SEC 2020 Season Preview

No easy games. With opt outs and schedule changes because of covid-19, the disparity between the top and bottom of the SEC will be magnified. Each team in the conference plays 10 games, all within the conference; this means that there will be no easy non-conference games against sub-par conferences like the AAC, Conference USA, or Sun-Belt. This will affect the lower tier SEC schools heavy, as those games could mean going to a bowl game or ending the season early.

Below are my predictions for the 2020 season where we can see Kentucky cement themselves as the 3rd option in the SEC East above Tennessee, LSU drop off, Iron Bowl (Auburn vs Alabama) with huge implications, and Dan Mullen’s first SEC championship appearance as head coach at Florida.

SEC West

7. Arkansas (1-9)

Coming off a 2-12 season and 0-8 in the SEC, Arkansas hired Sam Pittman as their head coach. Sam Pittman is considered one of the best recruiters in the country, however, it will take a couple of years to bring his players in and settle into the job. Hopefully running back Rakeem Boyd can help transfer quarterback Felipe Franks (from Florida) settle in the offense, and the pair can get Arkansas’ offense going. However, Arkansas’ weakness is defense, specifically in their defensive front, which allowed 222 rushing yards per game in 2019 (worst in SEC). If Arkansas’ defense, lead by Bumper Pool, can get some stops early, they may be able to pullout a win; without any out of conference games and a first year head coach, I do not see Arkansas pulling out more than one win in 2020.

Head Coach: Sam Pittman

Recruiting Class: 30th

Key Addition: Felipe Franks (QB)

MVP: Rakeem Boyd Sr. (RB)

Biggest Loss:

6. Ole Miss (3-7)

Coming off a 4-8 (2-6 SEC) season, Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin—head coach from FAU—to bring good recruiting and a high powered offense to Ole Miss. The biggest question for Ole Miss this year is who is going to solidify the starting at QB, a couple days away from their first game, coach Lane Kiffin still states that both might: Matt Corrall or John Rhys Plumlee. Both were inconsistent in 2019, however, if they can find their footing with Kiffin’s new offense, Ole Miss’ passing offense with see vast improvement. Playing in the tough SEC west, and playing both Florida and improving Kentucky, I cant see Ole Miss winning more than 4 games this season, predicting them at a total of 3 wins. And, of course, our own Henry Parrish is now at Ole Miss. Watch for #25 to make an impact.

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin

Recruiting Class: 34th

Key Addition: Kenny Yeboah (TE)

MVP: Elijah Moore Jr. (WR)

Biggest Loss:

5. Mississippi State (4-6)

For the third school in a row with a new hiring at head coach, this might be the best. Mississippi State went with Mike Leach from Washington State who turned that program into a quarterback record breaking machine: first with Gardner Minshew and then with Anthony Gordon. Leach’s offense with graduate transfer KJ Costello (QB) should flourish, and if in trouble Costello can always just dump the ball to one of the best running backs in the nation in Kylin Hill (RB). The defense will need time to adjust to always being on the field, but the biggest concern for Mississippi State is their O-line. They lost two key pieces to the line in their center and tackle in which they need to replace soon  or Mike Leach vertical passing offense may not play well. Mississippi State will keep many games interesting and could end up winning many more games than I predict, but the O-line is too much of a concern at the moment.

Head Coach: Mike Leach

Recruiting Class: 28th

Key Addition: KJ Costello (QB)

MVP: Kylin Hill (RB)

Biggest Loss: Willie Gay Jr.

4. Texas A&M (7-3)

Coming off an average season, 8-5 (4-4 SEC), Jimbo Fisher has to prove that he can take this Aggie team to the next level: inconsistent play from their star and turnover margin struggles will not cut it. Kellen Mond (QB) has to play like the star he is supposed to be, the O-line cannot be as bad as last year, and the defense has to be more explosive. The O-line’s struggle contributed to Mond’s inconsistency, they had most sacks allowed in the SEC. The Aggie defense ended the season horribly, in the last 4 games had a -7 turnover margin, without big turnovers created, big games cannot be won. They have to go through LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Auburn, I cannot see the Aggies winning more than one of these games.

