Not your regular SEC preseason predictions, 2016 edition

It’s time to roll them out again.  After a few years doing this, I’m in a groove, but as a reminder to those of you who haven’t read my previous excursions, here are the ground rules:

The format for my picks, in case you haven’t tuned into this broadcast before, hasn’t changed.

Rather than give you my predicted records, I’ll list the schools in the order they finished in the conference last year, look at areas of potential improvement and decline and assess in what direction I expect each to go by comparison to 2010.

In other words, pure seat of the pants BS.

Based on that, the teams are listed in the order of their 2014 conference order of finish.  Remember that, before you start freaking out over where a school shows up in this post.

Update 2014 to 2015 and we’re good.  With that in mind, here goes nothing.

SEC WEST

ALABAMA (14-1, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Unparalleled team depth; Nick Saban and The Process; best defensive front seven in the country; receiving corps; great advanced stats
  • Cons:  Depth in the secondary; inexperience at quarterback; games against three highest ranked conference opponents on the road
  • Outlook:  I’m really having to stretch to pick holes.  It’s hard to find many flaws with this team.  It’ll take some freaky bad luck for ‘Bama to lose two games this season.

MISSISSIPPI (10-3, 6-2)

  • Pros:  Favorable advanced stats; coaching stability; quarterback; linebackers
  • Cons:  Significant losses to NFL; running back; offensive line; turmoil surrounding program; tough early schedule
  • Outlook: Lots of talent and lots of controversy that threatens to distract.  With that difficult early run of games, if things don’t break right, I could see this team let things get away from it, especially when you consider the loss of top-flight talent on defense.  For the moment, I’ll stick with nine wins.

LSU (9-3, 5-3)

  • Pros:  More talent than any team in the conference outside of Alabama; home game against Alabama; upgrade at defensive coordinator; running backs; offensive line; secondary
  • Cons:  Scheme change on defense; quarterback; offensive coordinator
  • Outlook:  It’s not often that I have something as a plus and a minus, but the hiring of Dave Aranda qualifies.  I have little doubt he’s a major upgrade over Kevin Steele, but he’s moving LSU from a base 4-3 to a base 3-4 and I feel like there will be some growing pains as they sort out the inevitable personnel issues that come with that.  Still, this should be at worst the second-best team in the West.  If they get improvement at quarterback, the Tigers could exceed that.

ARKANSAS (8-5, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Offensive line; improving defense
  • Cons:  Secondary; special teams; last seven games on schedule against SEC opponents
  • Outlook:  This team is the poster boy for steady improvement.  Can they continue to build on that?  Arkansas plays in a tough neighborhood.  The Hogs look like an eight-win team that goes .500 in the conference to me.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-4, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Coaching stability;  favorable cross-divisional schedule; wide receivers
  • Cons:  Running backs; offensive line; quarterback
  • Outlook:  I don’t see how you can look at the Bulldogs post-Prescott and not think they’re in reset mode.  I’m thinking eight wins, tops.

TEXAS A & M (8-5, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Great recruiting; second year under John Chavis; defensive line; receivers
  • Cons:  New offensive coordinator; turnover at quarterback; linebackers; tough strength of schedule
  • Outlook:  Last year I said Chavis was a great hire, but warned Rome wasn’t built overnight.  The defense still has some holes, but should be improved.  Not sure how Mazzone fits with what TAMU does, though.  Eight or nine wins seems right.

AUBURN (7-6, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Solid recruiting; healthy Carl Lawson; offensive line; special teams
  • Cons:  Brutal schedule; third defensive coordinator in three years; quarterback; wide receivers; linebackers
  • Outlook:  This is the year the “Auburn plays its best when it’s under the radar” meme gets its stress test.  Given the schedule, I’m not sure it survives.  From where I sit, I have a hard time seeing any improvement in the record.

 

SEC EAST

FLORIDA (10-4, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Defense; coaching stability
  • Cons:  Offensive line; quarterback; running back, receivers; schedule with eight conference games in a row
  • Outlook:  Jim McElwain did a heckuva job in his first year.  Can he keep it going?  There are depth issues on offense that concern me; it’s a team that could go south in a hurry with a few key injuries.  Even if Florida’s health doesn’t suffer, it’s hard to see ten wins again.  That defense and a weak East should keep the Gators in contention, though.

