Game of the Week Preview: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

The History

This is one of my favorite rivalries in all of sports. From memories like The Miracle at Jordan-Hare, to the countless meetings that eventually decided an SEC champion, no matter what the circumstances, this game is important and both teams seem to bring a little more to the table in this game each year.

Offense

Bo Nix vs Kentucky

Both teams are led by star studded, but young and generally unproven quarterbacks. Bo Nix is playing in his second Auburn-Georgia game. Last year, he was 30/50, for 245 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 13 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown with one lost fumble. J.T. Daniels on the other hand, was just cleared to play at Georgia and has yet to play an SEC game. He was highly touted out of high school, committing to play at USC, but it did not work out and now he goes into his first game as a Georgia Bulldog. Expect to see a lot of power running, and a lot of talented play makers at wide receiver. The connection to look for will be Bo Nix to his best wide receiver Seth Williams. This duo linked up for two touchdowns last week against Kentucky. The offenses will score points, but the question is which defense will get the stops.

Defense

image

When you think defense you think of the SEC, and when you think of SEC defenses, you have to mention Auburn and Georgia – two of the top five defenses in the SEC last year, and they’re looking to do it again. Typically, Auburn’s defensive line is the focal point of their defense, and this year is no different. They are young, but Big Kat Bryant is the veteran stud in the lineup this year. Also, they return a lot in the back seven, including all three starting linebackers from a year ago. Georgia also has a strong defensive unit at all positions. The star is Richard Lecounte, their safety, who racked up a pair of interceptions in Georgia’s season opener.. Both defenses are going to make a lot of stops, and I think whoever forces the most turnovers wins this game.

The Keys To Victory

I believe the quarterback play will decide the outcome of the game. Bo Nix vs J.T Daniels. I have Nix winning this matchup due to his experience and his dual-threat skillset, so I am going with Auburn winning 27-17, but I think it will feel even closer throughout the game.

SEC Hot Takes: 1 Bold Prediction For Each Team

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.

Thomas And Lapoint Preview The SEC: Top Defenses, DPOY Picks

To finish up our SEC season preview, lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Which teams will bring the most fearsome defenses into 2020, and which players will spend all season terrorizing opposing offenses? Let’s take a look at the picks. Also check out the top offenses as well as the power rankings and predictions portion of our SEC preview. 

Top Defenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Georgia
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama

Nathaniel Lapoint

  1. Georgia
  2. Auburn
  3. Kentucky

There’s a fair amount of disagreement in our rankings of the top defenses. We both have Georgia atop the rankings, but beyond that, there are no similarities. I’m riding Derek Stingley’s talent as a major factor in this decision, taking LSU as the second best defense in the conference, as Georgia’s always-strong defense is a clear choice for #1. Alabama is a bit of a riskier pick, having lost a majority of their game-changing talent, with three of their four players who recorded multiple interceptions in 2020 off to the NFL, as well as their top two leaders in sacks. However, the Tide always have a strong line and seemingly just reload defensively every season, so I put Alabama third. 

In Lapoint’s list, he goes with Georgia at #1, which is certainly a safe pick given their history, returning production, and star power in Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice, and others. After that, he goes with a bit of a darkhorse in the Auburn defense. Many consider Auburn a top-5 unit, although I’m not even that high on the Tigers, but Lapoint is elevating Gus Malzahn’s unit to the second slot of his rankings, after Auburn made defensive coordinator Kevin Steele the highest paid assistant coach with 2.5 million dollars per year. And, sliding in third, Lapoint goes with his trusty Wildcats. He’s remained high on Kentucky throughout the preview process, and he doesn’t waver in going with a Kentucky defense that has been projected anywhere from a top-three unit in the SEC to not even a top-5 defense. Kentucky is really a complete unknown this year, but Lapoint goes with the SEC East squad as his third-best defense in the conference. 

Top Defensive Players

Defensive Player Of The Year

Thomas: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

Lapoint: Dylan Moss, LB, Alabama 

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
Derek Stingley, CB, LSUDylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Richard LeCounte, S, GeorgiaDerek Stingley, CB, LSU
Shane Lee, LB, AlabamaRichard LeCounte, S, Georgia
Israel Mukuamu, CB, South CarolinaNick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Dylan Moses, LB, AlabamaMonty Rice, LB, Georgia

The top three players in our defensive rankings are almost the exact same – with both of us being high on LSU cornerback Derek Stingley and Georgia safety Richard LeCounte. We also each rank an Alabama linebacker in our top three – I went with rising sophomore Shane Lee while Lapoint opted for Dylan Moses, who missed his junior season due to injury. Moses was Lapoint’s pick for SEC defensive Player of the Year, whereas Stingley topped my rankings. If Moses returns to his pre-injury form, then he does become an instant contender for the DPOY award, as he recorded 86 tackles – 10 for loss – and 3.5 sacks two years ago.

