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

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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.

Heisman Tracker: The SEC Makes Its Entrance

We are back with this week’s Heisman Tracker, and the SEC has jumped into the picture! For those new to our Heisman Tracker, this list is exclusively based on 2020 performances to date. No preseason hype factors in, meaning that Justin Fields won’t appear until at least after October 24, and the ACC has a slight advantage right now do their early start in conference play. Because of this, the SEC’s top players will need another week or two to challenge the top of our list, but that doesn’t mean the conference is unrepresented in this version of the tracker. Let’s get into it:

The Finalists 

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson,
    Lawrence remains atop the rankings after an idle week. Last week’s #2, Spencer Rattler, had a chance to overtake him, but a 3-interception performance and second-half collapse doomed both the Oklahoma Sooners, and potentially Rattler’s Heisman hype. Lawrence has been a very efficient 30-37 for 519 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions on the season. He’s also run for three scores as well, giving him as many all-purpose touchdowns as incompletions. 
  2. De’Eriq King, QB, Miami
    Miami finished last year ranked 90th in the country in points per game, notching barely over 25 a contest. This year, albeit only three games in, the Hurricanes are averaging over 43 points per game, ranking 12th in the country. They looked strong in a road victory against a ranked Louisville squad in their second game, and they followed it up with a 52-10 bludgeoning of Florida State. King has been a huge reason, as the Houston transfer is completing passes at a 66.7% rate, throwing for 733 yards and 6 touchdowns. On the ground, King has added 157 yards and a TD on 5.6 yards per carry. He’s got a clear path to being #1 on this list…beat Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers in two weeks. 
  3. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
    Texas may have underwhelmed in their overtime victory against Texas Tech, but it sure wasn’t because of Ehlinger. The Longhorns’ signal-caller directed his offense to 63 points, including a miraculous 15-point comeback in the final four minutes. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns (plus a score on the ground) to just one interception, while completing passes at a 71% clip. He’s back up into finalist territory, and with Oklahoma’s loss, he and the Longhorns have a clear path towards a Big 12 championship and possible CFP berth. 
  4. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
    This is almost certainly Williams’ last week as a finalist. He’s been the best player on a top-5 team with multiple victories, which allows him to keep his spot. Averaging 8.4 yards per touch, Williams has been very impressive for the Irish, rushing for 174 and adding 103 receiving yards, notching a pair of touchdowns. That also comes with limited minutes in Notre Dame’s second game, a 52-0 blowout of USF that saw most of the first-string pulled a series or two into the second half. 

Heisman Hopefuls

  1. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
    Trask immediately threw his hat into the Heisman ring on Saturday, throwing for six touchdowns and no interceptions in his season debut. A grain of salt has to be given, due to Ole Miss’s pretty abysmal defense, but Trask picked apart the Rebels’ secondary to the tune of 416 yards on 30-42 passing. Another strong performance against South Carolina this weekend could very well vault Trask another couple spots on this list. 
  2. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
    Harris is one of the top RBs in the country, and he immediately made his presence felt, despite only accumulating 17 touches in Alabama’s blowout season-opening win against Missouri. Harris posted 106 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, as the Crimson Tide won by 19, ahead of their home clash with #13 Texas A&M. 
  3. Richard Lecounte III, S, Georgia
    Let’s give out some love to defensive stalwarts on our list. Lecounte was the best player on the field for Georgia in a generally underwhelming season opener against Arkansas. The Bulldogs only put up five points in the first half, two of them coming via a defensive safety. Lecounte meanwhile, helped keep Georgia in the game, snaring a pair of interceptions, defending another pass, and recording another three tackles in a strong all-around performance. 
  4. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
    Etienne was surpassed by Harris, at least in the early going, but he remains on our top 10 list, as Clemson’s second player on the tracker. Clemson was off this past weekend, but Etienne is averaging 7.9 yards per touch, with 228 all-purpose yards and one touchdown through two games. 
  5. Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF
    UCF is averaging 50 points per game, ranking fourth in the nation, and quarterback Dillon Gabriel has been front and center in their offensive onslaught. He’s tossed eight touchdowns in two games to just one pick, throwing for 825 yards on 59 of 88 passing. He’s unlikely to gain any real Heisman hype, particularly with no Power-5 games on the docket for UCF, but Gabriel has been dominant to start his campaign. 
  6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
    Pitts solidified his status as the best tight end in the country with an outrageous 4-touchdown, 170-yard performance against Ole Miss, as he quickly became a favorite target for Trask to hit. Without Pitts’ presence, it may have been a lot tougher to pull away from the Rebels on Saturday. It’s tough for receivers or tight ends to get Heisman hype, as the quarterback usually receives twice the attention, but Pitts’ efforts this past weekend deserve the attention. 

