In case you missed it, check out my columns on the MAC Win Totals, Sunbelt Win Totals, Mountain West Win Totals, Conference USA East and West Win Totals, AAC Win Totals , ACC Atlantic and Coastal Win Totals, Big 12 Win Totals, and PAC 12 North and South Win Totals.
With all due respect to other conferences, it’s now SEC time and you may have heard, it just means more. So let’s put our big boy pants on and pick some winners. Here’s my team win total predictions for the SEC West.
SEC (West) Favorite Plays:
Arkansas: 6 Wins (O+120 / U-140)
Poor Arkansas. Does any other team in the nation have four road games as tough as at Georgia, at Ole Miss, at Alabama, and at LSU? To make matters worse, the UGA and Ole Miss games are back-to-back in October and the LSU and Bama games are back-to-back in November.
Wait there’s more! Arkansas also plays Texas A&M at Jerry’s World, Texas at home, and the rest of an SEC schedule including the likes of Auburn, Miss State, and Missouri. The SEC continually sends their weaker teams to the slaughter while protecting the premier programs who have shots at making the playoffs. I’m not sure how a school like Arkansas is ever supposed to gain traction.
Do you believe? Here’s your first look at the official 2021 Arkansas Razorbacks SEC football schedule poster featuring Coach Sam Pittman, Treylon Burks, Jalen Catalon & Grant Morgan. #GoHogs #WPS #OneRazorback #SEC #ItJustMeansMore https://t.co/I0Zgwm2BH1 pic.twitter.com/93A5R0RzYK
— Hog Wild Sports (@hogwildsports) July 31, 2021
We’ll keep this team preview short. I like what Sam Pittman did in his first year on the job in 2020. The team was tough and well-coached. The Razorbacks return their entire offensive line and most of a solid defense but will have to break in a new QB. They will be better than their record might indicate this year, but making a bowl game will be extremely challenging.
If Pittman can lead Arkansas to a .500 record and a bowl game, the SEC should crown him Coach of the Year on the spot. Unfortunately, the schedule is just too tough. Chances are they come up a game or two short. I’m on the Under.
My Prediction: UNDER
Miss State: 6 Wins (O-115 / U-105)
Mississippi State Bulldogs Season Preview | The College Football Experience (Ep. 733)
First things first, we are big fans of “friend of the program” Mike Leach over here at SGPN so we’re rooting for Mississippi State to succeed. With that said, life in the SEC West isn’t easy. In Leach’s first year in Starkville, the Bulldogs could only muster a 4-7 record.
The Air Raid offense takes time to learn and implement and due to COVID, time was in short supply a season ago. The offense never fully clicked and the QBs committed way too many turnovers. Early in the season, it became painfully obvious that KJ Costello was not the answer so the offensive reins were handed to freshman Will Rogers. While Rogers showed flashes of brilliance, he also struggled getting his feet wet, as you might expect.
Look for the offense to be much improved in year two of the Air Raid. Rogers is back but if he stumbles, Southern Miss-transfer, Jack Abraham, will get an opportunity. Leach won’t mind flipping through QBs until someone steps up and owns it. The majority of the OL returns and will lead the way for RBs Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson. Also, be on the lookout for a breakout season from WR Jaden Walley after a solid freshman campaign.
While the offense struggled, the Mississippi State defense finished 4th in the conference and should be primed for another excellent season. Leach doesn’t have a track record of dominant defenses but great coaches will play to the strength of their personnel. Especially if the offense doesn’t continually put the D in precarious situations, this unit will excel.
With the exception of Tennessee State, the other non-conference games are interesting. La Tech and NC State come into Davis Wade Stadium while Miss St travels to the fertile recruiting grounds of Memphis to take on the Tigers. The Bulldogs might be favored in every game but these contests won’t be a walk in the park. 4-0 would be great, but 3-1 might be more likely.
Within the league, getting Vandy and Kentucky from the East is a blessing. Look for the Bulldogs to make a big second-year leap and win at least seven games. I’m all about the Over.
