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2021 SEC Football Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

East Division

1. Georgia- The Bulldogs appear to have found their QB in USC transfer JT Daniels who threw for 1,231 yards and 10 TDs in 4 starts, the offense suffered a major blow when top wide receiver George Pickens tore his ACL in Spring practice, a young but talented receiving corps must pick up the slack, junior RB Zamir White leads a deep backfield and three starters return on the O-Line , on the defensive side the secondary loses Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell who were early round draft picks, the front 7 should once again wreak havoc on opposing offenses, faces Clemson in Charlotte Week 1 with the winner moving into the driver’s seat for the College Football Playoff

2. Mizzou- HC Eli Drinkwitz has found his QB in sophomore Connor Bazelak who threw for 2,366 yards and completed 67% of his passes, Bazelak will work alongside a deep and talented receiving corps led by senior Keke Chism, the O-Line retunrs 4 starters but the offense must find production in the run game with Larry Roundtree gone, the Tigers will break in new D coordinator Steve Wilks after finishing 85th in points allowed in 2020, Wilks inherits a strong D-Line led by First Team All-SEC end Trajan Jeffcoat, Rice transfer linebacker Blaze Alldredge could step into a starting role, must get off to a good start with a much tougher 2nd half of the schedule that includes Texas AM, Florida, and Georgia

3. Florida- the Gators were on their way to a to a 9-1 start and a date with Alabama in Atlanta before the “shoe toss” sent the team into a 3 game tailspin to end the year, to add insult to injury there is massive roster turnover heading into 2021, QB Kyle Trask who led the nation’s top passing attack has moved on a will be replaced by Emory Jones who brings more of a threat with his legs, Anthony Richardson may push Jones for playing time, the backfield looks solid but questions remain on the O-Line, the defense was flat out awful in 2020 giving up over 50 points in back to back season ending losses to Alabama and Oklahoma, D coordinator Todd Grantham is back and hopes to build around an experienced front 7, the secondary has only 1 returning starter which may be a good thing after finishing 100th in passing yards allowed

4. Kentucky- HC Mark Stoops continues to make football relevant in Lexington reaching bowls in 5 straight seasons, however many holes must be filled from a 5-6 team that treaded water for most of last year, 3 year starting QB Terry Wilson must be replaced, Penn St transfer Will Levis takes over the offense under new coordinator Liam Coen and will benefit from having a strong backfield led by junior Chris Rodriguez Jr, receivers and O-Line remain question marks, the defense held its own in 2020 but lacks depth at linebacker, very favorable schedule should result in a 6th straight bowl

5. Tennessee- Josh Heupel takes over a program seeking a return to glory after posting a winning record in the SEC just twice since Phillip Fulmer retired in 2008, Heupel brings strong offensive credentials and will look to juice up an offense that has been stuck in mud for the past 4 seasons under 2 different staffs, a three way battle for the starting QB job has been ongoing but Michigan transfer Joe Milton appears to have the edge, whoever wins the job won’t have much proven talent around them to work with, the defense returns 5 seniors on the line but has holes to fill at linebacker and in the secondary

6. Vanderbilt- HC Clark Lea will lead the Commodores after a successful 3 year stint as D coordinator at Notre Dame, the offense appears to have a bright future behind sophomore QB Ken Seals who put together an impressive freshman season in 2020, there is a slew of talented receiving targets returning, the backfield will get a shot in the arm from Temple transfer Re’Mahn Davis, the young O-Line struggled a year ago but gained valuable experience, defensively there weren’t many bright spots giving up 37.3 points a game last year and to make matters worse must replace some of its key contributors, Lea’s defensive acumen will be critical in developing the unit, 2021 will likely be a struggle transitioning over to the new staff but could be a program on the rise entering 2022

7. South Carolina- Will Muschamp was fired midway through last year after two and a half years of decline following a 9-4 season in 2017, in comes Shane Beamer son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, QB Luke Doty who started the final 2 games in 2020 was set to man the offense but suffered a foot injury and his status remains in question, former Iowa St QB Zeb Noland is a candidate to take over the job, the offense lacks talented playmakers at wide receiver, the backfield however returns Kevin Harris who rushed for 1,138 yards in 10 games last year along with a more experienced O-Line that should perform better in 2021, the defense struggled to stop both the run and pass last year and returns only 4 starters, will lean on an experienced D-line that includes All-SEC defensive end Kingsley Enagbare, improving on last years two wins should be the goal for the Gamecocks

