College Football Previews
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SEC College Football Preview
Even now many claim that the SEC is the best conference when it comes to college football. I think that’s silly if you look at last season and how they played against the other conferences, but still there’s plenty of room to be optimistic about the southeastern conference this year.
I know ESPN has been harping this but it’s no fake news when they say that the quarterback play in the SEC should be a lot better this season. Almost every school in the conference is bringing back their starting quarterback from last season or a backup from last season that got a lot of playing time. The real question from each division will be if anyone can finally take down Alabama or Florida and represent their school in the SEC Championship Game? That’s the big question in our SEC College Football Preview.
1. FLORIDA GATORS
Many college football publications have Georgia winning the East but I think they’re wrong yet again (last year Tennessee was the favorite). Florida brings back last years starting quarterback Luke Del Rio but he’s now listed at number three on the depth chart. The quarterback position is is one of the main reasons why I’m really high on the gators this season, in years past this always seemed to be the weakness of the team that kept them from really being a contender.
This year they bring in redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire. I fully expect Zaire to be the starting QB for week one but it’s nice to actually see some depth at the once glaring weakness of the team. Another reason I love the gators this season is they only have three real away games this season (that’s not a misprint). The out of conference schedule has games vs Michigan (neutral site), vs Northern Colorado, vs UAB & vs Florida State.
I’m going to say 3-1 there but if the gators get past Michigan than watch out. On the road in conference their away games are at Kentucky, Missouri & South Carolina. I’m thinking 3-0 here. They have a neutral site game against Georgia in Jacksonville but I would still favor the Gators in that one. At home in the swamp they get games vs Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU, & Texas A&M. Some tough games but I would once again favor Florida in all of them. Which would make them 11-1 heading into the SEC Championship.
2. GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Well Bulldog fans you asked for Mark Richt to be fired and now you’ll see that it wasn’t such a bad job he was doing. Don’t get me wrong I think Kirby Smart is a good coach and the team should contend for the East title this year, but still i see too many holes in the team to be a playoff contender. The key factor I’m excited to see is to see how much Jacob Eason has developed from freshman to sophomore seasons.
The offensive line struggled a bit last year so that remains another glaring concern of mine but I should note that they have a ton of talent. The out of conference schedule is tough with games vs Appalachian State, @ Notre Dame, vs Samford & @ Georgia Tech. 3-1 is what every dawg fan should be happy with here but watch out for Appalachian State & Georgia Tech because they are good enough to take this team down.
On the road in conference they have games at Tennessee, Vanderbilt, & Auburn. I’m thinking 2-1 here but they could drop all three ( for some reason Vanderbilt has given the dawgs a ton of trouble of late). Then you have the neutral site game vs Florida which I don’t see them winning. Then at home in Athens they welcome Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina & Kentucky. I like those home games so I’ll say 4-0 there. I’ll say 8-4 for the season but maybe 9-3 happens.
3. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
I got to be honest, when it comes to picking third in this division I’m tossing my hands up. I finally decided on Tennessee just because of their overall talent but things could get messy for Butch Jones who’s already on the hot seat. Their breaking in a new quarterback in Quinten Dormady so that’s always a bit scary. I’ve never been a big fan of Butch Jones as a coach so maybe I’m being to nice by having them 3rd in the East. The out of conference schedule has games vs Georgia Tech (neutral site), vs Indiana State, vs Umass, & vs Southern Miss.
If there’s one positive to this season it’s that non conference schedule. They get all offseason to prepare for Georgia Tech’s option attack and then three lay up games. So i’ll say 4-0 there. On the road in conference the Vols play at Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, & Missouri. I’m thinking 2-2 at best here but they need not slip. At home in Knoxville the Vols welcome games vs Georgia, South Carolina, LSU & Vanderbilt. I’m thinking 2-2 here or maybe 3-1 which would leave them at 8-4 or 9-3 for the season. That should save Butch Jones’s job but lose to Georgia Tech and things might get ugly in Knoxville early on.
4. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Mark Stoops finally got over the hump last year and took the Wildcats to a 7-6 season. Sure they got waxed in the bowl game but there is plenty of reason to be excited for football in Lexington this summer. The cats bring back both of their quarterbacks from last season with Stephen Johnson & Drew Barker plus they return nine of their eleven starters on defense. The out of conference schedule has games @ Southern Miss , vs Eastern Kentucky, vs Eastern Michigan & vs Louisville.
I’m thinking 3-1 here but remember Southern Miss came to Lexington last September and upset the Wildcats. On the road in conference the Cats have games at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt & Georgia. I’m thinking 1-3 here but 2-2 is certainly possible. At home in Lexington they welcome games vs Florida, Missouri, Tennessee & Ole Miss. I’m thinking 2-2 here which would leave the Wildcats at a decent 6-6 and bowling again.
5. SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Will Muschamp really got his team to play up last year, and thus was a surprising bowl season for the gamecocks. During that run they found their future QB in now sophomore star quarterback Jake Bentley who really impressed me. The schedule is much more difficult but if Muschamp can continue to defy the odds maybe the gamecocks can really be contenders in the East this year? The out of conference schedule has games vs NC State (neutral site), vs Louisiana Tech, vs Wofford & vs Clemson. Ouch.
Someone might need to remind Muschamp that Louisiana Tech is a really good mid major. I’m thinking 2-2 if they get past LA Tech but that game would scare me if I’m a gamecock fan. On the road in conference the gamecocks have games at Missouri, Texas A&M, Tennessee, & Georgia. I’m thinking 1-3 here with the one win being at Missouri in an early season matchup. At home in Columbia they gamecocks welcome matchups vs Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, & Florida. I’m thinking 2-2 here as well which would leave them at 5-7 for the season.
6. MISSOURI TIGERS
Last year under first year head coach Barry Odom Missouri really struggled, the good news is the schedule isn’t as tough as last year. The fate of this years team really will rely on the shoulders of junior quarterback Drew Lock. Lock is more experienced now so maybe the Tigers can rebound and go bowling this year? The out of conference schedule has games vs Missouri State, vs Purdue, vs Idaho & @Uconn.
They should be favorites in all four of those so I’ll say 4-0 but watch that Purdue game. On the road in the conference the Tigers have games at Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt & Arkansas. I’ll say 1-3 here but 0-4 could still definitely happen. At home in Columbia the Tigers get matchups vs South Carolina, Auburn, Florida & Tennessee. My first thoughts are 0-4 but maybe they can get past South Carolina in week 2. All together I’m thinking 5-7 for the Missouri Tigers.
7. VANDERBILT COMMODORES
I really don’t know why I picked Vanderbilt to be last in the East. Derek Mason seems to be doing a decent job and they return their veteran quarterback in Kyle Shurmur so why do I have them last? I just think they lack the same level of talent as the other schools but Mason is certainly capable of finishing on the better half of the conference if they get a few breaks. The out of conference schedule has matchups @ Middle Tennessee, vs Alabama A&M, vs Kansas State, & vs Western Kentucky.
I’m thinking 2-2 here with the Commodores losing one of the two battles vs Middle Tennessee or Western Kentucky. On the road in conference the Commodores have to travel to Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina & Tennessee. I’m thinking 0-4 here but maybe that Ole Miss game is winnable considering what all has happened there. At home in Nashville they get matchups vs Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky & Missouri. I’m thinking 1-3 here or 2-2 at best. All together I got Vanderbilt going 3-9 on the season but hey maybe Mason can muster up some more of last years magic.
1. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Big surprise huh? I know Saban and Bama last a lot but if didn’t know by now they just reload better than anyone else in the country. Plus, Jalen Hurts has a year under his belt now and the guy has flashed some great talent. The defense should be the best in the country again despite only returning five starters on that side of the ball. The out of conference schedule has games vs Florida State (neutral site), vs Fresno State, vs Colorado State & vs Mercer.
I’d say 4-0 here but the FSU game should be a good one so maybe 3-1. On the road in conference the Tide has games at Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Mississippi State & Auburn. Although Texas A&M & Miss State could give the tide a game I think they win those, the one to circle is the season finale at Auburn. At home in Tuscaloosa the Tide welcome Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee & LSU. I’m thinking 4-0 at home but LSU is good enough to beat anyone. All together I’m thinking 11-1 or 10-2 for the Tide.
2. AUBURN TIGERS
Auburn is easily one of the main unknowns going into the ‘17 season. Many experts think they could be real players and potentially win the SEC myself included. I’m basing most of that on the arms of Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham who in his one season at Baylor looked pretty damn good. The offensive system at Auburn is completely different than what Stidham had at Baylor so that’s where the big question mark is?
Both offense and defensive lines look real legit so we’ll see how the Stidham adjusts. The out of conference schedule has games vs Georgia Southern, @ Clemson, vs Mercer, & vs Louisiana Monroe. Stidham will be tested early in the Clemson game in week 2. I’m thinking 3-1 or 4-0 here. On the road in conference the Tigers have games at Missouri, LSU, Arkansas & Texas A&M. Those are some tough matchups but i’m thinking 3-1 here. At home they get matchups vs Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia & Alabama. I’m thinking 3-1 here but the Alabama game could be one for the ages. All together I’m thinking 9-3 or 10-2 for the Tigers but the possibility of winning the conference should certainly be there.