After those top three, I opted for more secondary talent, going with Israel Mukuamu from South Carolina before rounding my list out with Moses. I neglected to add a popular pick in Nick Bolton of Missouri, who notched 107 tackles and broke up 8 passes while serving as the rock of a quietly impressive Missouri defense. Lapoint slots Bolton fourth, and polishes off his rankings with Monty Rice, the Georgia linebacker who recorded 89 tackles and 14 QB pressures in 2019.

Thomas and Lapoint Preview The SEC: Top Offensive, OPOY Predictions

It used to be defenses win championships…but after LSU went through and torched everyone last year with their world-beating offense, can we say that with any degree of confidence? As college football evolves towards the spread offense, leading to higher-scoring games, impact offensive players can make a huge difference. Who are the best offensive teams and players gracing the SEC with their presence in 2020? Let’s take a look at what lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint think on the subject. Check out our Power Rankings and Season Predictions, as well as our Top Defenses preview pieces.

Top Team Offenses

Aidan Thomas

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida

Nathaniel Lapoint

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. LSU

We agree on Alabama being the top offense in 2020. That should be almost a no-brainer. They have possibly the best running back in the country, two elite returning receivers leading a deep depth chart at the position, and a QB battle that will see either a strong returning senior QB or 5-star freshman win the job. Maintaining unity through that QB battle may be the biggest problem this offense faces.
After Alabama, we differ significantly in our predictions. I remain high on the Aggies and what Kellen Mond and Co. will bring to the table. I also think Kyle Trask is the best quarterback in the conference entering the 2020 season. He was extremely impressive when jumping into the role in the middle of last season, and with an offseason to prepare, I think he will lead Florida’s offense to big things in 2020. Meanwhile, Lapoint goes with Georgia and LSU to round out his top-three. They are high-risk, high-reward selections, no doubt about that. Georgia must reload at running back and navigate a QB battle between two transfers and then help one of those transfers adjust quickly to their system. However, there’s no doubting the talent in both Jamie Newman and J.T. Daniels, so if the transition goes well, and Georgia gets production out of the backfield, they could absolutely be a lethal offense in 2020.
Lapoint also puts trust in Myles Brennan and the LSU Tigers. The argument this offseason is whether LSU was a one-hit wonder that benefited from Joe Burrow, or whether Joe Burrow’s legendary season was a cherry-on-top of a revitalized offense. I’m high on LSU and think they’ll be near the top of the SEC, but Lapoint is confident enough in Brennan taking the reins to slot the Tigers into the third spot of his top offenses. Smoking hot take coming in here from Nathaniel Lapoint. 

Top Offensive Players

Offensive Player of the Year

Thomas: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Lapoint: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
Najee Harris, RB, AlabamaMac Jones, QB, Alabama
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSUJa’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Kyle Trask, QB, FloridaNajee Harris, RB, Alabama
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&MBo Nix, QB, Auburn
John Rhys Plumlee, QB, Ole MissKylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State 

Najee Harris and Ja’Marr Chase were consensus top-three SEC offensive players in our rankings here. Harris was my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, while Lapoint stayed with the Tide, but gave the nod to Mac Jones, sliding Harris to #3. My uncertainty regarding the QB battle in Tuscaloosa prevented me from including Jones in my top 5, but there’s no doubting the talent of the signal-caller. Chase is likely the best receiver in the country and maybe a top-10 player in the country. A darkhorse Heisman contender, Chase comes in at #2 in both sets of rankings. Kyle Trask, who I’m very high on entering the 2020 season, slotted in at #3 in my rankings. 

Bo Nix and Kellen Mond both make appearances on the list, with Nix just missing my list, while Plumlee, the intriguing dual-threat QB from Ole Miss, and Kylin Hill, who should challenge Harris as the top running back in the SEC round out our respective lists. 

