AL DIAZ ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.CO

Ranking the 2020 SEC East Starting QB’s

The SEC East is a wide-open race next year, as there are a few teams hoping to end Georgia’s three-year reign atop the division. Kentucky and Florida are the Bulldogs’ most likely challenger, but another interesting discussion is the quarterback room. Georgia is getting a new signal-caller, while Kentucky returns their star from injury. Here are my rankings of the seven quarterbacks in the SEC East, based on how they can impact their team in 2020.

  1. Jamie Newman- Georgia 

Newman has the most potential, and he is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, playing for a team that wins. It would be hard to not put Newman as the top QB in the SEC East.

  1. Kyle Trask- Florida

Florida under Felipe Franks was the definition of mediocre. It wasn’t that Franks was bad, he just wasn’t much better than average. Trask led the Gators to an 8 and 2 record while under center, throwing for almost 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Trask has a lot of potential but will be under a lot of pressure to produce in the swamp in a three-way race for the top of the SEC East.

  1. Terry Wilson- Kentucky 

Terry Wilson is a straight-up winner, having gone 12-3 during his tenure at Kentucky leading them to a Citrus Bowl win over Penn State in 2019. Coming off a torn ACL that he suffered last season, it will be interesting to see how he rebounds; however, if he comes back the same or better than before he got hurt, and with the ‘Cats returning 19 starters, look for Kentucky to make a serious run at getting to Atlanta in December. 

  1. Ryan Hilinski- South Carolina 

Ryan Hilinski is a fighter and a dog but he is not the man to lead South Carolina out of the ashes. To cut him some slack, it isn’t all his fault – his team just fails to perform at a high level. Last season featured a great overtime win over Georgia, but also a terrible loss at home to App State. South Carolina fans should be happy with a top-four finish in the East with Hilinski next season.

  1. Jarrett Guarantano- Tennessee

Don’t you feel every year Tennessee should be way better than they are? Jarrett Guarantano lead the Volunteers to a 6 game win streak to end the last season, and they return decent starters. They also have some good recruits coming in but history has told us that it doesn’t mean they are going to gain relevance anytime soon. Expect a .500 year from the mediocre Volunteers lead by a mediocre QB in the best conference in the country.

Tennessee will struggle to get back to SEC relevance this season. Photo Courtesy of Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

  1. Danny Clark- Vanderbilt

What happens when you can’t start at a traditional power, but you still want to play in the SEC? You go to Vanderbilt. Nothing against Danny Clark, but he is not the guy to turn around Vanderbilt, and he shouldn’t take it personally – Joe Burrow couldn’t turn around Vanderbilt. No quarterback will make a difference for the Commodores, and they will end up around 4-8 this upcoming season.

  1. Shawn Robinson- Missouri 

Most of you have heard of Shawn Robinson before because he started for TCU in 2017. After transferring to Missouri, he is set to take over for Kelly Bryant due to true freshman Connor Bazelak tearing his ACL. The Tigers are another team not to expect much from next season, and expect even less from Shawn Robinson.

Non-CFP End Of Season Power Rankings

The college football season just ended, and so while we will largely turn our attention to basketball and hockey, here’s our end of season Power Rankings of Non-CFP teams. We did it this way so as to avoid having a virtually unanimous top 3 teams. After combining our votes, here is our final non-CFP Top 10 football power rankings. 

Honorable Mention

  • Baylor

The Bears came up short in some of their biggest games, but never by much. They led Oklahoma 28-3 in one game before losing, and they took the Sooners to OT in the Big 12 championship. They were competitive against Georgia in their bowl game, but ultimately, their struggles to claim a signature win kept them out of the top 10. 

The Rankings

#10 – Memphis

The Tigers fell in the Cotton Bowl to Penn State, don’t let that distract you from what they did to an elite defense. Memphis slapped 39 points on the board, eleven more than any other opponent scored against the Nittany Lions. Ohio State put up 28 points. Memphis scored 39. After a season-opening 15-10 win over Ole Miss, Memphis never put up less than 28 points all year, losing one regular season game by 2 points. They finished the year with consective wins over a ranked Cincinnati team to win their conference title and secure a berth in the Cotton Bowl. What a season for the Tigers. 

#9 – Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish fell short of expectations in some regards, but also put together a strong season. Road games against Georgia and Michigan were regarded as their toughest games, and sure enough the Irish faltered in both, including a horrible blowout loss to the Wolverines. But after the Michigan game, the Irish looked like one of the best teams in the nation, winning their final five games by an average of 28 points, including a 32-point victory over a Navy team that finished in the top 20. Only two of their 11 wins were closer than 15 points, indicating that the Irish were finally beginning to dominate teams they should dominate, but their letdowns in their biggest games keep them from being higher on the list. 