Others Considered

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  • Cam’Ron Harris, RB, Miami
  • Joshua Moore, WR, Texas

Degeorge’s Takeaways: We Don’t Need The Big 10, and the Big 12 is An Entertaining Joke

What Is The Big 12

I love Big 12 football, and the reason is it is the most unpredictable conference in the Power 5, and possibly all of college football. The consensus best team in the conference, Oklahoma, looked to be cruising against a Kansas State team that lost their opener to Arkansas State. And suddenly the Sooners lose to the Wildcats 38-35, for the second year in a row. Highly touted Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler looked impressive most of the game, but he struggled in crunch time and made big mistakes. He was 30 of 41 for 387 yards and four touchdowns, great stats until you add in three interceptions, with one of them to end the game.

The presumed second-best team, Texas, beat Texas Tech in overtime 63-56, but they needed to come back down 15 points with a little over 3 minutes to play to tie it up, and then an overtime victory. The third best team, Oklahoma State, narrowly won for the second week in a row, this time beating a bad West Virginia team 27-13. And then you have Iowa State beat TCU 37-34, even though signal-caller Brock Purdy threw possibly the worst pick-six I have ever seen. This conference does not play defense, and there offenses just compete to outrun the other down the field.

If I have to pick a favorite right now I would say Baylor because they have experience at quarterback with Charlie Brewer, and they are the only team to play anything resembling defense. Am I confident in picking that? Not at all. The Big 12 right now is like March Madness, I have no conviction with any pick.

If you’re looking for a fun football game, I suggest watching the Big 12. That being said, if you’re looking for good teams who live up to expectations… do not watch.

An All SEC Conference Schedule Is A Bruiser

Mike Leach

In every other power five conference, there are two or three games you know are going to be difficult on your schedule, and the rest you do not generally have to worry about, but that is not the case in the SEC. The SEC West has six teams that any team could lose to on any given day. Alabama and Auburn are brutes, LSU is too talented to ever take for granted, and although Texas A&M has not put it all together, they have too many pieces to be taken lightly. Then theres the wonderful emergence of the Mississippi schools. If any state deserves Mike Leach of Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin – the Lane Train – of Ole Miss, it is Mississippi. Mississippi State knocked off the defending national champions, LSU 44-34, and there quarterback, K.J. Costello, threw for 623 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, effectively leading Mike Leach’s air-raid offense. Meanwhile, Ole Miss lost 51-35 to Florida, but they played the Gators competitively and really impressed me. Even Arkansas, who lost 37-10 to Georgia, looked competitive, leading the ‘Dawgs 7-5 at halftime.

Yes, we did already know the SEC West is tough, but is the East? Yes. Florida and Georgia are always powerhouses, Tennessee recruits at a high level, but does not seem to put it together, but they can win games. Florida’s offense was pretty much impossible to stop as Kyle Trask threw for six touchdowns. Georgia was slow out of the gate, but they eventually rolled Arkansas with their third-string quarterback, and the Vols gutted out a tough road win at South Carolina. Kentucky lost to Auburn 29-13, but the Wildcats were a couple plays away from a different game. Missouri got wiped by Alabama, but traditional cellar-dweller Vanderbilt only lost 17-12 to Texas A&M, So at best, there are 3-4 easy games. That is a grueling schedule for teams. We always see an SEC team come out undefeated or with one loss, and you know they are a legitimate team, because they need to go past so many dominant squads. If I am an SEC coach, there are not many game nights I would be able to get any sort of sleep.