My Prediction: OVER
SEC (West) Solid Bets:
Alabama: 11.5 Wins (O+105 / U-125)
It’s Alabama. I could go through the whole roster and point out the potential All-Americans or all the players from last year who are now in the NFL. It doesn’t matter. Saban will reload and Alabama will be expected to win the SEC and make the College Football Playoffs once again.
With a total sitting at 11.5, the question is if the Crimson Tide can go undefeated. Over the last six years, Bama has had three undefeated regular seasons so apparently, it’s a 50/50 proposition. But, this year’s schedule isn’t as easy as previous years. There are road games at Florida, at Texas A&M, at Miss St, and at Auburn to cap the regular season. Then, there are challenging home games vs LSU and Ole Miss and a neutral site game vs Miami.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) July 23, 2021
Look, Alabama is going to be very good again, of course. Bryce Young will step in for Mac Jones and there are a plethora of 5 stars who have been patiently waiting their turn to be in the spotlight. However, this doesn’t appear to be one of those undefeated Bama teams. They’ll lose a game somewhere along the line, perhaps one of the road matchups. I’m on the Under.
My Prediction: UNDER
Ole Miss: 7.5 Wins (O-110 / U-110)
Say what you will about Lane Kiffin but at least he keeps things interesting. In his first year at Ole Miss, Kiffin led an offense that finished 3rd in Scoring, 1st in Rushing, and 3rd in Passing. Pretty amazing considering COVID and the lack of spring ball and practice time.
However, as good as the offense was, the defensive was equally worse. The Rebels finished last in Rushing Defense, last in Passing Defense, and you guessed it – last in Total Defense in the SEC.
While a couple of pass catchers from a year ago are now in the NFL, QB Matt Corral is back along with 4 returning linemen and two prominent RBs in Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Connor. Especially with Kiffin’s offensive prowess, the ceiling for this Ole Miss offense might be best in the nation. As long as some receivers step up, watch out.
The main question entering this season is if the team can play a lick of defense. The secondary should be the best position group as it basically returns everyone. There are two beefy DTs to build the D line around but more pressure on opposing QBs is a must. Overall, the highly regarded coaches on the defensive side of the ball should lead to at least some improvement.
Trust us, you'll want to be here for this.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) August 3, 2021
The opening week vs Louisville will be a shootout but if the Rebels can win that and a home game later in the season vs Liberty, they will be 4-0 out of conference. Plus, getting Tennessee and Vanderbilt from the East is a massive break. I think Kiffin can get his squad to 8 wins this year, I’m on the OVER.
My Prediction: OVER
Texas A&M: 9.5 Wins (O+105 / U-125)
Could this be the year that Jimbo Fisher finally gets A&M over the hump? While there are some holes to fill, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the Aggies have the roster and schedule to potentially win the SEC West. The only loss in a 9-1 season a year ago was to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. With this year’s game in College Station, and hopefully filled to capacity, the 12th man will be thinking of revenge.
Speaking of the schedule, Texas A&M only plays three true road games this year (Colorado and Arkansas games are neutral sites) with the first being on October 16th. Plus, getting Missouri and South Carolina from the East is a big deal. There’s also a bye week before the matchup vs Auburn and Prairie View (another bye week) is on the schedule before the big season finale at LSU.
While the schedule is a dream, A&M does have the burden of replacing Kellen Mond at QB and ⅘ of the offensive line. Apparently, the QB battle will come down to Haynes King or Zach Calzada and while both may be talented, they are also very inexperienced. King has only thrown four passes in his very short collegiate career and Calzada only has 24 attempts to his name and that was back in 2019.
Even with the lack of returning starters on the OL, there’s an abundance of talent and size to work with. They may need a few weeks to gel, but the schedule allows time for this unit to come together. I’m more concerned about the QB than the offensive line position.
Looking at the skill players, Isaiah Spiller is one of the best running backs in the nation and Ainias Smith is a dangerous RB/WR hybrid who will get plenty of touches. Jaylen Wydermeyer might be the best TE in the SEC and there’s a handful of other solid pass catchers. As long as the QB play is solid, the offense should roll.
