Once more into the breach, dear friends, with my stab at what’s coming. But first, let me start with my annual caveat, which I guarantee will be ignored by at least a couple of 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 2020.
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.
Y’all try to keep up this year, okay? And with that, away we go.
ALABAMA (13-0, 10-0)
- Pros: Conference best depth; Nick Saban and The Process; defense
- Cons: Replacement of several key offensive skill position players
- Outlook: Same as it ever was in Tuscaloosa. There are plenty of people who think the Tide are a lock to lose a regular season game. Okay, but to whom?
TEXAS A&M (9-1, 8-1)
- Pros: Schedule; defensive front seven; running back; tight end; defensive coordinator; rising talent base
- Cons: Offensive line turnover; quarterback
- Outlook: The non-conference schedule is soft. The crossover games are against Missouri and South Carolina. The defense under Elko will be nasty. This team will go as far as the o-line, which lost a bunch of starters, and a new quarterback will take them. The offense isn’t cutting edge, but Fisher will game manage the Aggies to no worse than nine, and probably ten, regular season wins.
AUBURN (6-5, 6-4)
- Pros: Running back; defensive back seven
- Cons: Coaching staff overhaul; defensive line
- Outlook: Somebody said Harsin hired two coordinators better suited for 2013 than 2021. That may be true, but I think Auburn’s success this season boils down to whether Bo Nix evolves into a functional SEC quarterback. From where I sit, it feels like a seven-win season is coming.
LSU (5-5, 5-5)
- Pros: Overall talent; offensive line; defensive backfield; Cade York; departure of Bo Pelini
- Cons: Staff turnover
- Outlook: This is the SEC’s biggest mystery team, and it’s because Orgeron’s management skills are, shall we say, questionable. Does his new staff recapture some, if not all, of the 2019 magic? Your guess is as good as mine. The Tigers will be better, but I’m hedging my bets at eight, maybe nine, wins tops.
OLE MISS (5-5, 4-5)
- Pros: Offense; schedule
- Cons: Defense; overall depth; four new assistant coaches; special teams losses
- Outlook: They’ll be fun to watch, for sure, but that defense has a way to go. And they’re still digging out from under the rubble from the NCAA sanctions. They get the Vols and Vandy from the East and the non-conference schedule is certainly manageable. There could be as many as eight wins in store for them.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-7, 3-7)
- Pros: Second year bounce for coaching staff; receiving corps; special teams
- Cons: Offensive line; defensive depth
- Outlook: Leach has done what he’s done in his first year at previous stops: rip apart everything at the seams and rebuild from there. It took him two or three seasons to show improvement and there’s no reason to think it’ll be any different at MSU — other than the fact he’s trying to reinvent the wheel in the SEC West. I’ll say five wins, as the non-conference schedule is soft and they get Vandy.
ARKANSAS (3-7, 3-7)
- Pros: Second year bounce for coaching staff; wide receiver
- Cons: Schedule; new quarterback; offensive line; pass defense
- Outlook: You could say the Hogs exceeded expectations last year, but that’s because the bar was set very low. This year’s schedule, like 2020’s, is brutal and it’s hard to see where there are more than four wins on it.
FLORIDA (8-4, 8-2)
- Pros: Defensive front; secondary
- Cons: Offensive line; significant skill position losses; schedule; special teams losses
- Outlook: My gut tells me UF will be a better team than we want it to be. No, the Gators won’t be as good on offense as they were last season, but it’s hard to see how they can be any worse on defense. The problem is that they’ve drawn Alabama as their floating cross-division opponent. The rest of the schedule is fairly manageable, with the key game being against LSU. Nine or ten regular season wins seem doable.
GEORGIA (8-2, 7-2)
- Pros: Overall roster depth on par with Alabama; defensive front seven; running backs; schedule; special teams; offensive cohesion
- Cons: Offensive line; secondary
- Outlook: Stability at quarterback is huge. So is Monken having a full preseason to work on installing his offense. The early injuries are a little concerning, but Georgia looks like a team that will improve as the season goes on. There shouldn’t be more than one regular season loss.
MISSOURI (5-5, 5-5)
- Pros: Second-year coaching bounce; schedule
- Cons: Pass defense; losses of Rountree and Bolton
- Outlook: I’m not on the Mizzou bandwagon yet. Drinkwitz did a good job in a tough year for them, but the team tailed off as the season progressed, and I don’t think Bazelak was very good in the second half. The Tigers didn’t beat a team with a winning record. Missouri has the early soft schedule that it typically relies on to build momentum; it doesn’t face a ranked team until week seven and only faces two others after that. Seven wins.
KENTUCKY (5-6; 4-6)
- Pros: Offensive line; running backs; experienced roster; schedule
- Cons: Offensive scheme change; secondary
- Outlook: They are making a major change on offense, with a new quarterback, to boot. Hard to think there won’t be growing pains. Fortunately, they’ve got a stout offensive line and some good backs to lean on. The schedule is favorable, too. This could be an eight-win team in 2021.
SOUTH CAROLINA (4-8, 3-5)
- Pros: Running back
- Cons: Coaching staff turnover; defensive back seven; schedule
- Outlook: What a mess. The roster is lacking in talent for an SEC program. The schedule has three teams ranked in the preseason top ten. Vanderbilt is worse, but I’m not sure by how much. Four wins is as good as it gets.
TENNESSEE (3-7, 3-7)
- Pros: Non-conference schedule; kicking game
- Cons: Team depth; coaching staff overhaul
- Outlook: A brutal offseason in the portal, where the Vols lost many of their best players. They’re making a major stylistic change from Pruitt to Heupel. Still, given the state of the East and a soft non-conference schedule, this team has a decent shot at bowl eligibility.
VANDERBILT (0-9, 0-9)
- Pros: Linebacker; quarterback
- Cons: Schedule; overall lowest talent level in the conference
- Outlook: This was an awful team in 2020, so bad that I’m not defaulting coaching staff turnover as a con. The talent was lacking, but last year’s Vandy staff flat out sucked. The other blessing here for the ‘Dores is a return to non-conference play. They could win three games this season. Maybe.
That’s all I’ve got. Come at me.