Honestly, given the uncertainties of the season, I’m impressed by anyone giving a preseason preview a stab. Bill has SP+ to fall back on, which helps, I’m sure.
Here’s one key observation for each of the seven division teams (2020 SP+ ranking in parenthesis):
- Vanderbilt (110): “… SP+ projects the Commodores as at least 17-point underdogs in every game on the schedule.”
- Missouri (44): “And with six SP+ top-25 opponents in their first seven games, the Tigers’ attack will have to jell immediately to avoid a rough start.”
- South Carolina (36): “After going 9-4 in his second year, Muschamp has won just 11 games in two years. Brutal schedules aside, the Gamecocks’ production hasn’t matched their potential, and they are, per SP+, projected favorites in just three games this fall.”
- Kentucky (22): “SP+ projects UK 22nd overall; that would be the Wildcats’ best ranking since 1977 if it holds. It’s a shame that, with this year’s 10-game league schedules, that translates to only about a .500 record or so…”
- Tennessee (19): “A top-25 performance might earn you only a .500 record this year, but even if the offense remains too iffy for the Vols to threaten in the East, they’re going to be an awfully tough out.”
- Florida (5): “… Trask posted a 25-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio and finished 10th in the country in Total QBR. But he thrived at least partially because of the game plan. His passer rating was 169.6 on first down, 148.0 on second and 139.2 on third, and Florida ranked only 53rd in blitz downs success rate. When conditions were favorable, he thrived. When they weren’t, he didn’t. And that was with Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain, last year’s top wideouts. They’re both now gone.”
- Georgia (4): “The Dawgs were 24th overall in success rate in 2019, but they didn’t make many big plays, and once they were behind schedule, drives fell apart — they were 11th in standard downs success rate but 102nd on passing downs. That’s what you would expect from a triple option-offense, not one overflowing with blue-chippers.”
SP+ only predicts two of the seven will emerge with +.500 records (Georgia and Florida, natch), two going 5-5 (Tennessee and Kentucky) and the other three with losing records. If you had to pick the biggest surprise in the East, which team would you choose?