As many colleges across the country attempt to resume in-person classes – with varying degrees of success so far – at least 6 conferences are continuing their plans to start up the 2020 college football season, with the ACC slated to start kicking off the action on September 12. The SEC and Big 12, the other Power-5 conferences still intending to play, plan to start their schedules two weeks later. So as the clock ticks down – hopefully to the first day of games, let’s take a look at bold predictions for each SEC team, with one for a player and one team-based pick.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Finish 10-0, Najee Harris finishes in Heisman top-10, wins OPOY
I think Alabama enters the 2020 season as the favorite to take home the SEC title. Undoubtedly their toughest test comes with a trip to Death Valley and the defending national champions, but I’m not ready to say that one crazy dominant season makes LSU a favorite over a team that owned them for the entire decade. I think Alabama also takes care of business at home against a Georgia team that needs to prove their offense can support a defense that is sure to be dominant. 10-0 and another SEC championship and CFP appearance for the Tide.
Individually, Najee Harris enters this season as undoubtedly one of the best running backs in the country. I’m only putting him in the top 10 because running backs don’t get a lot of Heisman love, and Clemson running back Travis Etienne will likely steal votes from harris.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Win a conference game, Rakeem Boyd leads the SEC in rushing yards
The Razorbacks got royally screwed over by the additions to their conference schedule, and while they certainly didn’t add any wins by adding a couple of top-10 teams to their schedule, I still think Arkansas finally picks up a conference victory this season. In a normal season, I probably wouldn’t make that call, but heavily reduced or nonexistant crowds will make homefield advantages much less noticeable, so I like Arkansas’s chances at winning a crossover game versus Missouri in their penultimate game.
Boyd returns as the focall point of the Arkansas offense and the third-best returning rusher in the conference. Whether he can outpace Kylin Hill of Mississippi State and Harris of Alabama remains to be seen, but I like Boyd to rack up more touches simply due to the fact that his team has the worst passing attack of those three squads.
Auburn Tigers: Finish .500, KJ Britt has 7+ Sacks
I’m not high on Auburn this year at all. Trip to Alabama and Georgia just smell like big losses to me, while hosting LSU won’t be a picnic. I’m a little higher on Texas A&M than normal, and I like Ole Miss as my darkhorse team in the SEC, so toss in a pair of upset losses, and Auburn’s general inconsistency, and I don’t see the Tigers as a contender in the SEC.
Britt is the key piece of the Auburn defense, and he notched 3.5 sacks while playing in the shadow of 7th-overall pick Derrick Brown last season. I like Britt to double his total despite the shortened schedule. He’ll be a force to watch on the defensive line.
Florida Gators: Lose 3 of first 4 games, Kyle Trask leads the SEC in passing \
I really thought the SEC East might see a new champion at first, but upon further analysis, I’m just not confident the Gators are ready to compete. I also think they start their schedule in brutal fashion. A game I originally listed as a trap game – at Ole Miss – was bumped up to their season opener, and they also travel to Texas A&M and host LSU in the back to back weeks. It’s a gauntlet to start the year, as I think the Rebels surprise the Gators, and the Aggies take advantage of Trask and Co. looking ahead to their duel with the defending champs, who will also take care of business. Florida will go 5-1 after that start, but it won’t be nearly enough for an appearance in the SEC Championship.
I think due to the fact that Florida is trying to take the next step, and that they lost their top running back, Kyle Trask will be asked to do a lot more for this offense in 2020. With the aforementioned brutal schedule, I anticipate Trask to be throwing the ball a lot in come-from-behind situations, and I think he racks up significant yardage. He’s the top returning SEC quarterback in passing efficiency, so I definitely high on Trask, if not the Gators as a whole unit.
Georgia Bulldogs: 9-1 SEC East champions, Lecounte has 5 INT
Georgia continues their run of success in the SEC East post Jake Fromm, recovering from the departure of their quarterback and top two running backs to go 9-1. A road loss to Alabama will mark their only loss in the regular season, but their CFP hopes will be dashed by a second loss to the Tide in the SEC title game clash. The Bulldogs will ride their defense, which was one of the best units in the country last season and returns about 80% of their production.
Leading that defense will be Lecounte. I’m not ready to say he will be DPOY, but I think he improves on last year’s total of 4 interceptions, picking off five passes in 2020. He’s an absolute force in the secondary, and should be terrorizing opposing quarterbacks this season.
Kentucky Wildcats: Under .500 record, Jamar Watson leads the SEC in sacks
Kentucky may have a pretty great defense entering 2020, but I’m simply not sold on their offense, and I think their schedule is far too tough to merit prediction more than 3 or 4 wins this year. Road trips to Auburn, Alabama, and Florida will prove brutally difficult, while hosting Georgia. Those games alone make me think Kentucky’s ceiling is 6-4, but I’m also calling losses at Tennessee and vs. Ole Miss to drop them below .500 for the year.
Jamar Watson was tied for sixth in the SEC in sacks with 6.5 – I think he pushes for double digits in 2020 and leads the SEC. Statistically, it’s unlikely, but I think Watson is an absolute beast on a defense that will need to carry Kentucky if the Wildcats have any hope this coming season.
