The gap between the SEC and the other Power 5 conferences might not be as big as it once was, but it’s hard to argue that there’s a better conference from top to bottom in the country.
Even with Alabama’s ugly loss to Clemson in last year’s championship game, the SEC has delivered a national champion in 9 of the last 13 seasons. They are also still the only conference to send two teams to the playoffs.
SEC College Football Preview & Predictions
Last year Alabama cruised to another SEC West title and perfect 12-0 record. The Crimson Tide turned into an offensive juggernaut behind sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, scoring 45.6 ppg and putting up 522 yards/game. Keep in mind that’s with the team rarely playing their starters in the 4th quarter (all 12 regular-season wins were by 20+ points).
Alabama was viewed as such a dominant team they were a double-digit favorite over Georgia in the SEC title game. To everyone’s surprise they had to rally late behind backup QB Jalen Hurts to pull out a 35-28 win.
With Tua being one of the 12 starters Alabama is returning (most in the last 5 years) and the Crimson Tide almost assured to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, they are with out a doubt the team to beat in the SEC West.
Similar story in the SEC East, where Georgia is the clear-cut favorite. The Bulldogs may have come up painfully short of another playoff trip, but one thing is for sure. Kirby Smart has Georgia in the conversation with the likes of Alabama and Clemson at the top of the college football food chain.
As far as the rest of the conference is concerned, there’s a number of intriguing teams that could play spoiler. There’s also several teams that are looking for a big step forward in year two under a new head coach. There were 5 different SEC teams featuring new head coaches last year.
Now comes the tough part of trying to project how the conference will play out in 2019. Below are my predictions on where I see each team finishing in the standings for the upcoming season. I’ve also included some future odds for each team to win the conference.
One thing you can do with my overall predictions is compare them to the over/under season win totals (see table below). You can also get a head start on the upcoming betting season and check out the early Week 1 odds.
2019 SEC Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
Is it a lock that Alabama will win the SEC West? No, but there’s also no way I’m picking against them. The Crimson Tide have won the division outright 5 times in the last 7 years and the two times they failed to win they tied for the best record in the SEC West with a record of 7-1. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last Alabama team to lose multiple conference games during the regular-season.
The only real concern with the Crimson Tide going into 2019 is they will have a new coordinator on both sides of the ball. Steve Sarkisian will be the new offensive coordinator and Pete Golding will take over the defense. Hard to put much into this given that this is the third straight year Nick Saban has had two replace both his coordinators.
I don’t think there will be much debate on who the biggest threat to Alabama is in the SEC West. That’s Ed Orgeron’s LSU Tigers, who are coming off a surprising 10-3 season. A lot of people thought this team could struggle to just make a bowl.
The Tigers will have 16 returning starters and no longer have a question at quarterback with how well Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow played last year. We know the defense is going to be great under Dave Aranda. The big question is how the offense will look with their new RPO principles being installed by Joe Brady.
I think most would be shocked if it’s not LSU or Alabama on top of this division, but a legit dark horse is Texas A&M. The Aggies were even better than expected in the first season under head coach Jimbo Fisher. They should be in better shape in year two and might even be more talented top to bottom. The problem is they have to play Clemson, Georgia and LSU on the road, plus they host Alabama.
Auburn is another team that if everything clicks could be headed to Atlanta at the end of the year. The Tigers have 14 starters back and head coach Gus Malzahn is taking back play calling duties, which has a lot of people excited. The defense is going to be special, especially up front, but it all comes down to the quarterback position. There’s no clear-cut guy to replace Jarrett Stidham.
Some might be surprised that I got Mississippi State down near the bottom of the standings, but they lose their do it all quarterback in Nick Fitgerald and have just 4 starters back from a defense that had 3 guys drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. It also doesn’t help that two of their four conference home games are against LSU and Alabama.
Ole Miss and Arkansas will be afterthoughts and likely aren’t going to win many games in SEC play. However, both of these teams might be better than people think. The Rebels have a good young coach in Matt Luke, who added big name coordinators in Rich Rodriguez (offense) and Mike MacIntyre (defense). As for the Razorbacks, they brought in SMU transfer Ben Hicks to reunite with head coach Chad Morris, who left SMU prior to last season to take this job.
Much like I’m not picking against Alabama in the West, there’s no chance I’m picking anyone but Georgia to win the East. The Bulldogs climb to the top has happened faster than I think anyone anticipated. Kirby Smart has recruited at an exceptionally high level and there’s one mission on tap in Athens. Win the national championship. Georgia will bring back 12 starters and have made it clear that this is junior Jake Fromm’s team
Florida will undoubtedly be everyone’s top choice as the Bulldogs biggest threat in the East. Pretty easy to see why when you look at the job Dan Mullen did in his first year in Gainesville. Mullen took over a team that won just 4 games and guided them to a 10-3 finish. As impressive as that is, Florida should be winning 9+ games every year with the talent they have on deck. Also, last year’s team had 19 returning starters, so they were set up for success.
While I expect Mullen to keep the Gators in the SEC East mix, I don’t think think they will be able to dethrone the Bulldogs.
The team I’m really excited to see is Missouri. I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Tigers because of a potential postseason ban (they are appealing). Missouri landed Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant to fill the shoes of Drew Lock. Bryant already did that once at Clemson, starting the season after DeShaun Watson departed. The schedule is also favorable, as the Tigers avoid all the big dogs by drawing Ole Miss and Arkansas in their two cross-division games.
Tennessee and South Carolina are next up on the list. The Volunteers are likely another year from being taken seriously, but they might blossom into a contender this year. Jeremy Pruitt has 16 returning starters back, including promising junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Given Pruitt’s prowess as a defensive coordinator, they should keep improving on that side of the ball. If Jon Chaney can work his magic with the offense this could be a special season in Knoxville.
As for the Gamecocks, I had a difficult time picking this low in the standings. Will Muschamp has really kept this program going into the right direction. South Carolina has 14 returning starters, including one of the better quarterbacks in the conference in Jake Bentley. They won’t be any easy out for anyone. The problem is the schedule. They draw Alabama at home and Texas A&M on the road out of the West, have to travel to play Mizzu, Georgia and Tennessee, while also having to play North Carolina and Clemson in non-conference action.
Kentucky was one of the best stories in college football last year, but that felt more like a dream season than a sign the Wildcats are here to stay. That team was all about running back Benny Snell and a nasty veteran defense. Snell is gone and just 4 starters return on defense.
Vanderbilt is always an easy pick to finish last in the SEC East. With that said, the Commodores have some serious skill players and will likely be starting Ball State transfer Riley Neal at quarterback. If the defense takes a big step in year two under defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, this team could pull off a few more upsets than expected.
SEC Championship Game Prediction: Alabama Defeats Georgia
2019 SEC Win Totals
Click on the link to see the college football win totals for every team.
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)||+260|
|Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia)||+1400|
|D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)||+1700|
|Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)||+3000|
|Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)||+3500|
|Kelly Bryant (QB, Missouri)||+6500|
Click on the link for a full list of Heisman odds.
Playoff Odds (Win National Championship)
Check out our playoff odds to see a complete list of all FBS teams.