#23-nc-state-logo#23 NC State
#14-north-carolina-logo#14 North Carolina
12:00 pm, October 24
#5-ohio-state-logo#5 Ohio State
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12:00 pm, October 24
#8-penn-state-logo#8 Penn State
indiana-logoIndiana
3:30 pm, October 24
#3-notre-dame-logo#3 Notre Dame
pittsburgh-logoPittsburgh
3:30 pm, October 24
#2-alabama-logo#2 Alabama
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3:30 pm, October 24
#17-iowa-state-logo#17 Iowa State
#6-oklahoma-state-logo#6 Oklahoma State
3:30 pm, October 24
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lsu-logoLSU
7:00 pm, October 24
#18-michigan-logo#18 Michigan
#21-minnesota-logo#21 Minnesota
7:30 pm, October 24
#9-cincinnati-logo#9 Cincinnati
#16-smu-logo#16 SMU
9:00 pm, October 24

The 2017 Ultimate SEC Preview

2017 SEC Preview.

EAST

1. Florida (Ranked #13 Nationally)

Jim McElwain doesn’t get enough credit. In two years as the coach of the Gators, McElwain is 19-8, and has won back-to-back SEC East titles. They bookend the season with two tough out-of-conference games. Starting the year with Michigan and ending it with Florida State. However, the in conference schedule shapes up well. The Gators draw LSU and Texas A&M from the West, but both are at home, and they won’t have to leave the state to face Georgia or Tennessee either. The SEC East as a whole is going to be a lot better this year, but with 14 returning starters, Florida will sit at the top for the third straight year. Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1) 

2. Georgia (Ranked #20 Nationally)

Last season, Georgia had the 16th-best defense in the country, and ten starters return on that side of the ball, meaning that unit could potentially contend for a top five spot this year. The problem, as it has been most recent years in Athens, is the offense. That side of the ball ranked in the low 80’s last year, and if Georgia wants to challenge Florida, it will need to improve dramatically. Jacob Eason will surely benefit from an added year of experience, you are always going to have some growing pains when starting a freshman quarterback, but I don’t see Eason at that SEC level quite yet, and I’ve got a feeling Georgia finishes in second for the fourth straight year.  Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3)

T3. Tennessee (Ranked #23 Nationally)

And here are the wildcards, the champions of life, the Tennessee Volunteers. Butch Jones is 30-21 in three years with the Vols, and he is most certainly on the hot seat coming into 2017. The schedule is certainly not one you would want if you were fighting for your job, with trips to Tuscaloosa and Gainesville, as well as a visit from LSU in November. The Vols are going to be good, they return 14 starters from a nine win teamm, but they will live and die by their quarterback play, and I don’t trust Quinten Dormady or true freshman Jarrett Guarantano, so for me the Vols are a distant third in the East.  Projected Record: 8-4 (4-4)

T3. Kentucky

After back-to-back 5-7 seasons in 2014/15, Kentucky finally broke the glass ceiling, and made a bowl in Mark Stoops’ fourth year. 17 starters are returning from that bowl squad, the ‘Cats avoid five of the top six teams from the West, and the one they do get is at home. Florida and Tennessee will both also have to travel to Lexington. This is the year that we find out if Kentucky is for real, and even if I’m not quite ready to call them a contender in the SEC East, I would bet Stoops finds a way to pull a couple upsets and at least get close.  Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)

5. South Carolina

In his first year on the job with the Gamecocks, Will Muschamp doubled the win total, going from three the year before he got there, to six in his first year. The season will open against NC State, providing a tough out-of-conference test to see if South Carolina is for real or not. Muschamp returns ten starters from his offense, but will probably have to go .500 or better in conference play to make it to a bowl, and the Gamecocks will have to face two of the top three in the East on the road.  Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)

6. Missouri

Missouri, Missouri, Missouri, they act like a Big 12 program, but are in the SEC, it’s almost like they…. oh wait a minute. Yes, it’s true, the Tigers had the best offense and worst defense in the conference last season, and they return twice the number of starters on offense as they do on defense, so that gap is only going to widen. With an easy out-of-conference schedule, I actually think that junior QB Drew Lock (3,399 yards last year) and the rest of the offense can carry this team to a bowl game.  Projected Record: 6-6 (2-6)

7. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt made their first bowl game under Derek Mason last year, and they bring back 15 starters, but the schedule is going to get a lot tougher. The Commodores will have a non-conference game against Kansas State, and the SEC East is a lot better as a whole. To make a repeat trip to a bowl, the Commodores would need to steal a game on the road and beat Kentucky at home.  Projected Record: 4-8 (1-7)

WEST

1. Alabama (Ranked #1 Nationally)

Alabama returns only 11 starters, but come on, it’s Nick Saban. Alabama has three five-star running backs, and two four-stars, Jalen Hurts threw for over 2,750 yards as a freshman, and with four-stars in the three deep on the O-line, he will have even better protection than last year. The schedule isn’t easy, with a season opener against Florida State, but LSU and Tennessee are at home, and the Tide won’t have to face Georgia till the SEC Title game. Alabama will be favorites to make it to their fourth straight College Football Playoff.  Projected Record: 12-0 (8-0)

