To be perfectly honest with you, I thought about taking a pass on making preseason picks this go ’round, because 2020 has the potential to make 2007 look sane and rational. In the end, in the spirit of “eh, what the hell”, I’ve decided to plow ahead. Besides, if I whiff badly, I’ll just blame it on COVID.
Before I get started, allow me the usual caveat about the format, which will be ignored by the usual four or five commenters.
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 [last season’s] conference order of finish. Remember that, before you start freaking out over where a school shows up in this post.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ‘ya. And with that, on to my picks.
LSU (15-0, 8-0)
- Pros: Defensive backfield; recruiting; cross-division schedule
- Cons: Severe personnel losses from last year’s national championship team; Brady departure; defensive scheme change
- Outlook: They recruit very well and that can’t hurt, but they have so much to overcome it’s hard to see how the Tigers avoid a drop off. The good news is they play Vanderbilt, Missouri and South Carolina from the East, so the drop won’t be too far. 8-2 looks about right.
ALABAMA (11-2, 6-2)
- Pros: Virtually unmatched depth; Nick Saban and The Process; running back; wide receiver; offensive line; special teams
- Cons: Replacement of Tua
- Outlook: The Tide lost two regular season games in 2019. I can’t see that happening in 2020, as this is a team that is better built to weather the pandemic storm than any other program in the conference, and probably the country. One loss, maybe — and that seems a stretch.
AUBURN (9-4, 5-3)
- Pros: Kevin Steele knows what he’s doing; linebacker
- Cons: Another hyped change in offensive scheme with Chad Morris; running back; losses on defensive line; defensive back
- Outlook: The Tigers are getting hyped, being ranked in the preseason top 10 by several outlets. It’s all going to depend on Cox’ growth and Gus’ rabbit’s foot. For now, split the baby with seven wins.
TEXAS A&M (8-5, 4-4)
- Pros: Offensive line; cross-division schedule; defensive back
- Cons: Linebacker; special teams; opt-out attrition rate
- Outlook: The conventional wisdom is that TAMU, freed from its brutal 2019 schedule, is a likely breakout candidate. Eh, maybe. Everyone’s been expecting Jimbo to coax greatness out of Kellen Mond; time is running out for that. And the departure of his top receivers doesn’t help. Seven wins is what that all adds up to.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Running back; quarterback; defensive line; kicking game
- Cons: Defense; offensive line; special teams; radical change in offensive scheme; schedule
- Outlook: I like the Costello pick up, provided he stays healthy, but the Air Raid is dependent on timing and not having spring practice definitely hurts in that department. Defense isn’t going to be good this season. MSU should be peskier as the season progresses, but there’s only so much you can do when over half the teams on the schedule are preseason top 25. All told, looks like three wins to me.
OLE MISS (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Running back; punter; quarterback
- Cons: Deteriorating team depth; coaching changeover; defense
- Outlook: The Laner will be presented with the check for NCAA sanctions, as the roster is a mess. Three wins is about it.
ARKANSAS (2-10, 0-8)
- Pros: The Hogs can’t be any worse than they were last year; running back; offensive line
- Cons: Defense; special teams; schedule; new coaching staff
- Outlook: Poor Sam. But Pittman can’t say he didn’t know what he was getting into. Looks like a third straight year without a conference win from here.
GEORGIA (12-2, 7-1)
- Pros: Overall roster depth on par with Alabama; defense; experienced coaching staff
- Cons: Special teams; quarterback; receiving depth
- Outlook: The defense is going to be special. The question is how much will the offense improve. Smart has upgraded at offensive coordinator, but the experience level at quarterback has to be a concern. Regular season loss to Alabama seems almost inevitable, but unless the offense regresses from its 2019 level, it’s hard to call for another one.
FLORIDA (11-2, 6-2)
- Pros: Staff stability; quarterback; tight end; secondary; special teams; schedule
- Cons: Depth at offensive line; running back
- Outlook: Mullen, whatever his warts, is a good coach. The schedule is going to make him look good this season. The o-line shouldn’t be an outright liability, but the running game looks to be weak and that means he has to rely on Trask the passer more than he likes. Trask was lucky with turnovers last season; will that continue in 2020? Two losses is my pick.
TENNESSEE (8-5, 5-3)
- Pros: Left side of o-line; running back; kickers; improving defense
- Cons: Quarterback; receivers
- Outlook: Yes, they’re better, but when the season likely comes down to Guarantano becoming a consistent starter, the Vols probably don’t have as bright a future as they hope. Five wins.
KENTUCKY (8-5; 3-5)
- Pros: Coaching stability; offensive line; experienced roster
- Cons: Running back; receiver; special teams
- Outlook: Stoops is a good coach. This isn’t the deepest roster, but it’s stocked with experienced players. Let’s say five wins.
MISSOURI (6-6, 3-5)
- Pros: Defense
- Cons: Total rebuild on offense; schedule; new coaching staff; special teams
- Outlook: Normally, the Tigers use a soft early schedule to build momentum into the conference season. That ain’t gonna happen in 2020, as six of Mizzou’s first seven games are against ranked opponents. The final quarter is soft, but they’re gonna get the crap beat out of them before they get there. Three wins, maybe four.
SOUTH CAROLINA (4-8, 3-5)
- Pros: Improving talent level; upgrade at offensive coordinator; defensive backfield
- Cons: Running back; linebacker; schedule
- Outlook: The schedule is a killer. Bobo may help, but he won’t help that much. Hard to see where Boom scratches out more than three wins.
VANDERBILT (3-9, 1-7)
- Pros: Linebacker
- Cons: Schedule; overall lowest talent level in the division
- Outlook: It’s a shame the ‘Dores don’t play Arkansas, just so we could get a definitive answer on which of the two is the conference’s worse. Winless 2020, coming up.
That’s all I got. And you?