- South Carolina
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia
1. Georgia Bulldogs
Projected Record: 12-1 (8-0 SEC)
Georgia comes off a great season and heartbreaking loss in the National Championship. Getting back to the playoffs will not come easy as they must replace 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball. The roster is talented with Georgia having three out of the last four years a top five recruiting class.
On offense talented WRs Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, and Riley Ridley should give SEC defenses trouble along with shifty RB De’Andre Swift. It’ll be interesting whether QB Jake Fromm can hold off freshman phenom Justin Fields for the starting job. There will be new starters across the defense, but Georgia still has reliable players like CB Deandre Baker, Safety J.R. Reid and DE Jonathan Ledbetter. The schedule will not be easy with matchups against Auburn and LSU from the West. If Kirby Smart can find a way to replace the lost defensive starters Georgia should not only be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, but the College Football Playoffs as well.
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2 SEC)
There is some buzz growing for the Gamecocks to be sleepers in the East. Now, I do not believe they will be able to take down Georgia, but they do have enough talent on their roster to have a nice season. South Carolina has one of the best duos at wide receiver with Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards. Whether Jake Bentley continues to improve will be the difference in the Gamecocks being contenders or pretenders. The 126 yard performance against Clemson last year will not be near good enough if South Carolina has top ten dreams.
The defense is solid in the front 7 with star linebacker T.J. Brunson. Where the Gamecocks need to improve is in the secondary. Games against Georgia and Clemson will test the secondary and show if they can compete on the national stage. The Cocks also avoid Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, and LSU in SEC play.
3. Florida Gators
Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)
I know they had a terrible 4-8 year and still haven’t found a quarterback. But there are too many playmakers on this Florida Gators roster to stay down for long. Coming off a tragic year that was plagued by suspensions and injuries, Dan Mullen will look to turn things around.
The Gators return the entire offensive line and have talented wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson. However, the offense will only go as far as Feleipe Franks takes them.
The defense is talented across the board highlighted by Cece Jefferson rushing the passer, David Reese at MLB and Chauncey Gardner playing a playmaker role at Nickelback. They have a tough non-conference game with Florida State and play LSU and Mississippi State from the SEC West. The talented roster should be good enough to have a solid year in the East.
4. Missouri Tigers
Projected Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)
Missouri had one of the worst starts to the college football season starting 1-5, but they finished the season 6-2. The Tigers have one of the most talented quarterbacks with Drew Lock along with 9 returning starters to an offense that was 8th in the nation.
The defense will need to improve, but they have the talent on the defensive line with Terry Beckner Jr. and Texas transfer Jordan Elliott. They return all of their starting linebackers including leading tackler Cole Garrett.
Part of Missouri’s schedule is absolutely brutal. They play Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama in back-to-back-to-back weeks. But if Missouri takes care of business with their winnable games in the SEC East, they should enjoy a nice season.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
Tennessee welcomes new head coach Jeremy Pruitt after a whirlwind of a search. It will be anything but easy for Tennessee to bounce back from a 4-8 season with no conference wins. It starts with the quarterback position which will come down to Stanford transfer Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano. Trey Smith is one of the best offensive lineman in the SEC and Alabama transfer Brandon Kennedy should help.
The defense has talent and should make an improvement with Coach Pruitt. However, the schedule is absolutely brutal. They start out against West Virginia and then have a five game stretch of Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina. With the difficult schedule it will be tough for Tennessee to make a bowl game.
6. Kentucky Wildcats
Projected Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)
The big question for Kentucky will be at QB between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak, neither have thrown a pass in a FBS game. Kentucky will instead rely on one of the best running backs in the SEC in Benny Snell and an offensive line that returns four starters.
Josh Allen leads a defense with a lot of returning starters especially in the secondary. The schedule isn’t too tough, but with the unsettled quarterback situation it is tough to see Kentucky competing for a SEC East championship.
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Projected Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)
There was once upon a time that Vanderbilt wanted Alabama. The season was all downhill after that with the Commodores winning just one game. Kyle Shurmur is back and will lead the offense for his senior year. The offensive line also returns all of their starters from last season.