TENNESSEE (9-4, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Quarterback; upgrade at defensive coordinator; most returning experience in the conference; running back; special teams
  • Cons:  Offensive line; schedule; mental outlook
  • Outlook:    The Vols have improved their talent base steadily under Jones, and their record has followed.  Shoop is the best offseason hire in the SEC.  In the end, he’s why I think you have to pick Tennessee to win the East.  Vols win ten in the regular season and do no worse than lose two conference games.

GEORGIA (10-3, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Running back; tight ends; secondary; easy coaching transition on defense; upgrade at offensive coordinator and offensive line coach; softest schedule in the East; solid recruiting
  • Cons: Quarterback; experience and depth of defensive front seven; wide receiver depth; coaching turnover; special teams
  • Outlook:  After the quietest 10-win season in major conference history, exit Mark Richt and enter Kirby Smart.  There’s talent, but it’s not spread out evenly.  The schedule eases significantly in the second-half of the season, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a modest start followed by a win streak to close out the season.  I’ve waffled between nine and ten wins, but I think I’ll take nine at this point.

KENTUCKY (5-7, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Running backs; offensive line; coaching stability
  • Cons:  Defensive front seven; special teams; schedule
  • Outlook:  The only team in the conference whose 2015 record was identical to 2014’s.  I like UK to make it three years in a row.

VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Linebackers; softer schedule than most teams in the division; Ralph Webb
  • Cons:  Offense; special teams
  • Outlook:  Mason is a top notch defensive coordinator and it showed last season.  The Commodores have an SEC-quality defense.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Vandy’s offense.  That being said, Vanderbilt’s saving grace is that it doesn’t appear to be the worst team in the division.  Bowl eligibility may be a stretch, but I can see the ‘Dores squeezing out one more win in 2016.

MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7)

  • Pros:  Defensive line
  • Cons:  Offense; new coaching staff
  • Outlook: Things sure went south in a hurry last season, didn’t they?  It’s hard to see how the offense can be fixed quickly, especially with a new staff.  Bowl eligible at best.

SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7)

  • Pros:  New energy on the coaching staff; offensive line
  • Cons:  Lack of talent on both sides of the ball; new staff
  • Outlook:  The HBC didn’t do Boom any favors in the personnel department, that’s for certain.  Having a staff that’s more focused is a plus, but the SEC is a Jimmies and Joes conference and there isn’t enough focus in the world to offset the disadvantage Muschamp faces.  He’ll win more games than he’ll get thrown out of, but that’s about it.

 

20 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

20 responses to “Not your regular SEC preseason predictions, 2016 edition

  1. Dawg in Austin

    I agree with much of this, but FYI that LSU started transitioning to a 3-4 last year under Steele so the bodies and scheme knowledge will be closer to what they need already.

    • I know Steele introduced certain elements, but Aranda’s coming in with a very different scheme.

      LSU hasn’t been recruiting to a 3-4, so there will be a certain mix and match element to what he’s doing with his front seven. It won’t have any effect at all on the secondary, though, and LSU’s is going to be very good.

      • SouthernYank

        Switching D schemes in a season where you have to win (say “hi”, younger Dooley) is a poor idea.

  2. DugLite

    “He’ll win more games than he’ll get thrown out of, but that’s about it.”

    Nice one Senator!

    • Russ

      If the Senator had said “He’ll win more games than he should get thrown out of”, I would disagree. But the refs are gutless, except with they want to flag Richt for unsportsmanlike.

  3. Macallanlover

    Many good thoughts Senator, and everyone’s just guessing at this point. I think you are too high on Old Miss in the West, and too low on LSU and A&M. A&M/UCLA is one of the more interesting games Saturday. May regret saying this but Tide looks weaker than you see them but maybe I am basing too much on the QB and RB changes for this year,

    I think you could put the top 3 in the East in any order and I could support/argue them, just a tossup, muddled by the games with the Western schools. Vandy and Mizzou might both be better than Kentucky.

    • Mac, by too low on LSU, I presume that means you think they win the West this season.

      • Macallanlover

        Not necessarily, but wouldn’t be surprised if they did. I think they finish 1 or 2 in the West, but third is too low. They return a lot of talent, and can be Atlanta bound with a mediocre QB….I have see them do it before. If Ole Miss were to be dropped down to the middle, that’s where I see them, that would move LSU up by default and a Bama LSU race is what I do expect to see. Bama is still very good, I just don’t think they roll like they did last year. Nothing new here, Bama/LSU winner looks like the team going to Atlanta, and it happens to be in Red Stick this year.