BIG 10 and PAC 12, WE DO NOT NEED YOU

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I have been clear about my issues with the BIG 10, and I feel the same way about the PAC 12, but they are just followers of the BIG 10, so I will focus my anger on the BIG 10. Hear this loud and clear: we do not need you -and your shortened schedules – coming back. College football this weekend was extremely exciting. The SEC games were well played and interesting, the ACC games were competitive, the Group of Five games were close, and it was good football to watch, while the aforementioned Big 12 games were extremely hilarious and engaging. So Big 10, what gives you the right to jump in late because other conferences figured it out? And then think you can schedule Ohio State vs Michigan on the same day of Army vs Navy. This is a shame, and it is horrible that this was allowed to happen. Army-Navy is an American tradition. It is the only game played on week 16, and has been that way since 2008. This is the reason I boycott the BIG 10, because they do things like this. The average fan will watch Ohio State-Michigan and not Army-Navy. It is a shame for the game and a shame for the country. I will not be watching and I hope anyone who calls themselves a fan of college football will watch Army-Navy, not Ohio State-Michigan. BIG 10, how about you take The Game to the spring, and let us have the season we wanted, without you.

Best SEC Week 1 Bets

The SEC is back in action this week, and they bring with them arguably the best game of this coming weekend, with #23 Kentucky travelilng to take on #8 Auburn. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best bets you could make on SEC games this weekend. For our purposes, we’re making the odds no better than -200 – I’m not going to waste your time by saying that picking Georgia (-2800) against Arkansas is a safe bet. Whether you’re putting big money on it, or you’re a broke college kid like myself who might make a $5 dollar wager with a friend, here are some of my favorite picks.

Over/Unders

Kentucky-Auburn, Under 49.5

Neither of these offenses excite me, but I think they offer pretty solid defense. 5 of Auburn’s 8 SEC contests in 2019 went under 49.5, and the same can be said for six of Kentucky’s conference clashes. I don’t see either team putting up 30 points in this one, so I like the odds of this game hitting the under.

Spreads and Moneylines

Ole Miss (+14.5) vs. Florida

I’m higher than most on Ole Miss’s chances as an underdog this season. I think John Rhys Plumlee is a very good quarterback, particularly as a runner, and playing at home against a top-10 opponent, I think that he and the Rebels come to play in the opener. I’m intrigued by the payout of the +420 moneyline, but to me, picking Ole Miss to lose by less than two touchdowns is a solid pick for the SEC’s opening weekend.

South Carolina (+145) vs. Tennessee

I like the odds on this one. South Carolina enters as slight underdogs to the Vols, who are 1-3 against the Gamecocks since Will Muschamp took over as coach. South Carolina needs a win here to make a bowl game feasible, with a brutal SEC schedule ahead, and I think Tennessee is wildly overrated at #16. As far as underdog moneylines in Week 1 of SEC play, this one is pretty enticing.

Alabama (-27) vs. Missouri

I would rarely pick a spread so large in a conference opener, but I believe the stability of Mac Jones and Najee Harris leading the Alabama offense will allow the Crimson Tide to put up 40+ points, and I don’t see them allowing more than 10-14 to a lackluster Missouri team with a new quarterback. A four-touchdown victory seems pretty plausible here.

Games to Avoid

  • Georgia (-26) vs. Arkansas
    This is a large spread I like to avoid, and there’s a lot up in the air about the Georgia offense, which lost their top two running backs and will be led under center by J.T. Daniels, who was injured early last season with USC. I might take under 52.5 mark here, due to the stout nature of Georgia’s defense, but it’s not something I’m willing to say too confidently. If Georgia comes out firing on all cylinders, and Daniels proves to be a stud in replacing Jake Fromm, than the Bulldogs could definitely put up 40+ on Arkansas, putting that over/under mark in jeopardy.
  • LSU (-16) vs. Misissippi State
    There’s far too many unknowns here. I think LSU will definitely win, although their -800 moneyline odds are hardly worth looking at. Their offense should be decent with Myles Brennan and a plethora of receivers, but they’ve lost so many weapons, and with the weird and wild time that has been the COVID-plagued offseason, expecting this unit to gel right away may not be realistic. If K.J. Costello can get this offense moving, this spread seems too tight to call for my comfort.
  • Texas A&M (-30.5) vs. Vanderbilt
    Texas A&M is a little unpredictable. They should be a decent team in the SEC West, challenging for a top-two or top-three finish, depending on how the rest of the schedule shakes out. However, betting on Kellen Mond to beat this 30.5 point spread doesn’t feel right, but betting on Vanderbilt to exceed expectations anywhere on the gridiron also feels wrong. There’s no moneyline and the over/under set at 46.5. That may seem like a low mark, but Vanderbilt’s offense looks like a wilted plant, and they simply might not score points, which leaves it up to Mond and Co. to exceed that mark, which I won’t bet on.