West Division

1. Alabama- the equation is simple Alabama football plus Nick Saban equals College Football Playoff contender, the Crimson Tide capped off 2020 with 13-0 record and a 6th National Championship under Saban, despite losing 4 1st round draft picks the offense still has a stockpile of talent, sophomore Bryce Young is ready to step in and become the next great QB in Tuscaoolsa, junior WR Jonh Metchie III returns after a 55 reception 6 TD season last year along with a host of young and talented receivers ready to make their mark, senior RB Brian Robinson Jr returns after rushing for 483 yards and 6 TDs behind Najee Harris, the O-Line must replace 3 starters and could need some time to gel, the cupboard is full on defense with 7 returning starters from a unit that struggled early in 2020 but rounded into form as the younger played gained more experience, must travel to Gainesville, College Station, and Auburn

2. Texas AM- Kellen Mond’s 10 year career in College Station has finally come to an end, technically it was only 4 but it’s hard to remember the last time Mond wasn’t under center for the Aggies, freshman Haynes King appears to be the starter heading into the season, having star running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane in the backfield will take a major load off King, there are plenty of viable options at receiver as well, the O-Line which lost 4 starters must rebuild quickly to protect a young and vulnerable QB, the defense returns 9 starters many whom turned down NFL opportunities and should be one of the nation’s best under coordinator Mike Elko, gets Alabama and Auburn both in College Station

3. LSU- the Tigers 2021 hopes to a major hit when starting QB Myles Brennan was injured in a freak accident putting his status for the season in question, Brennan threw for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns in 3 games last year before suffering a season ending injury, sophomore Max Johnson who led the Tigers to season ending victories over Florida and Ole Miss will likely be the starter, WR, Kayshon Boutte is a star who had 45 receptions in 2020, the O-Line returns 5 starters but must improve substantially from last year after allowing 25 sacks, the defense was unrecognizable by LSU standards in 2020 giving up a school record 34.9 points and 492 yards per game, 8 starters return under new coordinator Daronte Jones and there is just too much talent and athleticism not to see better results in 2021, traveling to LA to take on UCLA in the opener won’t be an easy task

4. Ole Miss- Lane Kiffin enters his second season in Oxford after ending the season on a high beating number 11 Indiana in the Outback Bowl, the offense which ranked 14th in scoring and hung 48 on a Nick Saban defense returns junior QB Matt Corral along with 7 others, Corral will have plenty of quality receivers to throw to and 4 returning starters protecting him on the O-Line, junior RB Jerrion Ealy leads a strong backfield, and then there is the defense which finished outside the top 100 in nearly every statistical category, Kiffin turns to a truckload of transfers and freshman to tighten up the unit, returns to Tuscaloosa and Knoxville which should provide plenty of intrigue

5. Mississippi State- Mike Leach enters his 2nd season coaching the Bulldogs after a 4-7 finish in 2020 that included a win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, he may have his quirks but Leach is a football junkie that knows how to coach, sophomore incumbent QB Will Rodgers is the favorite to run Air Raid attack but will be pushed by South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich and Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham, true freshman 4 star recruit Sawyer Robertson can’t be ruled out, sophomore WR Jaden Walley leads a strong receiving corps that should once again put up big numbers in Leach’s offense, the O-Line was brutal last year giving up 34 sacks and must be retooled, the defense returns 7 starters and will look to pressure opposing QB’s once again after collecting 25 sacks as a unit in 2020, the first half of the schedule is a bear featuring a 3 game stretch against LSU, Texas AM, and Alabama

6. Auburn- former Boise St HC Bryan Harsin takes over for Gus Malzahn after posting a 69-19 record in 7 seasons at Boise St, 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year Bo Nix returns for his 3rd season at QB and hopes to receive better protection from 5 returning starters on the O-Line after getting sacked 20 times in 2020, the receivers are unproven and the backfield is thin behind sophomore RB Tank Bigsby, the defense returns 7 talented playmakers at every position and will be under the guidance of coordinator Derek Mason who had a successful run as DC at Stanford prior to becoming HC at Vandy, Akron and Alabama St at home to start the year will help build continuity with the new staff

7. Arkansas- Sam Pittman definitely moved the Razorbacks in the right direction in his first season after the program had fallen on hard times, the team collected 3 SEC wins after winning just 1 from 2017-2019, sophomore QB KJ Jefferson is projected be the starter heading into the season, the offense returns 8 starters including All-SEC WR Treylon Burks, the O-Line returns 4 starters and will look for create running lanes for junior RB Trelon Smith who rushed for 710 yards a year ago, statistically the defense wasn’t overly impressive but the unit fought hard throughout the year, Hogs pass rush must improve after finishing 109th nationally in sacks, the program is still on a uphill climb to get to the top tier of the SEC

Buy-Mississippi State


Best Bet- Florida UNDER total wins

Coach of the Year- Nick Saban Alabama

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