SEC Previews: Georgia Bulldogs

The three-time defending SEC East champions are back, but the Georgia Bulldogs will have plenty of questions to answer this fall. Jake Fromm was the man under center for three straight division titles and their 2017 SEC Championship, but can Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman and/or USC transfer J.T. Daniels replicate his success. How will Georgia’s traditional run-heavy offense react to the departures of De’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. Is the defense good enough to keep the ‘Dawgs at the top of the division? Let’s take a look.

Top Returners: George Pickens, Richard Lecounte III

Georgia’s offense was decimated by departures for the NFL. Fromm’s somewhat surprising decision to declare early has left questions about how probable starter Newman will transition from the ACC to the SEC. Herrien and Swift are gone out of the backfield, and that leaves returning leading receiver George Pickens as the clear top returner in this Bulldog offense. Pickens will be crucial in Georgia’s offensive scheme; he led the Bulldogs with 727 receiving yards, which led the team by over 250 yards, and found the endzone eight times, a mark that was greater than any non-quarterback.
Defensively, Lecounte seems like a promising pick for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, although he will have some stiff competition in that department. On Georgia’s defense, he’s their clear top returner after doing it all in 2019 with 61 tackles (4.5 for loss), 3 passes defended, 3 fumbles recovered, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. An absolute beast all over the field, Lecounte will be the focal point of the Georgia defense in 2020. 

Biggest Concerns: Run Game

Yes Georgia has a long history of pumping out NFL talent at running back. Between Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and now Swift and Herrien, the tradition is strong in Athens. But that doesn’t change the fact that they will again have to deal with massive losses at the position. Zamir White (408 rushing yards in 2019) appears the favorite to take over the lead back role in Kirby Smart’s offense, and while his 5.2 yards per carry was excellent last season, can he maintain that efficiency with a far greater workload in 2020? And who can complement his efforts in the backfield? There’s definite questions to be answered in this department for Georgia. 

X-Factors: Jamie Newman, Monty Rice

Newman is an obvious selection here. The dual-threat signal-caller comes to Athens from Wake Forest, where he tossed 26 TDs to 11 INT. With division rival Florida closing the gap and returning Kyle Trask under center, Georgia needs Newman’s transition to the SEC to be almost seamless. One tell-tale stat from the Jake Fromm era was that he was winless in his career when needing to attempt more than 30 passes. Can Newman handle that workload, which may be required if the run game doesn’t do much for the Bulldogs? His adjustment period and production for Georgia is a clear X-Factor that may determine the ceiling of this team.
Defensively, I’m looking to Monty Rice to step up in a big way for Georgia. He led the team in tackles last year with 89, but the inside linebacker recorded just three of those for loss and zero sacks. Lecounte can do a lot for the Georgia defense, but if Rice can up his game from productive defender to a game-changing linebacker, that Bulldog defense is going to be a piece of work to face in 2020.  

SEC Record Prediction: 7-1
I like the Bulldogs to make it four straight division titles, as they’ll represent the SEC East once more. Their SEC-opening road trip to Alabama is cause for concern, but their other crossover battle is a home date with Auburn, who I think Georgia will handle. Outside of that, I think Kirby Smart’s squad runs the table in conference play, with their closest call being a ‘neutral’ field clash with Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Top Returning SEC Guards: #5 – Sahvir Wheeler, Georgia

It may have been easy to watch Georgia basketball last season and solely focus on potential #1 NBA Draft selection Anthony Edwards. However, while Edwards was piling up points, his fellow freshman guard Sahvir Wheeler was quietly putting up an impressive and efficient season for the Bulldogs, and now with Edwards out of the spotlight, Wheeler looks prepared to be one of the top guards in the SEC. He kicks off our top returning SEC guards countdown, slotting in at #5. In his debut season, Wheeler, checking in at 5’10 and 180 pounds, averaged 9 points a game and 2.5 rebounds, along with a team-leading 4.5 assists, a mark that tied him for fourth in the SEC. He did it all while shooting at a red-hot 47% clip, and, as Georgia’s top returning scorer, he figures to get the lion’s share of scoring opportunities in this upcoming season. Check him out torching the Tide in this video:

Last year, although he mainly was a facilitator, setting up Edwards for his scoring chances, Wheeler had a few big games himself. He went off for 19-points in his collegiate debut, and he put up his best performance of the year in an overtime thriller against Alabama, pouring in 24 points and dishing out eight assists. In their lone SEC Tournament clash prior to the cancellation of the season, Wheeler notched 15 points and 8 assists en route to leading the Tide to an upset of Ole Miss.