3. LSU TIGERS
Ed Orgeron is finally the man at LSU and as much as I think it’s a good fit, get ready coach O. Matt Canada the renowned offensive coordinator from Pittsburgh is now the guy in charge of the offense in Baton Rouge. Danny Etling the Purdue transfer is back again at quarterback for the Tigers. The offensive line has talent but lacks some depth which scares me. The out of conference schedule has games vs BYU (neutral site), vs Chattanooga, vs Syracuse & vs Troy. 4-0 is what should happen here but watch out for BYU they are pretty underrated this year if you ask me.
On the road in conference the Tigers have games at Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama & Tennessee! Ouch! That’s got to be the toughest road schedule in the country. I’m going to say 3-2 here but 2-3 could happen. At home in Baton Rouge the Tigers welcome games vs Auburn, Arkansas & Texas A&M. They could win all of these but I think Auburn gets one passed them, so I’m going to say 2-1. I’m thinking 9-3 or 8-4 for the Tigers this season.
4. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
A 7-6 season apparently isn’t going to cut it in Fayetteville because everything I read says Bret Bielema is on the hot seat. Not sure I agree with that but hey this is a big year for him regardless. Austin Allen is back at QB and should be one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC west. The razorbacks return six starters on offense and six starters on defense so that’s somewhat of a concern. The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Florida A&M, vs TCU, vs New Mexico State, & vs Coastal Carolina. One way to not get fired is get a out of conference schedule that pathetic.
TCU might be able to beat them but I’m thinking 4-0 for the Razorbacks in the out of conference games. On the road in conference the Hogs will play at South Carolina, Alabama, Ole Miss & LSU. I’m thinking 2-2 here. Arkansas also has a neutral site game in Dallas against Texas A&M. I think they got past the Aggies. At home in Fayetteville the Hogs host Auburn, Mississippi State & Missouri. I’m thinking 2-1 here. Which would mean a 9-3 or 8-4 season for the Razorbacks.
5. TEXAS A&M AGGIES
I got to admit I was tempted to put Mississippi State in this spot just because of the pressure on Kevin Sumlin’s shoulders. The athletic director has already stated publicly that Sumlin was on the hot seat and that 8-5 record from last season won’t cut it. Crazy world we live in right? Unfortunately for Sumlin the team has talent but it’s rather young, especially if they start the highly touted freshman Nick Starkel. With lack of experience comes mistakes which really has me thinking Sumlin could coach his ass off and he’d still be fired after this year.
The good news is that if they do start the freshman QB at least he has one of the best wideouts in the country in Christian Kirk to help him. The out of conference schedule hits with a bang as they open @ UCLA in the what coach will get fired first game. The other out conference games are vs Nicholls, vs Louisiana & vs New Mexico. I’m thinking 3-1 in the out of conference slate but maybe they get one on UCLA. The in conference road games are at Florida, Ole Miss & LSU. I’m thinking 1-2 here. They also have a neutral site game against Arkansas where I expect them to be a slight underdog. At home in College Station the Aggies welcome South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi State & Auburn. I’m thinking 2-2 here which would leave the Aggies 6-6 or 7-5 for the season.
6. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Dan Mullen is back for his 9th season in Starkville and although MSU struggled at times last year somewhere along the way Mullen found his next star QB in Nick Fitzgerald. I originally was going to have Mississippi State ranked higher up but their schedule is pretty brutal.
The out of conference games are vs Charleston Southern, @ Louisiana Tech, vs BYU & vs Umass. I’m thinking 3-1 or 2-2 here. Why would they play at Louisiana Tech every Bulldog fan has to be asking? On the road in conference has matchups at Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M, & Arkansas. That’s pretty brutal so I’ll say 1-3 here. At home in Starkville the Bulldogs welcome LSU, Kentucky, Alabama & Ole Miss. I’m thinking 2-2 here but maybe they can pull off an upset. All together that makes for a 6-6 or 5-7 season for Mississippi State.
7. OLE MISS REBELS
Before the whole Hugh Freeze fiasco I had Ole Miss higher up but now I think it’s safe to hit the abort mission button. The Rebels already have a self imposed bowl ban so now what’s to make of the new season with now new head coach Matt Luke? Luke has some talent in sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson assuming he sticks around and doesn’t transfer last second. The out of conference schedule has games vs South Alabama, vs UT Martin, @ California & vs Louisiana Lafayette.
It sounds crazy but maybe Luke can go 4-0 and those games and maybe the team will gain confidence under him. The South Alabama game scares me since the team has had so many distractions already and South Alabama upset Mississippi State last year. The in conference road games are at Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky & Mississippi State. I’m thinking 1-3 here but rivalry games are always winnable so maybe 2-2. At home in Oxford Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas, & Texas A&M. I’m thinking 1-3 here as well which would still have Ole Miss at 6-6 for the season. Now only if they were eligible to go to a bowl game?