Biting the bullet: reviewing my SEC preseason predictions

Yeah, it’s ownership time.  I made my preseason picks and now I have to live with the consequences, such as they are.  Accountability, and all, you know.

As always, schools are listed in the same order as they were in the preseason post, with this season’s won-loss totals.

[Ed. note:  Please read that last sentence again, carefully, before you blast me in the comments for not agreeing with the order of presentation.  You’ll save us both a lot of time.  Thanks!]

SEC WEST

ALABAMA (13-0, 8-0)

  • What I said:  I actually had to make a couple of changes from last year, but who am I kidding here?  If Alabama isn’t in the national title hunt when the Tide plays in the SECCG, it’ll be a complete shock.
  • How I did:  Sure, a total duh, but, still…
  • Final grade:  A

AUBURN (7-5, 3-5)

  • What I said: This could be one of those classic cases where a team is as good or better than it was in the previous season and still have less to show for it.  That’s because of the schedule, which has the Tigers opening against Washington and playing Alabama and Georgia on the road.  On the other hand, if the offensive line doesn’t jell, Stidham showed last season he’s not at his best working under pressure.  I’m seeing three losses.
  • How I did:  The offensive line never jelled.  The running game never jelled.  Stidham couldn’t carry the team.  Got that part right, but didn’t see how the rest of the team didn’t carry itself, either.  Good on the direction, bad on the trajectory.
  • Final grade:  C+

LSU (9-3, 5-3)

  • What I said:  The Tigers were good last season, but not great.  This offseason, they ditched an offensive coordinator and brought in a transfer quarterback to run the offense.  Not exactly a recipe for success and that schedule, which opens against Miami and has Florida and Georgia as the crossover division games, is brutal.  I could see as many as six losses in the regular season, but I’ll hedge my bet and say a repeat of 8-4 looks more likely.
  • How I did:  Did LSU surpass expectations because they were a better team or because of the low bar Orgeron set?  Yes.
  • Final grade:  C-

MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)

  • What I said:  One thing Mullen did well in his time at MSU was manage the roster and Moorhead stands to benefit from that quite nicely this season.  The Bulldogs inhabit the SEC West, but the rest of the schedule isn’t as daunting.  I don’t think they’ll do worse than last season’s four losses and may very well wind up being one of the season’s more pleasant surprises.  Let’s say 9-3.
  • How I did:  They wound up about where I thought, but I have to admit they didn’t do it quite the way I expected, which was with an improved offense.  Instead, the defense was dominant and the coaching changeover and the resultant struggle figuring out what to do with Fitzgerald probably cost them at least one win.
  • Final grade:  B

TEXAS A&M (8-4, 5-3)

  • What I said:  TAMU plays Clemson and Alabama in the first four games of the season.  Ouch.  Auburn and Mississippi State are road games.  Ouch again.  Combine that with Fisher changing the offense and the inevitable personnel misfits that go along with that, and it’s hard to see the Aggies taking a huge leap this season.  7-5 looks about right as a regular season projection.
  • How I did:  Like it or not, Jimbo Fisher did one of the better coaching jobs of 2018.  This team had some obvious flaws, but he did a good job of masking some of those.  He also did excellent work with Kellen Mond.  With the way TAMU is recruiting, you get the feeling this is a program on the rise.
  • Final grade:  C-

OLE MISS (5-7, 1-7)

  • What I said:  Give ’em credit — the Rebs could have collapsed last season, but managed to win six.  They’ll be fun to watch, as a bad defense and great passing attack is the perfect recipe for shootouts.  The conference schedule is a problem in that the most winnable games are all on the road.  That’ll wind up costing them another win over last year’s total.
  • How I did:  Bingo.
  • Final grade:  A+

ARKANSAS (2-10, 0-8)