 With Georgia’s go-to-guys headed for the NBA, Wheeler will be the main man in Athens this upcoming season. Look for him to be one of the top guards in the SEC, as Georgia hopes to return to contention for a postseason tournament. 

Top Candidates To Succeed Alabama as College Football’s Great Dynasty

When LSU went 8-0 last season in SEC play en route to a national championship, they broke a string of seven straight seasons in which Alabama claimed a share of the division title. For the Tide, the last 12 years have represented an unprecedented run of dominance in the modern era. We’ve seen teams be really good for long stretches of times, but to cap off success with national title after national title is simply unheard of. For evidence, simply look at Ohio State, one of the nation’s most historic teams. The Buckeyes have been ranked at some point in every season since 1967 – a span in which they’ve won just three championships. Alabama has won five (!) since Saban secured his first title with the Tide in 2009. Is it all due to the genius of Nick Saban? There is no doubt that the former LSU coach will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time at any level.

There are too many stats that laud Alabama’s greatness under Saban, so rather than look at that, we’re going to take a look at which SEC teams are most suited to establish them as the SEC – and national – powerhouse once Saban retires. While Alabama’s dynasty and extended stretch of pure dominance may never be matched, is there a team lying in wait that may have the set-up to do it? Here are three possibilities, ranked in order of likelihood. 

3. Florida

Why They Will – Dan Mullen will become the best coach in the SEC

Again, we’re talking long term here, and at age 48, Dan Mullen is one of the youngest coaches in the conference. I know it’s an unpopular take, but I like Mullen as a coach over the 44-year old Kirby Smart, who has been too shaky in big games for my taste. Ed Orgeron is 59, so if Mullen sticks around, I like him to be the best coach in the conference when Saban retires. Since Alabama’s dynasty started in 2008, the Gators have the best conference record in the SEC East (73-23) and in the clear weaker division of the SEC, they have a chance to establish a run of dominance. 

Why they won’t – Lack of true consistency

Maybe the Gators have the best record in the SEC East over the past 12 years, but they have finished the season outside of the Top 25 in five different years and they’ve had two four-win seasons in the past decade. Coaching turnover is also a major concern – since Urban Meyer left in 2019, the Gators have gone through five coaches. Mullen is 21-5 in two years, and while I’m very high on his potential, the tumultuous reign of a bevy of coaches in Gainesville is a concerning trend that Mullen will need to buck. 

2. LSU

Why They Will – Consistency
.The Tigers are 120-37 since 2008 – the best mark in the conference next to Alabama and they haven’t had a losing season since 1999, appearing in the top ten in all but two seasons in that stretch. Their last three head coaches won national titles, making it feel like LSU will always hire the right man for the job. The Tigers will always have NFL-talent streaming through the bayou, and if they maintain their trademark consistency, they’ll have every chance to establish themselves as the SEC power if Alabama’s dynasty falters. 

Why They Won’t – LSU plateaus too often

LSU’s consistency can also be a mark of their weakness. In their last twelve seasons, the Tigers have only finished in the top-2 in the SEC West on four occasions. Alabama’s dynasty may die down, but LSU has hardly been the consensus second-best team in the division, as even Auburn has more SEC Championship appearances in that stretch. Prior to Joe Burrow’s two seasons with LSU, the Tigers hadn’t finished in the top 10 since 2011. LSU needs to prove they can be the clear-cut second best team in the division if they want to be declared Alabama’s heir apparent.

1. Georgia

Why They Will – Recruiting and the SEC East

Since 2008, there’s been one SEC team that has not finished lower than third in their division, and it’s not Alabama. The Bulldogs have been incredibly consistent, and at 71-23, they have the third-best SEC record in the past twelve years. Under the reign of Kirby Smart, Georgia has made the jump from good to great, and they appear ready for long-term success. At 44 and with experience coaching in the NFL and under Saban, Smart has been successful, even if his decision to keep Jake Fromm over Justin Fields may have cost UGA a title. At age 44, he has a long career ahead of him and coaching stability will be a key for establishing the next Alabama. As for bringing in talent, Georgia has the top-ranked recruiting in the SEC over the three most recently ranked classes (2019-2021). Recruiting is the best indicator of future success, and with one of Saban’s students at the helm and some of the best talent in the country, Georgia strikes me as the most well-suited team to take over for Alabama. 

