for a rare rebuild/refuel situation this year. They only return 10 starters, 5 on each side of the ball. The talent will be there, but how long for it to come to fruition? Arkansas will have sophomore Cole Kelley under center. Their receiving crew is back in full force. This should help a young QB. As in past years, the Razorbacks running game will feature a few guys who are more than able to keep this offense chugging along. Ole Miss is looking to get over the hump of mediocrity from the past 2 seasons. QB Shea Patterson and RB Jordan Wilkins are gone, leaving the Rebels with some questions to answer. WRs AJ Brown and DeMarkus Lodge return to give the passing game some experience.
The East is led by Georgia, who provided us with one of the best championship games we’ve ever seen. QB Jake Fromm will have most of his WRs from last season back. This will give the Bulldogs some familiarity in the passing game. RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have both moved on, but D’Andre Swift will fill in nicely for Georgia. Florida will be marginally better this season. Their 4-7 record last year was an anomaly. QB Feleipe Franks gets the bulk of his receivers back and I feel they light it up in the air this year. RB Jordan Scarlett is back off of a red shirt year, so the running game will be much improved. South Carolina is an up and coming team. The Week 2 matchup against Georgia will be must see TV. QB Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel will be a connection we can expect to see all season long. This will definitely open up the running game for Rico Dowdle and AJ Turner.
Missouri and QB Drew Lock will give Tigers fans an aerial show to remember. Lock is coming off of a 44 TD season; look for him to air it out. J’Mon Moore is gone, but Emanuel Hall and TE Albert Okwuegbunam are more than able. Kentucky has been on the rise the last 2 seasons, posting winning season in consecutive years. Benny Snell is quietly one of the more efficient RBs in the nation. They have an experienced group of WRs to assist a young QB. These guys could surprise some better teams. Tennessee is coming off of a dismal season (4-8). Vols fans are in for a long year. Drink early and often, guys. New head coach, young roster. Vanderbilt will see the return of QB Kyle Shurmur. WR Kalija Lipscomb (8 TD) will be his main target. The ‘Battle of Tennessee’ vs the Vols on November 24th will be as anti-climactic as it gets.
The SEC will give us everything we expect from them. We’ll see future NFLers battling it out week after week. With Alabama being the consensus #1, the rest of the country will be stepping up to try and knock them out. Ice down the beer, grab a seat, and tune in.