Once again, you’re gonna get my best shot at what’s coming this season in our favorite football conference.
And once again, I feel the need to say this:
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 (2021).
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.
And once again, I feel compelled to make my evergreen prediction that at least two commenters will fall short with their reading comprehension skills. Ah, well, tradition, amirite? Anyway, here we go.
ALABAMA (13-2, 7-1)
- Pros: Along with Georgia, conference’s best depth; Nick Saban and The Process; defense; quarterback; schedule
- Cons: Offensive line; replacement of Metchie and Williams (had to go there)
- 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? (I wrote that last year and I see no reason to change it.)
OLE MISS (10-3, 6-2)
- Pros: Offense; schedule
- Cons: Defense; overall depth; two new coordinators; turnover at quarterback
- Outlook: The schedule is quite generous. There’s a decent chance Ole Miss gets out to a 7-0 start. From there, it gets dicey. Kiffin had to welcome 17 players from the portal, and while there’s some talent there, that kind of changeover doesn’t mesh overnight. Right now, I’m thinking eight wins.
ARKANSAS (9-4, 4-4)
- Pros: Stable coaching staff; quarterback; running backs
- Cons: Schedule
- Outlook: I am officially done underestimating Sam Pittman’s head coaching ability. He’s built the team he wants. My only hesitation with regard to the Hogs’ record this season is another tough schedule. But I’m taking nine wins for them.
TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4)
- Pros: Defense; offensive line; rising talent base
- Cons: Quarterback; change at defensive coordinator
- Outlook: My feeling is that people are getting ahead of themselves with the Aggies, based on that incredible recruiting class. Jimbo needs a great quarterback to have a great team, and there’s no way of knowing that as of now. I like TAMU to win nine.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-6, 4-4)
- Pros: Third year in Leach’s system; quarterback; receiving corps; team experience
- Cons: Offensive tackles; defensive depth
- Outlook: Historically, Leach’s teams tend to show improvement in Year 3, but improvement is a relative term in the tough SEC West. I’ve got the feeling MSU is good for one big upset and one embarrassing loss — pretty much a typical year, in other words. I’ll say they’re good for a shaky, eight-win season.
AUBURN (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Running back; defensive line
- Cons: Coaching staff under pressure; quarterback; defensive back seven
- Outlook: Harsin’s got a mess on his hands, and we know why. His best chance for success is if he can convince his players and coaches to buy into an us against the world mind set. (Hey, that’s worked for Auburn before.) The front end of the schedule is accommodating. That being said, it’s very easy to see the wheels coming off the wagon. I’ll go with five wins.
LSU (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Receivers; running backs
- Cons: New coaching staff; quarterback; defense
- Outlook: I’ve got the coaching staff as a negative, simply because it takes time for a new head coach, even one who’s an improvement over his predecessor (and Kelly is that), to transition to what he wants. The defense has a way to go. There is talent on this offense, though, especially if a young and gifted offensive line jells. LSU is another team that could get off to a good start with a soft early schedule. They may be good for eight wins, but should be no worse than seven.
GEORGIA (14-1, 8-0)
- Pros: Conference-best roster depth; tight ends; running backs; schedule; offensive cohesion; coaching staff
- Cons: Defensive losses
- Outlook: They’ve climbed the mountain, so they know the journey. The stability/cohesion between quarterback and offensive coordinator is huge. The defensive losses should be of some concern, but that is ameliorated by the way Smart has recruited. Like Alabama, there shouldn’t be more than one regular season loss; like Alabama, I’m not sure where that will come from.
KENTUCKY (10-3; 5-3)
- Pros: Quarterback; Stoops’ game management skills
- Cons: Both lines of scrimmage; loss of Robinson on offense; questions about Rodriguez’ availability
- Outlook: I thought they’d win eight last season, and they topped that nicely, but they’ve got some rebuilding to do on both sides. Rodriguez’ status makes them hard to judge, but we should get a good handle on them early against Florida. For now, I’ll say eight wins again.
TENNESSEE (7-6, 4-4)
- Pros: Quarterback; offensive scheme; offensive line experience; second year coaching staff
- Cons: Team depth; secondary
- Outlook: Everybody’s dark horse darling in the SEC East, the Vols should both score a lot of points and give up a lot of points. The non-conference schedule has one challenge (@ Pitt) and three snooze fests. Once they get past Georgia in November, things should be fairly smooth sailing. Can they get over the Florida hump this year? If so, eight wins is certainly manageable.
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-6, 3-5)
- Pros: Running back; quarterback; tight end; defensive line; second year coaching staff
- Cons: Offensive line; defensive back seven; overall depth
- Outlook: Shane Beamer did a helluva job last season and topped it by fixing his quarterback problem via the transfer portal. But South Carolina faces three teams in the preseason top 6 and a division that looks to be improving. I’ll say the ‘Cocks make it to bowl eligibility, but that’s about it.
MISSOURI (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Schedule; ’22 recruiting class
- Cons: Defense; loss of Badie; quarterback
- Outlook: The schedule is the best thing these Tigers have going for them, I’m afraid. Drinkwitz may be great with the quips, but the jury is still out on his ability to build an SEC program. He signed his best class this year, and with the departures Mizzou suffered on both sides of the ball, I can see this season turning into a learning experience to build towards next year. Four, maybe five, wins.
FLORIDA (6-7, 2-6)
- Pros: Offensive line; secondary
- Cons: Overall depth; coaching staff changeover; wide receiver
- Outlook: Let’s get this out of the way first: Florida’s got talent. Its starting 22 is as good or better than anyone else’s in the East outside of Athens, Georgia. But it’s a little scary to think about how a couple of key injuries, starting at quarterback, could derail this team. That being said, Napier strikes me as an improvement over Mullen from an organizational standpoint, but, again, football teams, like Rome, aren’t built in a day. The schedule has a rough start to it, but is fairly manageable after that. The Gators ought to be good for two more wins if the team doesn’t quit on its head coach like it did in 2021.
VANDERBILT (2-10, 0-8)
- Pros: Receivers; second year coaching staff
- Cons: Schedule; overall lowest talent level in the conference
- Outlook: Vandy better get its wins early, because it finishes out with eight consecutive conference games, beginning with Alabama. Three wins at best.
And there you have it. Come at me!