With Auburn losing to Florida State in the title game is the dominance of the SEC over? Not likely. Heading into this season there are at least three or four teams that could easily qualify for the new playoff system and when they talk about whether it is right for two teams from one league getting in this is the league they are referring to. The SEC is a powerhouse and once again it is full of top teams and players. There will be few easy outs for teams this fall.
Odds to win SEC: 8/1
QB Aaron Murray enjoyed a fantastic career but there is still a lot of hope for the Bulldogs this season. They still have one of the best running back tandems in all of college football and a defense that was pretty green last year should be much improved. Last year this team was killed by injuries and you have to think that balances out this season. Perhaps all the way back to the SEC title game.
They keep finishing in the top 10 but this program is probably underrated because they didn’t make it to a BCS bowl under Spurrier. There is going to be a lot of talk about who isn’t there this season (Jadeveon Clowney & Connor Shaw) but who is back is more than enough to have them in the conversation to win the division. RB Mike Davis might be the best back in the SEC, which is saying a lot.
The talent is there for a major turnaround but it feels like this program might be stuck under coach Will Muschamp. If he can’t get them going this season he might be looking for work which is why they brought in the OC from Duke to kickstart the offense. In football the Gators are not supposed to be looking in that direction for help. The defense should be among the best in the conference and that is a great base to build upon.
Everything went right for Mizzou last year and they rode that all the way to the SEC title game where their magic was trumped by that of Auburn. There are a lot of familiar faces that are gone from that team so a slide is expected but there is enough talent returning that it won’t be to the bottom of the division. If nothing else last year showed that life in the SEC will have its ups and downs for the Tigers.
Things are on the up tick in Lexington led by coach Mike Stoops. He is getting some big time recruiting wins and now he needs to start parlaying those talents into wins on the field. I think this year is the perfect time to see some results with Tennessee down and Vandy breaking in a new coach. This team is not going to be the likes of ‘Bama but they could knock off those other teams to establish a pecking order in the division.
The Vols made a great hire with Butch Jones. They are starting to see some returns on the field and with recruiting but this team is missing a lot from last year. Not a single starting offensive or defensive linemen returns and in a league like the SEC that is a recipe for disaster. Next year this program could make a leap if they develop in those areas but this year will be tough. Their schedule is no treat either.
They have a chance to continue their success of the recent past but it is going to be very tough. Not only are they breaking in a new coach but it looks like their starting QB will be a freshman. QB Johnny McCrary is a great recruit for this program and has been on campus for more than a year but he has no game experience. He will lean heavily on a line with 4 returning starters but it might not be enough to avoid the hiccups of a rookie signal caller.
There is no doubt this team is loaded with talent but their performance could hinge on a player who has not been on campus all that long – transfer QB Jacob Coker. Coker has found soft landing spot in Birmingham after leaving FSU and has an awesome set of skill players to work with. For the first time since Nick Saban took over the offense may be better than the defense provided that Coker is as good as advertised.
Sure the Tigers had a magical season that will be hard to repeat but when you look at the players they have coming back you have to think why not. QB Nick Marshall returns and so does ? of the offensive line that paved the way for the top rushing attack in college football. Marshall can improve to diversify the offense and enough returns on defense to think they should have a say in who wins the league this year again. Their schedule is a bear though and that might be the difference.
The Tigers have a lot of holes to fill heading into this season. They will definitely be one of the youngest teams in the SEC but if you think that means they are in for a fall think again. The Tigers are stoked about RB prospect Leonard Fournette, an in-state recruit, who was probably the best high school running back in the nation last year. QB Brandon Harris is also a supreme athlete and he is likely to be the starter at QB as a frosh. At a place like LSU freshmen don’t play out of necessity they play because they are awesome.
Ole Miss is looking to break through to the upper echelon of the SEC but that is pretty hard to do in the SEC West. Recruiting has been strong with coach Hugh Freeze so they definitely have the talent to compete but it just never seems to come together in Oxford. This year they are hoping that QB Bo Wallace can go out with a bang. He and a pretty strong defense could help increase their win total but it would be a surprise if they did more than threaten.
Even more than the Rebels the Bulldogs are trying to prove they can do more than beat the really weak teams in the SEC. In QB Dak Prescott they have an underrated run-pass threat. If they are going to really excel he not only needs to make the smart plays but also conjure up some magic like Marshall did last year and beat one of the big boys in the league. This team is usually undefeated early but not much of a threat after that.
Johnny Football has moved on from College Station. His replacement Kyle Allan looks like the real deal meaning it might be losses at other spots, like receiver, that could really be the difference for the Aggies this season. Mike Sumlin has been recruiting at a high level since he arrived but not to the degree of Alabama or LSU. Competing every year in the SEC is going to be tough for A&M and even with a special player like Manziel they didn’t achieve that next level.
I am going to go out on a limb and call the Razorbacks the best last place team in America. The first season for Brett Bielema in Fayetteville might have only produced three victories but they are ready to double that total as the pieces come together such as a dominant run game featuring Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Give him time and the coach will have these guys winning like he did at Wisconsin.