My Favorite Parlay

Who doesn’t love a good parlay? My favorite parlays combine a couple of realistic bets with a few gimmes to make the odds reasonable but with only a few games in doubt. Here I do include some big moneylines, as they are being combined with smaller bets. With that being said, here’s a little four-leg parlay play to start off the SEC season, using none of bets I already listed as my favorites. I may throw those in a parlay, but I like to keep my top bets separate of my parlay.

  • Georgia-Arkansas, UNDER 52.5
  • LSU vs. Mississippi State, UNDER 56.0
  • Auburn (-300) vs. Kentucky
  • Florida vs. Ole Miss, OVER 57.0

Payoff: +828 ($10 bet = $82.80 profit)

3 Games That Will Shape Each Power-5 Conference Title Race

Well, the college football season is officially underway, proving many wrong who believed that no games would be played this fall. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty – what happens when games are almost inevitably postponed? SMU and TCU have already called off their September 11th contest due to COVID testing results, and if conference games begin to be afflicted, it could be very difficult to stay on course with a tight window to play the season.

But that’s the pessimistic view. The optimist in me is thrilled we have college football and ready to start taking a look at the conference championship race. In each of the Power-5 conferences, lets take a look at which games will shape the title races.

Big 12

  1. Texas @ Oklahoma State, October 31
  2. Iowa State @ Oklahoma State, October 24
  3. Iowa State @ Texas, November 28

There’s a clear pattern in the three games listed above, as these three squads – Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State – are generally considered the three contenders to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. The Sooners should be in it, even as they break in their third quarterback in three years, so none of their games make the list. The separation from #2-4 in the conference is slim-to-none, so these three games will be absolutely crucial in deciding who gets to challenge the Sooners in the Big 12 championship. In a season with just three Power-5 conferences in play, a 1-loss Big 12 champion is virtually guaranteed a Playoff berth, so if one of these teams can go 2-0 in these games, they give themselves a probable win-and-in situation in the title game.

Just from an early outlook, Oklahoma State is probably the favorite to emerge from this group. Chuba Hubbard is just an absolute monster in the backfield, and the Cowboys return a whopping 19 starters. They host both the Longhorns and the Cyclones, and although home field advantage is diluted this season, it still means something, and if the Cowboys can hold up in back-to-back weeks, with Oklahoma looming just two weeks after the Texas clash, then they could emerge. However, one slip from Oklahoma State, and Texas and Iowa State will be chomping at the bit to take advantage.

A worst-case scenario for the Big 12, is each of these teams knocking each other off and losing to Oklahoma, bringing into play a 2-loss Big 12 champion that may be left out of the CFP, a disastrous look for the conference. \

ACC
1. Notre Dame at UNC, November 27

2. Clemson at Notre Dame, November 7

3. Clemson at Virginia Tech, December 5

Notre Dame is a major factor in these games, as the Irish were a consensus pick to finish 2nd in the conference, but we will see if they can match the hype. They’ve got a November 7th showdown with Clemson that they hope to enter unbeaten. An October 24 road trip to Pitt, who always seem to play Notre Dame tough, may be their toughest obstacle to achieving that goal, and if they get to that point, beating Clemson in South Bend seems like a real possibility. But if they don’t, that will leave the margin for error absolutely razor-thin for Notre Dame, who will be forced to potentially play for a berth in the ACC championship with a late-season road trip to Chapel Hill to take on Sam Howell and the UNC Tar Heels. Can the Fighting Irish pull it off? That game may decide if they have a shot at bringing home their first ever conference championship.

I’m listing the Clemson-ND game as the 2nd game, because it leaves the loser with a series of must-win games. This may seem more perilous for Notre Dame, but Clemson has some tricky games as well. The winner of this game is a virtual lock to be one of the two teams in the ACC Championship. Not to mention, it’s arguably the biggest regular season game of the year.