        • Mac, I didn’t pick LSU third. They’re listed in last year’s order of finish.

          • Macallanlover

            Sorry, I missed that. Was rushing out the door to the golf course and skimming. Lot of sheet to digest this week…good times. Here is to a great season for UGA and continued prosperity to GTP.

  4. paul

    Seems about right to me. When it comes to pure seat of the pants BS you and I are copacetic.

  5. If LSU can find a functional QB to take the pressure off Fournette, I can see the Bayou Bengals winning the West, but I’ve said that since Mett left Red Stick without fondling a coed in a Baton Rouge bar. Otherwise, Miles and Cameron are overmatched by Saban and Pruitt because Bama is not going to let you run the football. Therefore, Bama will win the West again.

    I can see a 3-way tie in the East as UTK loses to UGA & Bama, UGA loses to UF & Ole Mi$$, and UF loses to UTK & LSU.

    Bama then beats UTK or UGA in the SECCG to make the playoff.

  6. Fourth and Fifteen

    Casual observations from a shamefully ignorant observer over the last few years:
    Leonard Fournette with blocking is special.
    Leonard Fournette without blocking is not so special.
    Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, with or without blocking, are special.
    The team everybody wants to play at the beginning of the year is Arkansas.
    The team nobody wants to play at the end of the year is Arkansas.
    In 2008, Alabama visited Athens and showed the nation that the Dawgs were a long way from being considered consistent contenders for the national championship.
    In 2015, Alabama visited Athens and showed the nation that the Dawgs were a long way from being considered consistent contenders for the national championship.
    Every season the Dawgs make some opponents that are “not so good” look “very good”.
    Nick Chubb is the man.

    Predictions from the nickel seats:
    North Carolina: New sheriff in town and emotions run high. Dawgs Win.
    Nicholls State: Entire roster plays in the game. Dawgs Win.
    Missouri: CKS has heard about the face-plant games. He experiences one first hand. Dawgs Lose.
    Mississippi: CKS has some pay back for these guys. Dawgs Win.
    Tennessee: Nick Chubb has some pay back for these guys. Dawgs Win.
    South Carolina: These games were fun to watch when HBC was around. He’s gone. Dawgs Win.
    Vanderbilt: Derek Mason is the best head coach defensive coordinator in football. Dawgs Win (barely).
    Florida: NC-SM pave a highway through jortsville. Dawgs Win.
    Kentucky: Team takes the day off after rousing triumph over the jorts. Dawgs Lose. During the post-game interview, CKS accidently and repeatedly refers to the “wildcats” as the “warhawks”. CMS claims signature victory.
    Auburn: War Eagles are blacked-out. Dawgs Win.
    UL Lafayette: Entire roster plays in the game. Dawgs Win.
    Georgia Tech: 4 TDs, 4 TDs, and 4 TDs for the good guys. Dawgs Win.

  7. Fourth and Fifteen

    SEC WEST
    Alabama
    LSU
    Arkansas
    Texas AM
    Mississippi
    Mississippi State
    Auburn

    SEC EAST
    Florida
    Georgia
    Tennessee
    Missouri
    Vanderbilt
    Kentucky
    South Carolina

  8. acfritze

    A Pro for Mississippi is it’s “Coaching Stability”?

    Is that a joke Senator? Because I honestly believe you should lump that right in with the Con “turmoil surrounding program”.

    If the NCAA decides to do something crazy – or in its case, standard – like suspend Hugh Freeze from any to all games this season, then I believe the Ole Miss program’s coaching stability will develop a case of vertigo.

    Granted, that type of amercement is a longshot, but I’m still a bear – not the rebel black species, mind you – on Hotty Toddy’s season. I would not be surprised in the slightest if come November, the Grove is praying to close out the regular season with 6 wins.

    • I believe Ole Miss is the only program in the conference that hasn’t had any staff changes over the last two seasons. If that’s not stability, what is these days?

      • acfritze

        Fair enough. I’d be wary of regularly labeling stability as a positive trait – for more reasons than just the heat that Mr. Freeze has brought to Oxford.