There’s no denying the SEC is the best conference in college football from top to bottom. Last year, 10 of the 14 teams finished with a winning record, including 9 teams that won 9 or more games.
The best of them all was Alabama, who won the College Football Playoff. It was the Crimson Tide’s 4th national title under head coach Nick Saban. It was also returned the SEC on top of the college football landscape. The conference has now produced 8 of the last 10 champions.
Last year the 14 SEC teams went an impressive 54-12 in non-conference play. That includes a 14-7 record against Power 5 opponents. No other conference won more than 50% of their games against Power 5 schools.
Looking ahead to 2016, there’s serious contenders on both sides. Most agree that there’s 3 teams that stand out in each division. Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss in the West and Tennessee, Georgia and Florida in the East.
That’s not to say one of the other teams aren’t capable of surprising. I’ve provided my predictions for both the East and West below with some insight on my projections.
SEC West Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||West Odds||SEC Odds|
The SEC West is considered by many to be the toughest division in the country and it’s hard to argue against it. Last year all seven teams finished with at least 7 wins.
It’s really remarkable what Alabama has done inside this division. The Crimson Tide are 35-5 in conference play over the last 5 years. The next best is Georgia at 30-10.
Most are going to be quick to pick Alabama to win the West for a third straight year, but I’m not one of them. I have Les Miles and the LSU Tigers on the top standings.
LSU is arguably just as talented as the Crimson Tide and this year get them at home. The Tigers also have 17 returning starters, including Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette. No other team in the West has more than 14 starters come back.
Not only does Alabama have to go to Death Valley, but they also draw a loaded Tennessee team on the road. I have them losing both of those games, which opens the door for LSU to get back to the SEC Title game.
Ole Miss comes in third in my West standings at 5-3 and could certainly contend for the top spot. The Rebels lose a lot from last year (only 10 starters back), but return talented senior quarterback Chad Kelly.
As for the other four teams in the West, there’s not a whole lot that separates these teams. My favorite of the bunch is Auburn, who I think could be flying under the radar. The Tigers got horrible play at quarterback last year, which really set them back. They have high expectations for John Franklin III. He’s a former FSU recruit, who has the mobility to thrive in Gus Malzahn’s attack.
It’s also worth noting that the other three teams picked in the bottom will be transitioning to a new QB. Texas A&M is expected to start former Oklahoma starter Trevor Knight. Arkansas has to replace Brandon Allen and his 30 to 8 touchdown to interception ratio. As for Mississippi State, they lose one of their all-time best signal callers in Dak Prescott.
SEC East Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||East Odds||SEC Odds|
The SEC East has failed to produce a real threat to the West over recent years. The last team from this side of the conference to win the SEC Championship Game was Florida back in 2008.
The Gators had their chance to return on top last year, as they won the East with a 7-1 record. It was another surprise winner out of this division (Missouri previous two years). Almost everyone had Georgia and Tennessee as the clear-cut top two teams in the East.
The dream season for Florida in Jim McElwain’s first year on the job came to a crashing end. After losing 2-27 at home to in-state rival FSU, they lost 15-29 to Alabama in the SEC title game. The followed those two performances up with a 7-41 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
The Gators are a threat to defend their title, but my money is on Butch Jones and the Volunteers. Like LSU in the West, Tennessee has a lot coming back from last year. They have 17 returning starters, including senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs. What people forget about last season, is the Volunteers were 4 plays away from going 12-0. Their 4 losses came by a combined 17 points. Three of those against the likes of Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama.
That leaves Georgia and Florida to battle it out for second. However, both are more the capable of finishing in first. Georgia will be in the first year under new head coach Kirby Smart and have a lot of talent coming back. That includes one of the best running backs in the country in Nick Chub. What makes the Bulldogs scary is they get Tennessee at home and avoid Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss out of the West.
Not a lot to get excited about with the bottom four teams in the East. Unlike the West, where even the last place team is often one of the top 40 teams in the country, that’s not the case here.
If I had to pick one team to surprise out of this group, it would have to be Missouri. The Tigers have won two of the last three SEC East titles. They should have one of the best defenses in the conference. The big concern is the offense and if it will improve enough. Last year they only scored 13.6 ppg.
Kentucky has a lot of nice pieces on offense and are in the 4th year under Mark Stoops. The problem is there’s just too big a gap between them and the top teams. Vanderbilt is a non factor, but should continue to take big steps under head coach Derek Mason. My least favorite team in the East is South Carolina. The Gamecocks will be in the first year under Will Muschamp and have just 9 starters back from last year.