And finally, I’m listing the season-ending contest between Clemson and Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is not an easy place to play, and the Hokies might look forward to a Senior Day clash with the Tigers. If Clemson has lost a road game to Notre Dame and is caught looking ahead to a rematch with the Irish, Virginia Tech may do more than just step on Clemson’s toes in the season finale. Clemson is definitely the favorite in the ACC, but don’t write their name in the championship game in sharpie just yet.

SEC

  1. Georgia at Florida, November 7
  2. Alabama at LSU, November 14
  3. Georgia at Alabama, October 17

The SEC has the best chance of putting two teams in the College Football Playoff, so making the SEC championship could be a ticket to the postseason. Georgia faces Florida in what is listed as a home game, but it is being played in Jacksonville. The pressure is on Dan Mullen to break through and win the SEC after back-to-back New Year’s 6 bowl victories. Can he make it happen against Kirby Smart and Co? This game, barring any surprises, should decide the SEC East.

Alabama at LSU could very well decide the SEC West. Alabama is hosting the Iron Bowl, which makes this their biggest obstacle to an undefeated season. LSU has been hit hard by opt-outs, but the defending national champs won’t go down without a fight at their home stadium against the Tide. Texas A&M and Auburn are also interesting picks in the division, but ultimately, I believe the West comes down to this battle.

That being said, Alabama has to escape an early-season battle with the Georgia Bulldogs. A loss there puts the Tide on the edge, well before they get to Death Valley. By the same vein, it puts Georgia behind the 8-ball in the SEC East race, so that game will serve as a critical clash en route to deciding who makes it to Atlanta in December.

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.

SEC Previews: LSU Tigers

Make no mistake, the defending champions are going to be very good in 2020. Will they make a historically dominant run to a 15-0 record (or whatever the equivalent is in the abbreviated season)? Probably not. But the Tigers aren’t going away just because Joe Burrow is gone. There are questions to be answered, but I expect LSU to be challenging for the SEC  crown once more. 

Top Returners: Ja’Marr Chase, Derek Stingley

Maybe you thought my introduction was bold for a team that lost a legendary quarterback, one of their top receivers, and their running back, not to mention the passing coordinator that revolutionized their offense. But if you want two reasons for why I’m still high on the Tigers, look at the two names above. Both Chase  and Stingley may be the best players in the country at their position. Chase is coming off an  84-reception, 20-touchdown season in which  he became LSU’s #1 receiver over first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson. Mentioned earlier this year as a darkhorse Heisman candidate (as good a chance as any receiver will ever get), Chase  is most  definitely among the elite  players  in the country, if not  the flat-out best  receiver to grace the gridiron this fall.

Meanwhile, Stingley is a clear contender  to be the SEC  Defensive  Player of  the Year. There’s been talk about the rising sophomore playing both ways in his junior season, although that timeline may be fast tracked if there’s a 2020 season. With quarantine rules in effect, having two-way players may be a game-changing asset on rosters. Stingley notched 38 tackles and 6 interceptions in his true freshman season, breaking up 15 passes and recovering a fumble as well. He was quite possibly the best player on a championship defense that included first-round pick Patrick Queen and second-round pick Grant Delpit. As a freshman. If I’m an LSU fan, I’m really excited about getting two more years of Derek Stingley. 

  

Video courtesy of Brian Mallett of Endicott College. Check out his work and prices @Bmalmedia on Instagram, or visit his Youtube page

Biggest Concerns: Replacing the Big Guns 

This one is clear enough. Joe Burrow is gone. Clyde Edwards-Hillaire is gone. Justin Jefferson is gone. On the defense, Delpit, Queen, Kristian Fulton, and K’Lavon Chaison are all gone. That’s seven players that went in the top two rounds, and it’s no doubt a lot of talent for LSU to replace. They’ve got returners and new guys ready to step up, but that’s quite the gut-punch to recover from. 