The defense was the strength early, but fell off in SEC play. There are only 4 returning starters on this defense, but CB Joejuan Williams and OLB Charles Wright are talented. It will be tough for Derek Mason to make a bowl game with the SEC schedule and facing Notre Dame.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0 SEC)
The defending National Champions shouldn’t fall off. The national media is making it out like there is a quarterback controversy. There is none… Tua is the starter. The offense is loaded at Running Back with Damien Harris and Najee Harris. The receivers are young and talented. To cap it off four out of the five offensive lineman are back. Expect Alabama to average 40 points per game.
The defense should stay elite with the front seven. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs lead up front. Inside linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses also make a dynamic duo.
The secondary remains the one unknown. Deionte Thompson is a dynamic safety, but there are young, unproven corners that will have to step up. The schedule sets up well with Louisville the only Power 5 test for nonconference play. A trip to LSU for a Saturday night game could be tricky as well.
2. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC)
Just because Dan Mullen is gone doesn’t mean this team isn’t talented. Nick Fitzgerald leads an experienced offense that includes 1000-yard rusher Aeris Williams and four of the five offensive line starters.
The defensive line is the strength of a defense, led by sack leader Montez Sweat and former five star Jeffrey Simmons. The defense was ranked 10th in the nation last year and should be good again. The schedule sets up nicely with SEC East matchups against Kentucky and Florida, as well as a home game against Auburn. Look for Mississippi State to compete in the West and possibly finish as a top ten team.
3. Auburn Tigers
Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)
The Tigers should be back challenging for the SEC even after blowing it in the bowl game against UCF. Jarrett Stidham is one of the most talented passers in college football and has his favorite target back with WR Ryan Davis. However, the offense will have to overcome losing RB Kerryon Johnson and an inexperienced offensive line.
The defensive line is solid with Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Dotavius Russell. However, the secondary has some concerns. The schedule is tough with games against Washington, Alabama, Mississippi State and Georgia.
4. LSU Tigers
Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)
LSU has the same story every year, will the offense be at least decent? The quarterback competition is between Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow and Myles Brennan after LSU has had two transfers. Jonathan Giles is a talented WR transfer from Texas Tech that should help the new signal caller out.
The defense is LSU’s strength again with defensive lineman Breidan Fehoko (Texas Tech transfer), Ed Alexander and Rashard Lawrence. LSU’s tackle leader, Devin White, is back again along with one of the best corners in college football, Greedy Williams. LSU has a tough season opener in Arlington, TX against Miami.
5. Ole Miss Rebels
Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5 SEC)
Everyone counts out Ole Miss because of all the turnover and mess left over from the Hugh Freeze scandal. Ole Miss’s roster still has a lot of talent on it especially on the offensive side of the ball. Jordan Ta’amu is a talented QB who played just as good and maybe even better than Shea Patterson. Ole Miss also has one of the best receiving units in the country with DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Demarkus Lodge.
The defense will be the weakness coming off a season where they were ranked 124th against the run. Ole Miss starts off with a game against Texas Tech, but the SEC schedule isn’t too bad with their SEC East opponents being Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
6. Texas A&M Aggies
Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 SEC)
The Jimbo Fisher era has started at Texas A&M. The first major decision he will need to make is whether Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond is the starter. Outside of the quarterback position they have talented young wide receivers led by Jhamon Ausbon. Running back they return 800-yard rusher Trayveon Williams.
The defense has a few bright spots with linebacker Otaro Alaka and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke. They will need to improve especially after allowing 55 points to Wake Forest in their bowl game. Texas A&M has a tough home game against Clemson and along with questions along the offensive line and defense, it could be a tough first year for Jimbo Fisher.
7. Arkansas Razorbacks
Projected Record: 6-6 (2-6 SEC)
The Razorbacks are coming off a tough 4-8 season and new coach Chad Morris is in charge now. Last season Arkansas finished 94th offensively and 102nd in defensively in the nation. The offense does return a veteran offensive line and a good running back with Devwah Whaley. Cole Kelley should be the new starting quarterback.
On defense there is talent to work with linebackers De’Jon Harris and Dre Greenlaw. The new defensive coordinator John Chavis is one of the best in the business so a turnaround could happen. The schedule sets up decently for Arkansas with no tough non-conference games and SEC East opponents Missouri and Vanderbilt. A bowl game would be the step in the right direction.