Why They Won’t – An inability to win the big one

I don’t want to overuse the same reason over and over again, but it’s the most obvious concern for the Bulldogs. They haven’t won the national championship since 1980, and they have struggled in the biggest moments of Kirby Smart. Dan Mullen may be unproven in big moments, but Smart is quickly establishing the wrong kind of track records in those same moments. Now to be fair, Alabama has been a big factor in blocking Georgia from their goals, but I’m also nervous about the departure of Fromm. He may not have been a transcendent talent, but the Dawgs haven’t done anything without him. So to prove me right on this #1 ranking, Kirby Smart will need to be more clutch, and some elite recruiting talent will need to capitalize on their potential for Georgia.

Thomas: Best and Worst Atmospheres in College Football

A deafening homefield advantage can make or break a football team – and whether it’s the pure noise, the great traditions, the capacity, or anything else, there are many factors to determining the best atmospheres in college football. Here’s my take on the best and worst atmospheres in each Power-5 conference (full rankings to come another day). These rankings are largely based off the 2019 season and recent years, as some atmospheres are only raucous when the home team is a powerhouse, lowering those teams in our rankings. Without further ado here’s the rankings.

Pac-12

Worst Atmosphere: UCLA
The best game to take place at UCLA is the Rose Bowl, and UCLA is rarely a participant. The Bruins rarely play in a full stadium, failing to reach even 50% capacity in three different games last season, and they don’t boast any great traditions, or even a particularly good team, to make up for the lack of rowdiness in the crowd. 

Best Atmosphere: Utah
Size doesn’t always matter. Utah packs just 45,807 people into their stadium, but nearly every game is sold out, cheering on one of the state’s only relevant teams. When the Utes go into battle on the gridiron, it’s easily the most intense athletic competition in the state throughout the year. Their dominance of the Holy War rivalry is always entertaining, and their cannon fire after every Utah score is a thrilling punctuation mark to a successful possession for the home team. 

Honorable Mention: Colorado, Oregon, Washington

Big 12

Worst Atmosphere: Kansas
Look, it’s hard to blame the Jayhawks on this one. They are most definitely a basketball school, and they rarely, if ever, put a competitive product on the gridiron. Some fanbases can stay dedicated through the bad years – but it’s been a never-ending era in Kansas. They haven’t put up more than three wins since 2009, and they have only three top-10 finishes in the AP Poll in school history. Hard to go crazy here. 

Best Atmosphere: Baylor

Coming off my freshman year in college, I am a sucker for great traditions involving freshmen, and the Baylor Line is one of those. The chosen freshman partake in a mad dash to set up a human tunnel for the football team to run through, and then lead the student section in distinctive gold jerseys. Baylor also frequently packs their 45,000 seat stadium well over capacity. Considering they’re rarely the class of the Big 12, the consistently rowdy atmosphere in Waco is impressive, compared to bigger teams like Texas or Oklahoma, where the atmosphere tends to strictly correlate to the team’s success. Probably an unpopular pick, but this is my list so… Sic em Bears. 

Honorable Mention: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Oklahoma 

Big 10

Worst Atmosphere: Rutgers
Rutgers is just bad. The team is never competitive, they don’t have a true rivalry game to get hyped up for, and they’re also from New Jersey. I mean, does anything good come out of New Jersey? Shouldn’t be too much explanation needed here. The games aren’t exciting, the crowd isn’t excited, and the scoreboard usually reads something like 42-6 by the end of the game. 

Best Atmosphere: Nebraska
The Big 10 was a brutal decision, but I went with the Cornhuskers and their otherworldly sellout streak. Nebraska has football – and the College World Series – and that’s it. Nothing else relevant happens in Nebraska, and seemingly the entire state turns up for gameday. Nebraska is rarely even relevant in the Big 10, and yet they still pack in some of the rowdiest crowds in the nation. Last year, despite being destroyed by Ohio State after hosting College Gameday, a panorama of the crowd saw virtually every member of the above-capacity game still standing and roaring in a 40-point game in the fourth quarter. Dedication and commitment. Just imagine if the Cornhuskers were good.

Honorable Mention: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State

ACC

Worst Atmosphere: Pittsburgh
I’m generally disappointed by Pitt crowds, because the Panthers produce a quality football team most seasons, and they just don’t get a lot of love from the home crowd. Being the second best team in the state to Penn State definitely hurts, but it would be nice to see Pitt get a little love. They consistently challenge big-name programs and occasionally deliver with a stunning upset, yet rarely get much hometown support. It hurts that they play home games at Heinz Field, meaning they aren’t even on campus, which probably makes it harder to generate excitement. They’re good, but Pitt is still a middle-of-the-road team, and that clearly isn’t enough for Panther nation. 