X-Factors: Myles Brennan

This season comes down to Brennan. He’s the man in Baton Rouge after backing up Joe Burrow the past two seasons. Can the understudy step up and earn a standing ovation? Brennan is 42-70 for 600 yards over his three years a backup, tossing two touchdowns and three interceptions. Under head coach Ed Orgeron, throwing to Ja’Marr Chase, and operating within LSU’s new spread offense, Brennan will have every opportunity to make good on the potential and talent that enticed LSU to offer the Mississippi product. Whether he does may determine LSU’s ceiling in 2020. \

SEC Record Prediction: 7-1
This record prediction came before the recent schedule adjustments, but ultimately, I believe LSU is on the shortlist of SEC contenders in 2020. My preview of Texas A&M already mentioned this so I’ll go ahead and anger any LSU fans who didn’t see it. I’ve got LSU taking down Alabama at home, but a bid at a second consecutive undefeated season falls short at Kyle Allen Field in their clash with the Aggies. After a 7-overtime loss to Texas A&M in their last road game clash with the Aggies, LSU dominated the match-up at Death Valley last year. Can the Aggies run it back on their home field? I’m giving it a tentative yes. LSU still finishes 7-1, still very much in contention for the CFP and New Year’s 6.

SEC Previews: Auburn Tigers

Year in and year out, the Auburn Tigers are one of the hardest teams to figure out. They always seem capable of springing big upsets, but they never enter those big games as favorites. They’ve got the dynamic Bo Nix returning under center, but questions elsewhere. What does #WarEagle have to bring to the table under Gus Malzahn in 2020? 

Top Returners: Bo Nix, KJ Britt

Nix is the obvious selection on the offensive side of the ball after a promising true freshman campaign in which he threw for 2542 yards, and 16 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. He added in 313 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. WIll it be a sophomore slump or a dominant second year for Nix? 

Meanwhile, Britt is a top returning linebacker for the Tigers, as he notched 68 tackles – ten for a loss of yardage. He recorded 3.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. With 7th overall pick Derrick Brown off to the Carolina Panthers, Britt will be the source of disruption on the defensive line for Auburn, and his success in doing just that will be critical to their success. 

Biggest Concerns: The secondary

Auburn lost Jeremiah Dinson and Javaris Davis, two of their top defensive backs in 2020, leaving them with problems in the secondary. Christian Tutt returns but was somewhat inconsistent and needs to step up to keep the Tigers afloat on the defensive side of the ball. 

X-Factors: Roger McCreary

McCreary played out of a reserve role in 2019, but he put up some impressive numbers, racking up 36 tackles, an interception, and 9 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. Can he improve these numbers in an expanded role in 2020? Auburn is at their best when their defense is the heart and soul of their team, and if McCreary steps up this coming season, he could lead Auburn in that direction. 

SEC Record Prediction: 3-5

September 19 will pretty much make or break a huge moment in my overall SEC predictions. Auburn plays at Ole Miss, a team that I’m very high on. This record prediction for Auburn hinges on the fact that Auburn and Bo Nix is not as good as many expect them to be, and the Ole Miss Rebels are trending upwards. I have Auburn losing a few close ones and ending on a skid to LSU and Alabama. With LSU the defending champs, and Alabama chomping at the bit to regain their conference supremacy, plus Texas A&M and Ole Miss on the rise, I don’t like this uphill climb for the Tigers in 2020.  

SEC Previews: Florida Gators

Entering the 2020 football season, there’s a consensus top two in the SEC East between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs. Whether either of those two teams has the firepower to take down the champion out of the SEC West remains to be seen, but do the Gators have a chance at wrestling the division crown away from the Bulldogs? Let’s see what they have to offer this fall. 

Top Returners: Kyle Trask, Shawn Davis
Trask will definitely be the key to Florida’s success in 2020. After an impressive first year under center for the Gators, his experience will be crucial, especially considering Georgia having landed two former starters in the transfer portal during the offseason. After tossing for nearly 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, Trask should be one of the best quarterbacks, both in the SEC and in the country.
Defensively, Shawn Davis is just one of many lethal assets that could be pulled out of Florida’s secondary and listed as a key returner. Davis had three interceptions, which he returned at an average of 37 yards per pick, while coming up with 3 passes defended and 51 tackles on the year. Florida likes to make their DBU claim, and this year, they do seem to boast one of the best secondaries in the nation with Davis leading the way. 