While it may take a few games for the O to click, the Aggie defense will be dominant. Nine starters return from a D that finished 3rd in Scoring Defense, 2nd in Rushing Defense, and 2nd in Passing Defense in the SEC last year. Throw in the crowd noise at home games and it’ll be a nightmare for opposing offenses who have the misfortune of playing at Kyle Field.
In spite of the question marks at QB and offensive line, this could be Texas A&M’s year. Even if they lose to Bama and possibly LSU, the Aggies should sail through the rest of the schedule without issue. I’m on the Over
My Prediction: OVER
Auburn: 7 Wins (O+100 / U-120)
If you throw out last year’s shortened season, Auburn hit at least seven regular-season wins in 7 of Gus Malzahn’s 8 years with the Tigers. Nevertheless, Gus is gone and in comes Bryan Hairsin as the new head coach. At Boise, Hairsin led the Broncos to a 69-19 record over the last seven seasons. It will be interesting how quickly he can acclimate himself to life in the SEC West.
The new head coach has to love walking into a program that brings back its entire offensive line, a veteran QB, and an outstanding RB in Tank Bigsby. At QB, Bo Nix needs to flat-out play better. If he doesn’t, look for the new coaching staff to quickly turn to LSU-transfer TJ Finley. The other gaping hole on offense is the wide receiver unit that has to replace it’s top three pass catchers from last year.
Defensively, eight starters return from an adequate but not outstanding unit. They’ll now be led by a new defensive coordinator in former Vandy Head Coach, Derek Mason. He’ll be working with an excellent group of linebackers and corners while the other positions get figured out. There are some key transfers coming in to solidify the DL and the secondary so expect the overall defense to be better than the 2020 version.
2021 Auburn Football Schedule pic.twitter.com/RMEDZBPKyq
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 28, 2021
As solid as the Mountain West conference is, Bryan Hairsin has never seen the likes of Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M on his schedule. Throw in an out-of-conference trip to Penn State and this schedule is a bear. It seems like Auburn would have to win every 50/50 game on the schedule in order to hit the Over. A 7-5 record is attainable, but 6-6 might be more realistic.
My Prediction: UNDER
SEC (West) Least Favorite Plays:
LSU: 8 Wins (O-135 / U+115)
This will be a fascinating year to watch the LSU Tigers. Will they more closely resemble the Joe Burrow-led 2019 squad that won the national championship or the average 5-5 team from last year? It’ll be a big year for HC Ed Orgeron in his quest to prove 2019 wasn’t a fluke and to potentially solidify his name among the best coaches in the country.
First off, last year was going to be an issue even before COVID exacerbated LSU’s problems. After winning the title in 2019, at least half the team graduated or departed early for the NFL. To make matters worse, several key returning players opted out and a COVID outbreak leading up to the season led to a dramatic reduction in practice time. It was a perfect storm for a rough season for the defending national champions.
Looking at this coming season, with the recent injury to Myles Brennan, Max Johnson should be the man at QB. He flashed some real potential in 2020, ending the season by leading the Tigers to wins over Florida and Ole Miss. In those two games, Johnson threw for 674 yards and 6 TDs to just 1 INT. His favorite target, and one of the best receivers in the nation, Kayshon Boutte, is also back. Look for these two to put up some silly stats this year.
Joining the QB-WR combo will be four returning starters at OL and a couple of solid backs in Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery. The LSU offense finished 5th in the SEC last year and should be even better this season.
While we know what to expect from the O, the Tiger defense was abysmal, finishing second to last in the SEC. Bo Pelini as DC didn’t work and he was shown the door after just a year. It will be up to new defensive coordinator, Daronte Jones, to get more out of a unit that’s loaded with talent and experience. Getting CB Derek Stingley JR back from opting out last year, is especially huge. I’m not saying LSU will have one of the top defenses in the conference, but they should be much improved.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) July 30, 2021
Looking at the schedule, life in the SEC West is never easy. Plus, there’s a Week 2 road trip to UCLA which could be dangerous. Beating the Bruins will be key to hitting the Over. With a 4-0 out of conference record, LSU would just need to go 5-3 in the SEC to reach 9 wins and that’s certainly possible. However, I’m just not confident enough in Coach O to lay -135 juice on that happening.
My Prediction: UNDER