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Previewing the SEC: The Best Conference Until Proven Otherwise
Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.

Previewing the SEC: The Best Conference Until Proven Otherwise

I’m not an SEC fan at all. In fact I hate their arrogance, swagger, and general all-around BS. But, until someone knocks the arrogance out of them, they have a right to act any old way they want and the rest of us has to shut-up and face the facts. They have the most “great” teams in the country and a lot of years their 3rd or 4th best team could probably win a lot of other conferences. And this year will probably be more of the same.

Generally speaking, most people believe the West is the toughest of the two divisions and 90% of the reason they do is because Alabama resides there. So, if you are in the West you have to play the Crimson Tide every season. And then there is LSU, and Auburn, and Texas A&M, and, well, you get the picture. It is a gauntlet of good teams. The East division has Georgia and they are a handful. Florida is usually the 2nd best. But after that, the talent level drops off some as programs like Tennessee have fallen on hard times in recent years. I think every one would agree it is a lot easier to get to the SEC title game coming out of the East, than coming out of the West. That seems to be the case in 2021. Let’s preview the two divisions.

Previewing the SEC East

Georgia: In recent years under Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have been 0-4 against guess who? I think you know the answer. This year they look to be loaded again and are much more settled at QB. They need a big-play receiver to develop and the secondary was hurt by graduation, transfers, and early-outs. That needs to be solved. They have a difficult schedule starting with the opener against Clemson and there is the Florida game and a road test at Auburn. The playoffs are well within their sights.

Florida: On paper, it appears that the Gators might take a step back. The QB is gone, there are questions at receiver, and the offensive line is a bit unsettled. The defense was poor last year but return most of their front seven. The secondary has two new assistants because it is always the coach’s fault when things go bad. On top of that, the SEC schedule is brutal and don’t forget they were only 8-4 in 2020.

Missouri: In recent years, the Tigers have been consistently in the hunt in the East. They were fortunate they were put in the East and not the West when they left the Big-12 for the SEC. They have a good returning nucleus and a better conference schedule than a lot of teams. Translation: No Alabama or LSU from the other division.

Kentucky: Coach Mark Stoops has quietly built Kentucky into a program that has become hard to beat. In his 8 years in Lexington, the Wildcats are 49-50 and are 37-26 since 2016 with five straight bowl appearances. That’s pretty heady stuff for Kentucky football. The conference schedule is tough but Stoops usually beats someone he shouldn’t.

Tennessee: On the surface, this a one gigantic mess in Knoxville. The Vols are coming off a bad year in 2020, and more than 25% of the roster left the program. They are on their way to probation and new coach Josh Heupel has to sort it all out. Welcome to the SEC coach.

South Carolina: Another program that is in a transition. New coach, new staff, same situation. Trying to break through at a place that hasn’t won much except when Steve Spurrier was there.

Vanderbilt: Private school, higher entrance requirements, no tradition, used to losing. Pretty hopeless don’t you think?

Previewing the SEC West

Alabama: Until something changes in the SEC, the title stays here in Tuscaloosa. There are bigger question marks on offense than usual with a new coordinator, quarterback, running back, several new receivers and a shakeup on the offensive line. But it’s Alabama so we know there are talented replacements but they might slip a tad. The defense is solid and until someone proves they can beat them they are the favorite.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are coming off a 9-1 season in 2020 and they have a lot to replace on offense. But the defense is very strong and coach Jimbo Fisher has recruited well. There might be too many problems on offense for Texas A&M to prove their high preseason ranking.

LSU: After winning the national title in 2019, the Tigers slipped to 5-5 and coach Ed Orgeron fired the defensive coordinator and several others and there will be five new coaches in 2021. The main problem was a leaky defense that they will have to shore up to make it back to elite status.

Auburn: The Tigers finished 6-5 in 2020 and they fired long-time coach Gus Malzahn who was the one coach in the SEC who could beat Alabama. But he lost too often to too many other coaches. Bryan Harsin comes in from a successful stint at Boise State and he is going to find the SEC is a little different from what he is used too.

Ole Miss Rebels: The Rebels were exciting to watch on offense in 2020 but their defense was awful and that led to a 5-5 record. If they can find some defensive players they have a chance to move up the ladder.

Mississippi State Bulldogs: The Bulldogs hung in there and managed to win the last two games to finish 2020 with a record of 4-7. Coach Mike Leach will have a better offense this year and the talent level will improve. How far can they climb in year 2.

Arkansas Razorbacks: If Arkansas was in the East division they would end up with a better record. They are getting better and they could surprise some people in 2021.

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