LSU Tigers: Start off 6-0, Derek Stingley wins DPOY
LSU faces as much of a cakewalk of a schedule as you can get in the SEC West, with their crossover games coming against Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina, and Florida. Outside of the Gators, that’s a pitiful collection of opponents, and I truly think LSU is the 2nd-best team in the SEC entering this season. They will start 6-0 with big wins at Florida and Auburn, before dropping their clash with Alabama. Ultimately, I’m seeing a 9-1 record for the Tigers and a potential case for a CFP berth at the end of the season.
Stingely is a freakishly goo dathlete, and there’s talk of him playing two ways in 2021. That could be accelerated to this year, if LSU runs into depth issues caused by quarantines, leading them to utilize one of their stars on both sides of the ball. However, even if he’s just used defensively, I think Stingley is one of the best players in the SEC, and he led the conference with 6 picks last season. I think he’s a major asset for a very good LSU defense and earns him DPOY honors.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Winless on the road, CJ Morgan collects 3 interceptions
Mississippi State’s brutal road slate includes games at LSU, Alabama, and Georgia, which should be three automatic losses for the Bulldogs. I don’t think they have the offense to take down Kentucky on the road, and I think the end the year with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. It’ll be a tough path to ganering many victories in 2020, but home games versus Arkansas, Missouri, and Vanderbilt offer hope that wins are there for the taking.
I think CJ Morgan takes a step up this season for the Bulldogs, after he broke up eight passes and picked off one in 2019. Look for him to continue to grow as a main contributor for the Mississippi State defense, snaring at least three picks in 2020.
Missouri Tigers: No Wins by more than 7 points, Tyler Badie has 700+ receiving yards
Missouri has a schedule with pleny of opportunities to pick up victories, but I’m not confident if they have the ability to capitalize. I don’t think this team is dynamically strong enough to run away from any team in the conference.
Tyler Badie looks likely to emerge as Missouri’s #1 receiver in a corps that is full of question marks. Look for Badie to emerge as a leader of the offense, becoming a go-to guy on third downs for the Tigers.
Ole Miss Rebels: Winning Record, Plumlee posts a 2000/1000 stat line
Ole Miss is my favorite darkhorse pick in 2020, and I think they have a ceiling of 7 wins, so I’m going to pick them to come close that, either matching it or going 6-4 for a winning record in SEC play. They’ll take care of business against the teams they need to, and then I like the dynamic John Rhys Plumlee to lead this Ole Miss offense to victory in one or two upsets this season.
Speaking of Plumlee, I think he’s the best dual-threat quarterback in the conference, although he needs to improve his efforts in the passing game. I think Plumlee carries the Ole Miss offense and puts up huge numbers, particularly on the ground, en route to 2000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards in 2020.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Start off 3-1, Mon Denson rushes for 800 yards
I think South Carolina is a .500 team in 2020, and they’ll make most of their progress towards those five wins in the early portion of their schedule. They’ll lose to Florida in Week 2, but take down Tennessee and Vanderbilt, before topping Auburn at home in what may essentially be their “Super Bowl” game. The Gameocks woun’t challenge for the SEC East title, likely finishing third or fourth in the division, but they’ll have at least a strong start to the season.
Mon Denson ran for just 232 yards last season, but his impressive average of over 5 yards per carry, combined with the potential for an increased workload in 2020, make him a prime breakout candidate. He’ll give South Carolina arun game that can be at least respected, giving quarterback Ryan Hilinksi more of a chance on play action passes.
Tennessee Volunteers: No losing streaks longer than 2 games, Guarantano posts 3:1 TD to INT ratio
I think Tennessee’s time may be coming, but the boys in Knoxville are not quite back yet. The Vols look like a 4-5 win team in 2020, but I think they’ll at least stay consistent and avoid skids that could completely tank their season. Look for Tennessee to go 2-3 both before and after their bye week en route to a mediocre season all the way around.
Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t scream elite when it comes to SEC quarterbacks, but I like his numbers to at least take a small jump in 2020. He put up 16 TDs and 8 INT last year, so let’s account for the shortened season and say 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions this season for the Tennessee signal-caller.
Texas A&M Aggies: 8-2 record, Kellen Mond throws 20 TD
Unfortunately for the Aggies, in a loaded SEC West, this prediction will only land them a third place finish in the division, but I think Texas A&M finally deserves some of the preseason hype they get. The Aggies were notably ranked #5 in Phil Steele’s preseason rankings, and while I’m not sure I’d have put Texas A&M that high with every conference in play, I think Steele was onto something. A&M will struggle to put away LSU or Alabama, but they should certainly able to win their other eight games.
Kellen Mond threw for 20 TD, and I think he improves his numbers this season, which esentially means he should cut down on the 9 interceptions from last season and throw another twenty touchdowns in a shortened season.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Winless, Andre Mintze has 5 sacks
I just don’t see Vanderbilt winning a game. I’ve looked at the schedule frontways, backwards, upside down, and inside out, and I don’t see a win there for the Commdoores. They’re going 0-10 this season, as their fans go into hibernation until baseball season.
Defense should be the better side of the ball for Vanderiblt in 2020, and I like Andre Mintze to record five sacks, cracking the Top 10 in the SEC in that statistic.