Biggest Concerns: Replacing Lamical Perine
Leading rusher Lamical Perine is off to the NFL, and he led Florida’s ground game with 676 rushing yards. After that, it’s a fairly significant drop off to their top returning back Dameon Pierce, who finished with 305 yards on the ground. Pierce will be counted on to be the workhorse in the Florida backfield, but replacing Perine will be a bigger task than that. Perine also caught 40 passes for 262 yards and 5 touchdowns, so he was a true dual-threat back that will be a very difficult player to replace. Pierce will need to step up and handle a workload he hasn’t had to bear before, and Florida will hope between him and a few other returners, they can at least mitigate the loss of Perine. 

X-Factors: Dameon Pierce, Jeremiah Moon
Offensively, Pierce is the clear-cut choice for Florida’s X-Factor. Although the Gators also lost leading receiver Van Jefferson, last year’s receiving corps was one of the most talented in recent program history, so they’ll have the ability to replace that production. Pierce will most definitely be the make-or-break point for the Florida offense as returning experience at quarterback will only do so much if you can’t run the ball.
Defensively, I’m going with Jeremiah Moon to be the X-Factor for the Gators. He’ll be coming off a season-ending injury, but when he was active he but up very solid numbers for Florida, including 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also chipped in with 31 tackles and 2 passes defended, and if he can stay healthy and be a versatile asset to the Gator’s defense, that will be a huge win for Dan Mullen’s squad. 

SEC Record Prediction:  5-3
This isn’t nearly as good as many people expect for Florida, but I’m not sold on the Gators just yet. That running game is very worrying to me, and their inability to beat Georgia recently has been frustrating. I’m seeing losses to Georgia and LSU, with a road upset suffered at the hands of Lane Kiffin, John Rhys Plumlee, and the young and promising Ole Miss offense. It’ll be a tricky trap game sandwiched between those LSU and Georgia match-ups, and I think Trask and Co. overlooks the Rebels and ultimately ends their hopes at a SEC Championship berth. 

Implications on Big 12 and ACC After SEC Announces Conference-Only Schedule

Another seismic wave washed over college football yesterday, as the SEC announced they would go to a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Implications? Yeah, just a few. In what’s become a common theme to our articles over these past few days, let’s break down everything we know. 

SEC’s New Schedule

The SEC – much like the ACC – will be shifting to a ten-game schedule, adding two games to each team’s conference slate. However, unlike the ACC, the SEC will not be including non-conference games. The Alabama-USC was finally officially cancelled yesterday, and other marquee out-of-conference games like LSU-Texas and Auburn-UNC went down the drain as well. The new schedule will commence September 26th. New games have been leaked, but no formal schedule has been announced. 

Florida may have gotten the toughest draw, adding in a clash with Alabama and a road trip to Texas A&M. Meanwhile, arch SEC East rival Georgia added games against Mississippi State and Arkansas, so safe to say that Georgia just became the clear favorites for their fourth straight division title. 

Implications on the ACC

The implications for the ACC are that the “+1” of their “10 games +1” scheduling model just became a lot more unclear. It seemed that the initial idea behind the ACC’s announcement was to keep their rivalry weekend clashes with the SEC alive. But via the SEC’s announcement, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Louisville, and Florida-Florida State will no longer happen, leaving the ACC starting from scratch with this announcement. The ACC will either scramble for independent and Group of 5 programs to fill out the schedule, or roll-back their initial announcement and go to conference only to match the SEC, Pac-12, and Big 10. 

Implications on the Big 12

The Big 12 were massive losers from yesterday’s changes, as the Big 12 now is the only Power-5 conference remaining that hasn’t updated their schedule. An optimistic Big 12 fan may suggest they could go with a full conference round robin (9 games) and then match-up with the ACC for non-conference battles. That seems pretty unlikely, as it would require scheduling games that were never on the docket, and, outside of West Virginia, there’s no geographical convenience to these games. The Big 12 has said they will update their status on August 3rd, but with only 10 teams in their conference, it will be difficult for them to match the 10-game schedule put together by every other conference. This could leave the Big 12, already dealing with a bad reputation in the College Football Playoff, on the outside looking in, if no expanded playoff format is adopted for 2020. There’s no clean format for the Big 12 to try out that doesn’t involve a repeat conference opponent. Expect a 9-game conference season, with a delayed announcement about conference games, as the Big 12 will likely try to keep some of their Group of 5 and Independent opponents on the schedule, in order to play at least 10 games.