2018 Season Preview: SEC

By Kevin Fay on August 22, 2018 at 10:34 am
Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) runs with the ball against Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (74) in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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Our conference previews continue with every Big Ten fans favorite conference, the SEC!

The West remains stacked, but the East now has a perennial contender in Georgia. After a few "down" years where only Alabama was truly great, there are now at least three legitimate playoff contenders. The SEC is fun again. Let’s dive in to the tiers below.

Contenders

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Auburn

As far as this tier is concerned, any less than two of these teams going to the playoff would be considered a disappointment for the SEC. All three legitimately have national championship caliber rosters.

Alabama will continue to be who they have been recently, rolling over everyone in their path, and unexpectedly tripping up one time but still making the playoff. The Jalen Hurts vs. Tua Tagliova battle will for some dumb reason continue on far too long. It could have been lightning in a bottle, but Tua seemed to be the better, more exciting quarterback Alabama needs to keep their perch on top of the college football world. However, teams are catching up and they can no longer rely on out-athleteing (this phrase is copyrighted by me and by reading it you owe me five cents) everyone.

Speaking of catching up, Georgia comes back with an absolutely stacked roster and a quarterback who got better and better throughout the season. Losing a five-star running back before the season starts isn’t great, but they will turn to another five-star back, D’Andre Swift. He should be there to lead an excellent bunch of skill players, and the defense should be nasty. In my mind, the gap between them and Alabama is almost nonexistent.

It feels like the gap between Auburn and the top two is pretty large, but the Tigers have a second year starting quarterback with a ton of experience, a good running back, excellent skill players, and what figures to be a top ten defense. Playoff contender is an appropriate tag for the Tigers yet again.

Next Tier

  • Mississippi State
  • LSU
  • Missouri

I will not apologize for putting Mississippi State here. Joe Moorhead is a special coach, and he has a special quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald leading his offense. They can beat anyone, and I expect that they might sneak up and take down one of the top three listed above.

I am weary of putting LSU here. At this point they don’t really have a quarterback, and they seem to be falling further and further behind the elite of the league in terms of evolving as a college football program. They keep trying to recreate the formula that worked for them back when it was just them and Alabama ruling the SEC, while the rest of the college football world leaves them behind. I love Ed Orgeron, much like his players do, but I think they may need to move on if they are to rejoin the elite.

Missouri in this tier may surprise some, but they reeled of six straight victories to close out 2017, and they return a good amount of experience from that squad. They may not have the type of blue chip talent as the top tier, but an explosive offense will keep them in every game this year.

The rest

  • Texas A&M
  • South Carolina
  • Florida
  • Ole Miss
  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Vanderbilt

As for the rest, they are either in a state of turnover or have significant weaknesses. All of them are 100 percent true and factor in to my scientific "ranking" of the teams.

  • A&M enters year one with Jimbo Fisher, and while they will likely be good, their schedule is hell.
  • South Carolina has Deebo Samuel, who is legitimately one of the most fun college football players in the country, but not much else.
  • Florida is still trying to recover from the Men In Black style memory erase where they completely forgot what a forward pass was.
  • Ole Miss might put up 40 points per game but also will probably give up 40 points per game.
  • Arkansas is this low because I like Bert and he is no longer around so they get docked for that.
  • Kentucky should continue to be fine but unspectacular.
  • Tennessee is ???????????? (this is both a reference to their offseason and the fact that I have no idea what to expect from them)
  • Vanderbilt will likely never recover from losing James Franklin.

There is a ton of talent on the rosters at the top of the league, but the SEC's depth could be its downfall. There are even teams in the last tier that could be a pain for the upper tiers on any given weekend. Like it or not, if teams can navigate their SEC schedules, they deserve a spot in the playoff, yes even with one loss. 

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