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher

Recruiting Class: 6th

Key Addition: Jaylon Jones (S)

MVP: Kellen Mond (QB)

Biggest Loss: Justin Madubuike

3. LSU (7-3)

After one of the best seasons by a college football team and winning the College Football Playoffs, LSU loses their two biggest pieces to their historic season: Joe Brady the offensive coordinator who was the mastermind behind the LSU offense, and of course Heisman winner Joe Burrow who broke many NCAA records on his last year at LSU. LSU lost 8 other starters including Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Patrick Queen, Grant Delpit, and many more that were key pieces to both the defense and offense. LSU will be very young this season with two anchors on each side of the ball: Ja’Marr Chase (WR) and Derrick Stingley (CB). LSU will be very competitive this season, however, their games will be a lot closer than last year; without a proven closer and a young roster LSU will drop off from last year.

Head Coach: Ed Orgeron

Recruiting Class: 4th

Key Addition: Darren Evans (Nickel)

MVP: Ja’Marr Chase (WR)

Biggest Loss: Joe Burrow

2. Auburn (8-2)

Overall Auburn’s 2019 season looked really good, true freshman Bo Nix (QB) lead the team to a 9-4 (5-3 SEC) record which is impressive with their schedule from last year, playing Oregon, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, and Minnesota in one year is tough for any team, even worse with a freshman QB. If Bo Nix can improve his completion percentage and turn the ball over fewer times the immediate future for Auburn is looking bright as they have one of one of the best secondaries in college football. The big three (LSU, Alabama, Georgia) Auburn has to play every year is still there, but with their defense and hopeful improvement of Bo Nix should yield one or more wins against those three.

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn

Recruiting Class: 7th

Key Addition: Zykeivous Walker (DE)

MVP: Bo Nix

Biggest Loss: Derrick Brown

1. Alabama (9-1)

Alabama had a let down season in 2019 when Tua Tagovailoa got injured, however, now that he is in the NFL they look towards the future at the quarterback position, this season will probably see Mac Jones at the helm. Behind him is very talented Bryce Young, a true freshman, in which he is the best talent coming out of high school since Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Najee Harris (RB) should see the ball a significant amount now that Tua is gone, as Mac Jones does not hold up to that standard. Their receiving corps is almost just as good, even without Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle will put the pressure on opposing DB’s. With top 3 recruiting classes almost every year and a defense that consistently spews out NFL players, Alabama should not see a significant drop off. However I could see them losing a big game to Auburn, LSU, or Georgia with Mac Jones at quarterback, his play last year was average at best with the best receiving corps in the nation.

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Recruiting Class: 2nd

Key Addition: Bryce Young (QB)

MVP: Najee Harris

Biggest Loss: Tua Tagovailoa

SEC East

7. Vanderbilt (1-9)

Vanderbilt in 2019 hit a rough patch on offense, scoring 14 or fewer points in 7 games last season, their 3 top QB’s either graduated or transferred, and their offensive line did not have any bright spots. Hopefully Keyon Brooks (RB) can fill the role Ke’Shawn Vaughn left behind to give the offense some type of spark. Even though Coach Mason does a great job disciplining his team, which allows them to fight in some games, there are too many holes in the offense specifically for this team to do major damage.

Head Coach: Derek Mason

Recruiting Class: 53rd

Key Addition: Mike Wright (QB)

MVP: Keyon Brooks (RB)

Biggest Loss: Ke’Shawn Vaughn

6. Missouri (1-9)

Missouri is easily the hardest team to judge on this list because of how many holes they have to fill with a new coach on top of that. QB is up for grabs between Taylor Powell and Shawn Robinson, while an average offensive line the year prior just lost 3 of their starters. If the offensive line could creat some holes for Larry Rountree (RB), the Tiger offense may be able to control possession time to keep them in some games. Missouri had a major penalty problem as well, totaling 83 penalties for 808 yards. In combination with an inconsistent defense, at the pressure level and coverage, Missouri is looking at a rough season, especially since they have no gimme games that could help progress their young core.

Head Coach: Eliah Drinkwitz

Recruiting Class: 51st

Key Addition: Damon Hazelton (WR)

MVP: Larry Rountree (RB)

Biggest Loss: Kelly Bryant

5. South Carolina (3-7)

Coming off a disappointing 2019 season, in which their best player declared for the draft (Javon Kinlaw), the Gamecocks are looking to improve generally, especially on the offensive side. Average O-Line play and an inconsistent passing game hindered the gamecocks all of last season. Ryan Hilinski brought somewhat of consistent play by the end of the season which he could hopefully improve on this year, however, his wideouts are abismal: his number one target is gone, and the current number one should be a two or three option. Defensive problems could arise on the defensive front without Kinlaw, their hope is that true freshman Jordan Burch (DT) can help with run defense, but this young line could have major issues. The lines of both side of the ball are in major question which could make or break their season.