  • Outlook:  A bad team looking to get better, but, again, you’re looking at a bad personnel fit for what the new staff wants to do.  I know Ian Boyd says that Chad Morris has enough to work with offensively, but I look at the mess on the offensive line and wonder if that’s really the case.  A favorable schedule helps, but not that much.  6-6, tops, and 5-7 more likely.
  • How I did:  Once again, I diagnosed the symptoms, but didn’t see the depths of the disease, most likely because I didn’t appreciate how much John Chavis’ game has declined.  Just a bad, bad team.
  • Final grade:  D+

SEC EAST

GEORGIA (11-2, 7-1)

  • What I said:  The schedule is manageable.  The talent level is exceeded only by Alabama’s, and not by much.  Mentally and emotionally, though, Georgia is in uncharted territory.  This is where we’ll find out if Kirby Smart passes his next coaching test.  My bet is he does and Georgia loses no more than one regular season game.
  • How I did:  Yep.
  • Final grade:  A

SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5, 4-4)

  • What I said:  Boom’s improved the talent level and you have to respect the way the ‘Cocks clawed their way to nine wins last season.  I do believe the hurry up will pay benefits down the line as it likely suits Bentley’s game better.  Deebo Samuel’s return is a major plus.  So what makes me hesitate?  Two things.  One, there are bound to be growing pains as the new offensive scheme is put in place and two, that +11 in turnover margin did a lot of heavy lifting in 2017.  I don’t see more than eight regular season wins for South Carolina and I feel somewhat shaky about that.
  • How I did:  South Carolina finished minus-4 in turnover margin.  My shakiness was justified.
  • Final grade:  A-

KENTUCKY (9-3, 5-3)

  • What I said:  The best thing UK has going for it this season?  The East, generally speaking, is in recovery mode.  Kentucky will win five or six regular season games because that’s what Kentucky does.  Just don’t expect it to be pretty.
  • How I did:  I vastly underrated the fine job Stoops did building an experienced roster.
  • Final grade:  F

MISSOURI (8-4, 4-4)

  • What I said:  There are a lot of nice parts back on offense.  The question is how competent the new offensive coordinator is.  Defense won’t be pretty.  One thing that’s gone below the radar is that this is a tougher schedule than we usually see Mizzou play.  For one thing, there’s Alabama on the road.  For another, they probably shouldn’t sleep on Purdue at Purdue in what might be a very entertaining matchup.  If I felt better about SOD, I could see as many as eight wins.  Let’s hedge and say 7-5.
  • How I did:  Dooley got better as the season progressed and Mizzou got to eight wins.
  • Final grade:  A-

FLORIDA (9-3, 5-3)

  • What I said:  They can’t be any worse than they were last year.  It’s not unreasonable to expect Mullen to get more out of the quarterback position than they got last season, but there’s only so much lipstick in the world to paint on that pig.  They don’t have one of the more favorable cross-division schedules and they finish at FSU.  Still, there are parts to work with and Mullen is good at getting as much as he can out of what he’s got.  I expect the Gators to double their 2017 win total.
  • How I did:  Things pretty much turned out as expected.  The Gators got one more win than I projected because FSU crashed and burned.
  • Final grade:  A-

VANDERBILT (6-6, 3-5)

  • What I said:  Derek Mason knows how to coach defense, so how come Vandy will be better on offense than defense this season?  And who thought scheduling a road game at Notre Dame was a good idea?  It’s gonna be a real stretch for the Commodores to win five games again in 2018.  They’ll be back in the SEC East basement.
  • How I did:  There’s a simple reason Vanderbilt did better than I expected:  the bottom of the SEC West was worse than the East, and the ‘Dores got to play Arkansas and Ole Miss.  Also, thanks, Tennessee!
  • Final grade:  C-

TENNESSEE (5-7, 2-6)

  • What I said:    Booch out; Pruitt in.  The best thing the new staff has going for it is lowered expectations.  They’ll need all the help they can get just to get the Volunteers back to mediocrity this season.  The Vols do have their traditional November schedule going for them, but will they survive a brutal five-game stretch that starts with Florida, runs through Georgia, Auburn and Alabama and finishes at South Carolina?  Five regular season wins are likely, six tops.
  • How I did:  Pretty much spot on.  The Vols did pick up a win against Auburn, but spit the bit in November.  Very much still a work in progress under Pruitt.
  • Final grade:  A

There you have it.  Looking at it in hindsight, this was one of my better sets.  Whether that’s due to my keen insight, or simply because the conference as a whole was more predictable than usual, I have no idea.