Best Atmosphere: UNC

Cue all the hate I’ll get for not picking Clemson. Little-known fact: UNC actually filled their stadium more than Clemson did last year. The Tar Heels play in a smaller stadium (50,500) but played every game in front of a capacity crowd. The sheer lack of excitement in many of Clemson’s conference affairs contribute to the Tigers missing out on the top spot. The Tar Heels nearly beat Clemson behind their home crowd last season, and Tar Heel nation consistently turns out for their squad, despite being known as a basketball school, even featuring some underrated traditions – like this fourth quarter hype video which the entire crowd rocks to.

Honorable Mention: Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech

SEC

Worst Atmosphere: Vanderbilt

To be fair, the Commodores probably get some rowdy baseball crowds. But that’s their best sport far and away, and it’s pretty clear that many students, alumni, and fans have better things to do than watch Vandy get smacked by Alabama, LSU, and the rest of the SEC on a weekly basis. 

Best Atmosphere: Georgia
I love Georgia’s stadium, which turns out in a big way for primetime games. Remember when they forced Notre Dame into a dozen false start penalties? Absolutely ridiculous noise levels are reached in Sanford Stadium, and from the call to attention with the trumpet and iconic highlight reel video at the beginning of the game, to the fourth quarter lights tradition, to their well-known bulldog mascot, Georgia produces an electric gameday atmosphere. 

Honorable Mention: Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU

Daily Headlines: Notre Dame and Kentucky Schedule 3-game series in Basketball

Notre Dame and Kentucky set up 3-game series

Two of college basketball’s most historic programs set up a three-game series for the next three seasons, as Kentucky, who has the most all-time wins as a program, and Notre Dame, ranked #9 in that same category, will meet on the hardwood in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Kentucky is, as they usually are, a powerhouse, while Notre Dame is a program back on the rise. The Irish suffer the loss of John Mooney this season, but they have a strong sophomore class and some promising upcoming recruits. Next year’s contest at Kentucky sets the Wildcats up as heavy favorites, but the following two years, at a neutral site and then at Notre Dame, promise to be entertaining clashes. Kentucky leads the overall series 43-19, but the two teams have four contests since 2009. Non-conference battles like this are good for college sports, so it’s great to see this rivalry renewed. After all, who else remembers the last time these two teams met? (Also, if ND could bring back these uniforms along with the rivalry, that would be cool)

Notre Dame will get three chances at avenging this painful memory

Oklahoma sweeps the Big 12 Athlete of the Year Awards

The Big 12 announced some postseason honors on Thursday, and Oklahoma swept the Athlete of the Year awards, with quarterback and Heisman finalist Jalen Hurts taking the male award, and gymnast Maggie Nichols taking it home on the female side. 

Hurts was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this past season, denied a Heisman by Joe Burrow’s all-world season. He put up over 5,000 yards of all-purpose offense and accounted for 53 touchdowns. He led the Sooners to a Big 12 title and the College Football Playoff, and he was drafted by the Eagles in the 2nd round this past April.
Nichols, meanwhile, earned her second Big 12 athlete of the year award, having claimed the hardware two years ago as well. She’s won back-to-back NCAA all-around titles in 2018 and 2019, adding to her trophy case of 11 NCAA trophies she accumulated over her time with Oklahoma. 

JT Daniels Transfers to Georgia

In a decision that made waves across the sporting world yesterday, former USC quarterback JT Daniels elected to transfer to Georgia. The starting job under center in Athens was presumed to belong to Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman, but now he’ll be competing with Daniels for playing time. Newman is the presumed favorite, but Kirby Smart’s quarterback room just got a lot better, and the competition got a lot tighter. 

Brown drops 11 varsity sports, adds two

Brown dropped eleven varsity sports, lowering their total to 29 D1 teams. However, the move is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the administration; rather, they say the decision was made to make the Bears more competitive in the Ivy League. From ESPN: “Varsity sports dropping to club status are men’s and women’s fencing, men’s and women’s golf, women’s skiing, men’s and women’s squash, women’s equestrian and men’s indoor and outdoor track and cross country. Coed sailing and women’s sailing will be elevated from club to varsity status.”