#8 – Minnesota

It was a razor-thin margin between the Gophers and their Outback Bowl victims in Auburn, but the Gophers fell a point shy of making that happen in our polls. Minnesota had an extremely impressive year, and neither their bowl win or their win over Penn State should be ignored. But the Gophers were also beaten handily by Iowa and smoked by Wisconsin. These blowout losses really knocked the Gophers out of the national picture after they gained respect by beating Penn State. A really impressive season from Minnesota, and they’ll definitely look to be contending for a Big 10 title in the near future. 

Auburn and Minnesota were neck and neck in our final Power Rankings. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

#7 – Auburn

Ultimately, it seems Auburn just really doesn’t care about bowl games. They are 2-5 in postseason games under Gus Malzahn (including a BCS championship loss), a record that now includes losses to lower ranked opponents like Minnesota and UCF. However, everything else Auburn did was extremely impressive. They held Joe Burrow to 23 points, which is basically a better achievement than a shutout against any other offense. They played Georgia and Florida, and they beat Oregon and Alabama, and at College Station against Texas A&M. All in all, it was a very good season from the Tigers, but they’ll look to qualify for the Playoff next year – maybe then we’ll see the real Auburn Tigers show up in the postseason. 

#6 – Wisconsin

Two four-loss teams make our Top-7, which may be surprising, but they’re both extremely good squads. Two of Wisconsin’s losses were to Ohio State – including the Big 10 championship, when they became the only team all year to lead the Buckeyes at halftime. While one loss was an inexplicable defeat to Illinois, their fourth was a 1-point bowl game loss to Oregon. They handled Iowa, throttled Michigan, and dominated Minnesota on the road to claim a spot in the Big 10 title game. Three very impressive victories and a strong finish to the regular season outweigh three really tough losses and one weird one, giving the Badgers the #6 spot her. 

#5 – Florida 

The Gators were the only team to lead LSU in the second half at any point this season. And considering LSU also played Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama, and Auburn – that is a really impressive statistic. They took down Auburn, dominated Florida State for a second straight year, and earned a few other impressive victories, including at Kentucky and at Missouri. Kyle Trask stepped up as the team’s signal caller and was very strong under center for the Gators, who polished off their season with a second straight New Years’ 6 bowl win, albeit as a heavy favorite versus Virginia. The next step is overcoming Georgia in the SEC East and making the Playoff for the Gators, they’re running out other ways to impress us. 

#4 – Penn State 

The Nittany Lions were in a dead heat with the Gators for the fourth spot, so we took out their lowest ranking for each team in the poll to decide, and Penn State edged out Florida by one point. We mentioned some of Penn State’s defensive exploits in the Memphis excerpt, as the Nittany Lions held Ohio State to 28 points, their lowest total of the year prior to the Playoff. They showed their ability to win ugly (17-12 over Iowa) and in a shootout (53-39 over Memphis), which is key for any team with championship aspirations. The Nittany Lions may very well have been a playoff team without their slip up at Minnesota, and they’ll have their eyes on taking the next step in 2020. 

The white out crowd always creates an electric home atmosphere for Penn State. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

#3 – Georgia

It feels difficult to laud the Bulldogs, as they haven’t really done anything unusual by their standards. They had a very impressive 11-1 regular season with statement wins over Auburn, Florida, and Notre Dame, but they also had an awful home loss to South Carolina, who finished 4-8. And ultimately, the Bulldogs fell short in the SEC again, and this time they weren’t even competitive, losing 37-10 to LSU. To be fair, LSU was a buzzsaw this year, but Georgia feels like they’ve been at the same level for 3-4 years now, and it’s time to take the next step. Finishing sixth or seventh in the country is not their goal, especially a couple of years removed from being three points shy of a national title. 

#2 – Alabama (1 first place vote)

I don’t think anyone bought the fact that the Crimson Tide were only the 12th best team in the country heading into bowl season. They more or less proved that point by laying a 35-16 beatdown on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, shutting out the Wolverines in the second half. It was hard to rank them higher than 8th in the AP Poll, as Alabama really didn’t beat any other very good teams. Their Texas A&M win was their next best victory, so it was hard to justify moving up past Georgia, Oregon, and even Oklahoma, who beat Baylor twice. However, the Crimson Tide have never gone three years without winning a championship under Nick Saban – is 2021 the year for ‘Bama?

#1 – Oregon

I think a lot of people really wanted Oregon in the Playoff simply because, outside of a befuddling loss to Arizona State, the Ducks just looked like one of the best teams in the country. After their season-opening loss to Auburn, Oregon gave up 25 points in their next five games. And when Pac-12 offenses began to challenge their defense, Justin Herbert rose to the occasion, averaging about 30 points per game in conference play. Herbert finished his year with a gutsy performance in the Rose Bowl, rushing for three touchdowns and proving his ability to win without his best game, taking down a very impressive Wisconsin team. Oregon may have been the fourth best team in the country outside the Big 3, but due to an unforgivingly rigid Playoff Structure, they had to settle for being #1 in the non-CFP teams rankings.