How did you preseason projections go?

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11 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

11 responses to “Biting the bullet: reviewing my SEC preseason predictions

  1. Uglydawg.

    I’d say you did well.
    Mine were very similar, except I predicted a little more from Kentucky and a second season loss for Georgia.

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  2. RangerRuss

    That was damn good predicting. Your analysis is better than most of those talking heads that get paid. Own it!

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  3. Erk's Forehead

    No one could have predicted Kentucky’s season. Stoops did a good job.

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  4. I’d say you did really well.

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  5. stoopnagle

    This is kind of off-topic since it’s about our 2019 schedule, which I feel like we can start to think about now that we’re clearly among the elite and we’ve finished up all but the bowl game (which I am going to and is terribly important to me that we win!)

    Our schedule is, on its face, imminently manageable with the toughest matches mostly at home (Notre Dame and Texas A&M). The roadies at UT and Auburn have the potential to be tests if Pruitt can improve his team and if Auburn does it’s schizo thing again.

    The problem is when you go a bit deeper – and we all already know this – no fewer than 6 of the teams we play have bye weeks prior to their game with us. For Tennessee and Florida this isn’t such a big deal as we’re off prior to those games as well. And honestly, Murray State is a scrimmage. That leaves us playing South Carolina after we play UT away and they’ve had 2 weeks to get ready, that leave back-to-back games against Mizzou and Auburn where they had off weeks(!) and we played, resp., Florida and Mizzou.

    Slap that A&M game between an away tilt at Auburn and on the Flats, and the schedule goes from manageable to appallingly unfair, honestly.

    We could have the best team in Kirby’s 4 years and be disadvantaged by the layout of this schedule. On top of it all, Tech’s schedule isn’t set yet.

    You play the hand you’re dealt, but I recall the 2010 Alabama with a really good team that went 10-3 with losses to Carolina, LSU and Auburn that faced a similar scheduling challenge with 6 conference games in a row (@SC, Ole Miss, @UT, @LSU, MSU, and AU) against teams with a bye week prior (they had byes during two of those: LSU and AU).

    I just need to get that off my chest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Uglydawg.

      Holy mackerel, Stoop. Just when I thought I could sleep well about next year. That is uncanny and concerning news.
      Maybe a partial solution…play so well in the first half of each game that you rest and protect your starters in the second half. No longer let teams hang around till the fourth.
      But that won’t negate the advantage that almost every team will have a week or more to prepare for Georgia. A huge thing.

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      • stoopnagle

        Sorry, but I’ve been sort of pissed about it since the schedules came out. I’ve been enjoying the moment and not letting myself think about next year until now.

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        • Brandon M

          That’s just part of it. When you start kicking everyone’s asses, they all want to schedule their bye week before you so they have a better shot. Life of “the hunted”

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  6. I missed on TAMU … I thought Jimbo was going to spend most of the year putting out the remnant of the Sumlin dumpster fire. He did a good job and is still a jackass.

    Everyone missed on Kentucky … Maybe it’s just the year, but I’m surprised he hasn’t been in the conversation about a bigger job.

    I definitely missed on Auburn. I thought we would either be 11-1 or 10-2 with the losses to the West. I really thought Gus would bring a team to Athens that would be a challenge for us.

    I slightly missed on 10rc. I thought Orangeneck would drive them to 6 wins, but I enjoyed seeing them get taken behind the woodshed by Vandy to deny Tooth Nation a trip to Shreveport or Birmingham.

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  7. Macallanlover

    Excellent recap of a solid job of forecasting. No small feat given the rollercoaster-ish nature of all up and down CFB seasons. Thanks for the work.

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  8. DoubleDawg1318

    Considering you only missed on your West predictions by about a win each, I think you graded yourself too hard. I’d call it a B effort at worst.

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