Kirsty

Whether you’re chanting “Roll Tide!” or “War Eagle!” we can collectively agree that no one does college football like the South. In less than one month, college football will be back full swing so it’s time to go ahead and clear your Saturday schedules from August 27th to January 9th (we all know it’ll be an SEC team playing for the title). I present to you an SEC preview!

The East

Florida Gators

2015 record – 10-4 (7-1 SEC)

This year, Florida is looking to bounce back from the travesty that was their offense (looking at you Will Grier) with Oregon State transfer, Luke Del Rio and Purdue’s, Austin Appleby. The Gator’s defense ranked eighth in the nation and is essentially the team’s backbone. The defense will be just as good, if not better, with the talent in the front seven.

Georgia Bulldogs

2015 record – 10-3 (5-3 SEC)

Going into the 2016 season all eyes are on superstar recruit quarterback, Jacob Eason. All it takes is a solid offensive line, then starters can move in and shine.  A combination of losing key starters and a spring full of injuries and suspensions has left defensive-minded coach, Kirby Smart, with his hands full. Rejoice Dawg fans, Georgia’s roster will include veteran safety, Dominick Sanders, who last season had six picks and 48 tackles. Sanders will be paired with Quincy Mauger to give Georgia a spotlit safety tandem.

Kentucky Wildcats

2015 record – 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

With lots of talent returning on the offensive side thanks to the Wildcats top four rushers and top receivers, this still leaves Kentucky with a starting quarterback position up in air between sophomore Drew Barker and junior Stephen Johnson. Former QB, Patrick Towles, transferred to Boston College this offseason. The entire offensive line is returning with all but one starter which helps the quarterback situation. The main issue from last season that needs to be resolved before the start of this season is the defense. This team’s defense a big question mark. With only 17 recorded sacks and 196 yards given up a game, plus the fact that this year’s team is returning with only five starters (most of which are in the secondary).

Missouri Tigers

2015 record – 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

Mizzou finished the 2015 season second to last offensivel, averaging 13.6 points a game. The Tigers failed to score more than eight points in five of their last seven games. A major key to this teams success will be to master a fast-paced offense to get the ball from Drew Lock’s hands in a hurry. While Mizzou’s offense was tragic, their defense was on the other end of the spectrum with superstars Charles Harris and Walter Brady killing it in the backfield

South Carolina Gamecocks

2015 record – 3-9 (1-7 SEC)

After a year of mediocre performance from both Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nunez this leaves head coach, Will Muschamp, crossing his fingers that true freshman Brandon McIlwain’s spring ball performance will carry on into the regular reason. With Brandon Wilds, Pharoh Cooper and Jerell Adams all not returning, the freshman quarterback won’t be left with much experience in his receiving or running back slots. This offense will have their work cut out for them. On the other side of the ball, the defense is returning with six of their top eight starters from last season. Last year, five of the nine losses for the Gamecocks were by a touchdown or less. South Carolina needs to close their wins with tough defense and ball control. This team has a lot to prove just one year after the ending of the Spurrier era.

Tennessee Volunteers

2015 record – 9-4 (5-3 SEC)

The Vols have arguably the most talent and experience returning on the eastern side of the SEC. All eyes are going to be on Tennessee this season. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs is going to be feeling all the pressure with teammates and fans alike hoping his downfield play will be more consistent. The receiving corps is returning full of talent and four starters will be back on the offensive line. With NFL caliber Derek Barnett on the outside, Kahlil Mckenzie on the interior, and Kendal Vickers and Corey Vereen at tackle, this team’s defense is going to be explosive.

Vanderbilt Commodores

2015 record – 4-8 (2-6 SEC)

After scoring only 17 points only three times and averaging only 327 yards and 15 points a game, the Commodores have a whole lot to improve with eight starters returning. One of those returning is sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Shurmur had issues making the downfield passing game go, but should improve with top four receivers returning (minus C.J. Duncan out with a leg injury). The key to Vandy’s success this season will to be to limit turnovers and let the defense shine. With this formula, expect Shumur to take the Commodores to a bowl game.