2. Auburn (Ranked #9 Nationally)

The schedule is really tough, with Clemson and LSU on the road, Georgia from the East, and an Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama, but this is a really good Auburn team. They may have finished 8-5 last year, but they made a New Year’s Six bowl, and return 15 starters from that team, and bring in a top transfer in Jarrett Stidham. Stidham, a sophomore quarterback from Baylor, impressed as a freshman (6-1 TD-Int ratio in 2015) and if he lives up to these expectations, Auburn is a legit national title contender, despite the tough schedule. Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2)

3. Louisiana State (Ranked #10 Nationally)

The Tigers’ schedule shapes up nicely, they avoid Georgia out of the East, and they will have Auburn at home. It’s always hard to tell how a team will react to a coaching change, but Orgeron went 6-2 last year as the interim coach, and I would be shocked if LSU isn’t a top 25 team at the end of the year. Matt Canada and Dave Aranda are two of the best coordinators in the country, and if they weren’t in the same division as Alabama and Auburn, the Tigers would be a national title contender, but Orgeron will have to settle for a shot at ten wins in the bowl game, which is still a pretty great first year.  Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3)

T4. Mississippi

Talent wise, Ole Miss should certainly be good, but my power ratings don’t take into account NCAA investigations that lead to a coach firing less than two months before kickoff. Shea Patterson should certainly have the quarterback situation covered, Patterson was the #1 ranked QB in the class of 2016. The motivation question will always come up when talking about a team with a bowl ban, and Ole Miss could finish anywhere from 4-8 to 8-4, but we’ve seen in the past (Ohio State/USC) that sometimes bowl bans don’t mean doom.  Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

T4. Arkansas

Arkansas is consistently one of the most underrated teams in the country, and I’m worried I’m putting them too low here, in fact the only reason I have them below Ole Miss is because the head-to-head is in Oxford. The Razorbacks should be pretty good this year, they are one of the less experienced teams in the conference, and don’t recruit at the same level as an Alabama, but Austin Allen threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and if he does that again this year with a improved defense, it will be four straight bowl trips for Arkansas.  Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

T4. Texas A&M

After three straight 8-5 seasons, Texas A&M wants more, after tasting success in 2012 with an 11-2 season that featured a win over Alabama, and a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma, Kevin Sumlin is probably out if he can’t get past that eight-win mark that has been holding him back. The problem is, I don’t think he’ll even get to eight wins. The Aggies only return five starters on offense, they get UCLA in the non-conference and draw Florida from the East. It’s a tall task for Sumlin to reach nine wins, to do that, they would need to steal a couple games on the road against Top-25 teams like Auburn, LSU, and Florida, and I don’t see that happening without a starting quarterback.  Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5)

7. Mississippi State

This Mississippi State team is better than last year now that Nick Fitzgerald has a year of starting experience, but the schedule is a lot harder. They draw @ Georgia and vs Kentucky from the East, and have Alabama and LSU at home,  meaning winnable games against Texas A&M and Arkansas are on the road. There is still a solid chance Mississippi State makes a bowl, but they might need to do so via APR for the second straight year. Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6)

SEC Title Game: Alabama over Florida

All-SEC Team and Awards

Offense

QB: Jalen Hurts – Alabama
RB: Derrius Guice – LSU
RB: Kamryn Pettway – Auburn
WR: Christian Kirk – Texas A&M
WR: Calvin Ridley – Alabama
TE: Hayden Hurst – South Carolina
C: Frank Ragnow – Arkansas
OL: Braden Smith – Auburn
OL: Will Clapp – LSU
OL: Martez Ivey – Florida
OL: Jonah Williams – Alabama

Defense

DL: Da’Ron Payne – Alabama
DL: Marquis Haynes – Ole Miss
DL: Trent Thompson – Georgia
DL: Arden Key – LSU
LB: Roquan Smith – Georgia
LB: Jordan Jones – Kentucky
LB: Skai Moore – South Carolina
DB: Minkah Fitzpatrick – Alabama
DB: Ronnie Harrison – Alabama
DB: Duke Dawson – Florida
DB: Mike Edwards – Kentucky

Special Teams

K: Daniel Carlson – Auburn
P: J.K. Scott – Alabama

MVP: Derrius Guice, RB – LSU
Offensive Player of the Year: Jalen Hurts, QB – Alabama
Defensive Player of the Year: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB – Alabama
Newcomer of the Year: Jarrett Stidham, QB – Auburn

247Sports Recruiting Rankings

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Louisiana State
  4. Auburn
  5. Florida
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Tennessee
  8. South Carolina
  9. Mississippi State
  10. Arkansas
  11. Kentucky
  12. Mississippi
  13. Missouri
  14. Vanderbilt

Five Quick Questions

Team taking a step forward: Missouri
Team taking a step back? Texas A&M
Will Bama win the title? Yes
Ole Miss worst case scenario: 4-8
Best freshman: Najee Harris

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