Well, it’s that time of year again (technically, earlier than usual because of Week 0) when I show my ass to all and attempt to foresee what’s coming down the turnpike from the fourteen members of the Southeastern Conference.
Once more, I offer my general explanation about the format to this post, although I know there will be, as usual, at least two readers who don’t bother to look at it:
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 2018 conference order of finish. Remember that, before you start freaking out over where a school shows up in this post.
And with that, here we go.
ALABAMA (14-1, 8-0)
- Pros: Depth, depth and more depth; Nick Saban and The Process; quarterback; wide receiver; defensive back seven; weak non-conference schedule; ridiculous advanced stats
- Cons: Replacement of both coordinators (maybe) and Quinnen Williams (definitely)
- Outlook: The most lather, rinse, repeat program in college football. As I said in last year’s preview, if Alabama isn’t in the national title hunt when the Tide plays in the SECCG, it’ll be a complete shock. A regular season loss would be a mild upset.
LSU (10-3, 5-3)
- Pros: Defense; overall talent level
- Cons: Schedule; running backs; offensive line; receivers
- Outlook: There’s an awful lot riding on the supposed change in offensive philosophy this season. Color me unconvinced. LSU is too talented to have a mediocre season, but the schedule and Orgeron have me thinking the Tigers are on their way to nine regular season wins in ‘nineteen.
TEXAS A&M (9-4, 5-3)
- Pros: Second year coach effect; linebacker; special teams
- Cons: Running back; pass defense; brutal schedule
- Outlook: Yeah, I think Jimbo can coach when he’s motivated. But between that schedule, the wholesale losses on the defensive front and Trayveon Williams’ departure, the won-loss record will take a step back in 2019. Seven wins is pushing it a little, but I think TAMU gets there.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-5, 4-4)
- Pros: Second year coach effect; running back; defensive line; positive advanced stats
- Cons: Losses on defense; depth
- Outlook: Mullen left Moorhead a stacked roster and that showed on defense. But Fitzgerald was a poor fit for what Moorhead wanted to do offensively, and that showed, too. This year’s roster looks more pedestrian, but presumably Moorhead will get more out of his offense. The schedule is certainly manageable, so I can see an eight-win season coming.
AUBURN (8-5, 3-5)
- Pros: Lowered expectations; special teams; defensive line; running backs
- Cons: Schedule; quarterback
- Outlook: It’s one of those patented Auburn years — you know, when nobody’s expecting great things from the Tigers, so they outperform expectations. That being said, for all their obvious strengths (and that defense is gonna be a real good one), they play six preseason top twelve teams and Gus is counting on a true freshman quarterback to run his offense. I’ll say nine wins, maybe even ten if Gus finds his lucky rabbit’s foot again.
OLE MISS (5-7, 1-7)
- Pros: Off NCAA probation; Scottie Phillips
- Cons: Deteriorating team depth; new coordinators; special teams; offensive line; departing receiver talent
- Outlook: Hard to see this season being anything other than a long, hard slog. The roster has been significantly weakened by sanctions and Ole Miss is making a radical change in scheme on offense. The schedule isn’t awful, but I have a tough time coming up with more than four wins.
ARKANSAS (2-10, 0-8)
- Pros: Schedule; second year coach effect
- Cons: Overall roster may be the SEC’s worst
- Outlook: This is year two of a massive rebuild project. I think the Hogs will win three games this season, but only because the schedule is so soft.
GEORGIA (11-3, 7-1)
- Pros: Offensive line; Jake Fromm; running back; defensive back seven; best talent base in the division by far
- Cons: Wide receiver; quarterback depth; pressure of high expectations; schedule
- Outlook: There’s a high ceiling on Georgia’s season because of the talent level. The big question is whether Smart has the program ready to take the next big step, which is beating Alabama. In the meantime, history and a formidable schedule suggest one regular season loss for the Dawgs.
KENTUCKY (10-3, 5-3)
- Pros: Coaching stability; schedule; Lynn Bowden
- Cons: Losses of Snell and Allen; defensive line; special teams
- Outlook: Stoops is a good coach, period, but no program like Kentucky survives the loss of its two best players unscathed. Still, that schedule will somewhat ameliorate the drop. Call it an eight-win regular season for the ‘Cats.
FLORIDA (10-3, 5-3)
- Pros: Second year coach effect; secondary; wide receivers; special teams; starting 22 experience
- Cons: Depth at offensive line and cornerback; rocky offseason; regression to the mean on turnover margin
- Outlook: Mullen, to his credit, stabilized the program last season. Like it or not, he’s a solid coach. 2019 looks like it’ll be dependent on team health in two key areas. The ceiling appears to be a ten-win regular season; the floor, if injury luck and turnover margin go south, bowl eligibility. I’ll sort of split the baby and say nine wins, for now.
MISSOURI (8-5, 4-4)
- Pros: Coaching stability; offensive line; receivers; running back; schedule
- Cons: Looming NCAA sanctions; overall depth; special teams
- Outlook: Odom is another good coach who deserves more credit than he gets. The schedule is favorable, to say the least, and I could see Mizzou rolling into Athens with a 7-1 record. Plus, there’s more talent on this team than you might think. That being said, you never know how a team reacts to postseason ineligibility. Right now, I feel comfortable with a nine-win prediction.
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-6, 4-4)
- Pros: Coaching stability; rising talent level; wide receiver; experience at quarterback; linebacker
- Cons: Running back; schedule
- Outlook: Muschamp has repaired the dumpster fire of a roster Spurrier left him with. On offense, the big fix has to be getting Bentley to turn the ball over less; you’d have to think with his experience, that’s not an insurmountable task. As you might expect with a Muschamp-coached team, the ‘Cocks have some good pieces on defense. Man, oh, man, that schedule, though. It’ll be a yeoman’s task to win eight games. I’m thinking seven wins, and that would be a good year for SC.
VANDERBILT (5-7, 1-7)
- Pros: Coaching stability; schedule; receivers; Ke’Shawn Vaughn
- Cons: Secondary; defensive line; special teams; Shurmur’s departure; lowest talent level in the division
- Outlook: Vaughn is the most under the radar player in the conference. Vandy has some nice pieces at wide receiver and tight end, but who’s going to step up at quarterback? Overall, it looks like another typical Vanderbilt season coming up — five wins, maybe six if the ‘Dores can extend the winning streak against the Vols.
TENNESSEE (5-7, 2-6)
- Pros: Offensive skill position players; secondary; second year coach effect
- Cons: Offensive line; defensive line
- Outlook: UT will improve its won-loss record again, but when you’re in a conference where everything starts with line play, and your lines are the weakest part of your team, there’s only so far you can go. The Vols will go bowling, but that’s about all.
There you go. Come at me, if you dare (which you probably do).
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