The West

Alabama Crimson Tide

2015 record – 14-1 (7-1 SEC)

Listen, we all know that Nick Saban sold his soul for National Championship trophies and NFL caliber players. Alas, we can all rejoice in the fact that come draft day, seven starters were lost by the Crimson Tide. Alabama is returning with an explosive offense and its defense suffering from major losses, including coordinator Kirby Smart. Alabama will be even greater this year if they can start converting better on third downs and move the chains consistently.

Arkansas Razorbacks

2015 record – 8-5 (5-3 SEC)

This past season, the Razorbacks took a 2-4 start and finished with an 8-5 record highlights including season ending wins over Missouri, LSU and Ole Miss. As Bret Bielema enters his fourth season, he’s gone from coaches’ hot seat to a feared competitor. Quarterback Austin Allen was named starter during spring football. All that’s left for the offense to do is pound at the ground ball and try to refill the shoes of top caliber player, Alex Collins. The defense is returning with a lot of experience and talent. Last year, the secondary was an absolute disaster. A major key for Arkansas’ success is for the secondary to be far more effective–especially if the pass rush is better.

Auburn Tigers

2015 record – 7-6 (2-6 SEC)

Gus Malzahn took the Tigers to the National Championship in his first season. Now going into his fourth, he’s hit a rut that will turn this into a make or break season. It’s pretty obvious that Auburn needs to figure out who they’re going to name as starting quarterback, but the offense also has to be as solid as it was in 2013. Around star guard Alex Kozan, the starting line should be able to control the game at crunch time. Last year, Auburn’s defense was okay. It will be far better if they can perfect their pass rush game and get into the backfield more. In 2015,  Auburn allowed 43% of teams to convert on third down, so this season Auburn needs to keep the defense off the field and the offense needs to do its job.

LSU Tigers

2015 record – 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

With two future NFL picks, Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams, as well as the best running back in the country, Leonard Fournette, the Tigers don’t have a lot of weaknesses in their team. LSU’s only question is at QB. Is Brandon Harris’ one year of experience enough when paird with the massive, talented offensive line? This team is not only an SEC championship caliber team, but a national championship contender.

Ole Miss Rebels

2015 record – 10-3 (6-2 SEC)

Laremy Tunsil is gone and anything but forgotten. Chad Kelly and the offense need to be 100% to soften the blow of losing four of top five front line starters. With years of not having to be anything but mediocre in large part due to a top ranking offense, the defense isn’t going to have a cake walk this season. A major key for the Rebels will be the fast and athletic linebacking corps. DE, Marquis Haynes, will be also be key, picking up his game so the Rebels can solidify their pass rush.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

2015 record – 9-4 (4-4 SEC)

Repeat after me MSU fans: THERE WILL BE LIFE AFTER DAK PRESCOTT! With the starting quarterback position up for grabs, fans can find solace in the fact that the Bulldogs have depth in nearly every unit. Don’t be surprised if this season the leading rusher on the offense is the quarterback. Three starters are returning for Mississippi State along the offensive line that gave up 32 sacks. Not all hope is lost for the offense because the Bulldogs are returning with some of the SEC’s best receivers. It has been argued that the defense is going to be even harder to replace than the quarterback position. The Bulldogs secondary is facing the biggest loss after losing one of the best cornerback tandems in the SEC- Taveze Calhoun and Will Redmond.

If the defense acclimates quickly to the new coaching staff, this team’s schedule is easy enough for the Bulldogs to once again return to a bowl game.

Texas A&M Aggies

2015 record – 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Between gaining a new offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, and graduate transfer quarterback, Trevor Knight, all the pressure will be on the Aggies this season. Their six returning starters and progress since last season means that this team is going to be heavily relying on the defense. Last year, the Aggies averaged 213.7 yards allowed per game, ranking them at 13 in rushing defense among the SEC. In order for the team to succeed this season, major strides needed to be made in camp this offseason. A significant part of this equation is middle linebackers Otara Alaka and Shaan Washington stepping in with more than enough speed to keep up with running backs in the passing game. This is a pivotal year for the Aggies if they want to start the road to becoming a championship contender.

We want to hear your SEC preview predictions! Leave yours below in the comments!



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