Head Coach: Will Muschamp

Recruiting Class: 19th

Key Addition: Jordan Burch (DT)

MVP: Ryan Hilinski (QB)

Biggest Loss: Javon Kinlaw

4. Tennessee (4-6)

Tennessee this year is the definition of an average team, which in a few years could hopefully build upon their increasingly better recruiting classes. The quarterback situation is bad as all of those who played last year were wildly inconsistent, in which likely starter, Jarrett Guarantano, needs to improve upon. The defense was average to above average in 2019, accumulating 34 sacks and allowing 22 points per game. The loss of three starting wide receivers leaves Tennessee very thin and young on offense, and hopefully true freshmen Omari Thomas (DT) and Tyler Baron (DE) could intensify the D-line. However, with an inconsistent offense and a good but not great defense will leave Tennessee around .500.

Head Coach: Jeremy Pruitt

Recruiting Class: 1oth

Key Addition: Omari Thomas (DT)

MVP: Henry To’o To’o (LB)

Biggest Loss: Jauan Jennings

3. Kentucky (5-5)

Kentucky struggles converting on red zone trips and third downs, if they can improve that percentage this year, their offensive game should increase by a significant margin. However, Terry Wilson (QB) has to prove his consistency especially throwing the football. With Bowden gone they need to find someone to make up for those rushing yards, which could be from starter Asim Rose (RB) and hopefully, true freshman Torrance Davis can contribute through rotation. Kentucky’s strength this year is their veteran lines on both sides of the ball, allowing them to control time of possession. Inconsistent passing game and secondary in combination with a brutal schedule Kentucky should settle around .500.

Head Coach: Mark Stoops

Recruiting Class: 25th

Key Addition: Torrance Davis

MVP: Asim Rose (RB)

Biggest Loss: Lynn Bowden Jr.

2. Georgia (8-2)

With the number 1 recruiting class in the nation and the top 5 for the past 3 years, Georgia has little to worry about. Georgia’s biggest issue this year, is their youth, especially on offense. Jamie Newman (QB), the only quarterback with college experience, opted out of the 2020 season, leaving the QB position to 3 inexperienced young quarterbacks which could hinder the team from performing to its full potential. Three starting O-linemen are gone, leaving younger less experienced players on the line, the only for sure thing in this offense is Zamir White who should explode with the amount of reps he is going to receive. Jordan Davis (DT) and Richard LeCounte (S) should lead their defense to be just as dominant as it was years prior, however, the young offense could cause problems against more experienced teams, including Florida, Alabama, and Auburn.

Head Coach: Kirby Smart

Recruiting Class: 1st

Key Addition: Kelee Ringo (CB)

MVP: Zamir White (RB)

Biggest Loss: Jake Fromm

1. Florida (9-1)

If Florida can improve at the same pace they have been through Mellen’s first two years, his third year could lead the Gators to the next level. Florida’s depth in 2019 allows them this year to have an experienced team with some new but important faces. Brenton Cox (EDGE) could replace Jonathan Greenard’s explosiveness. Four out of the five O-linemen are returning, and the secondary is so deep, the loss of C.J. Henderson will be minor, mainly in man coverage. If safeties Shawn Davis and Brad Stewart improve their deep coverage the gator’s defense will be one of the best. Kyle Trask’s 2nd year starting has high expectations, and he has weapons around him to help him. The receiving corps even with three losses to the draft is one of the best in the SEC: Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland, true freshman Columbus’ own Xzavier Henderson, and tight end Kyle Pitts should be able to pick apart defenses with a combination of speed and route running. The 2020 Florida Gators have high expectations for this season, however, their success is based a lot on how well Trask could play this season. With a veteran and athletic team the Gators could take the SEC east the year and play Alabama in the SEC championship.

Head Coach: Dan Mullen

Recruiting Class: 9th

Key Addition: Brenton Cox

MVP: Kyle Trask

Biggest Loss: C.J. Henderson


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