Thomas and Lapoint Preview the SEC: Power Rankings, Predictions, Coach of the Year

Even with the delayed start to the season, college football is – hopefully – creeping closer. To start our preview of the 2020 season, we’re taking a look at the SEC. Lead writer Aidan Thomas and SEC analyst Nathaniel Lapoint previewed the conference. You can find our power rankings and predictions below. Check out our Top Offensive Players and Teams and Top Defensive Players and Teams in the SEC as well. 

Power Rankings

Aidan ThomasNathaniel Lapoint
AlabamaAlabama
LSUGeorgia
Texas A&MAuburn
GeorgiaLSU
FloridaKentucky
AuburnFlorida
Ole MissTexas A&M
South CarolinaMississippi State
TennesseeOle Miss
Mississippi StateTennessee
ArkansasSouth Carolina
KentuckyArkansas
MissouriMissouri
VanderbiltVanderbilt

Where We Agree

Alabama is the team to beat. Ranked at the top of both sets of our power rankings, we believe the Crimson Tide will be out for blood in 2020. We also slotted Missouri and Vanderbilt, in that order, in the bottom of our rankings, with neither of us seeing much potential for the Tigers or Commodores this coming season. 

Where We Disagree

While we have a lot of agreement regarding the middle portion of the SEC power rankings, two major teams cause some differences – Kentucky and Texas A&M. In my season preview of the Wildcats, I was pretty low on Kentucky, and I may be underestimating the effect of Terry Wilson’s return and how much their defense can compensate for a lackluster offense. I remain low on Kentucky here, slotting the Wildcats 12th overall and 5th in the SEC East. On the flip side, Lapoint has Kentucky in his top 5, ranked as the 2nd best team in the SEC East over Florida, who’s considered a Playoff darkhorse entering 2020. This glaring 7-spot difference in our placement of Kentucky was easily the biggest difference in our rankings. 

Meanwhile, the placement of the Aggies was also a cause for disagreement. I remain high on the Aggies, putting Texas A&M third in my SEC power rankings, while Lapoint has the Aggies sliding to 7th. I don’t think A&M pulls out a conference championship, but I believe that Mond does some big things in his senior year, and Texas A&M wins a couple of big games for once. Lapoint is fully off the Aggies’ hype wagon, however, squaring them away directly in the middle of his power rankings. Who has the more accurate power rankings may come down to the performance of these two teams. 

SEC Championship Predictions

Thomas: Alabama over Georgia

Lapoint: Alabama over Georgia

We are in complete agreement on our championship pick. Alabama has not gone back-to-back years without a division title since 2010-2011…and they won the national championship in 2011 anyways. With Mac Jones – or possibly 5-star recruit Bryce Young – under center, as well as Najee Harris in the backfield and Jaylen Waddle and Devontae Smith leading the receiver corps, it seems like a no-brainer to pick the Crimson Tide in the West. In the East, Georgia will remain the favorite. We disagree on the 2nd best team (Florida vs. Kentucky), and that alone shows that there may not be a clear favorite to disrupt Kirby Smart’s run atop the division. Two games are yet to be announced to the SEC schedule, which could factor into this decision, but as of now, give us Georgia in the title game, where they lose to Bama once more. 

Coach of the Year Predictions

Thomas: Nick Saban, Alabama
Lapoint: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Stoops is most definitely a popular pick for Coach of the Year, and Lapoint rides his Kentucky train into the award predictions. If Stoops does indeed have this Kentucky team contending for the SEC East title, then he should be a no-brainer for the award. Stoops also won the award in 2018.

I went with a pick that may be mainstream and boring in Nick Saban. Saban has not won the Coach of the Year award since 2016, but I believe if he guides Alabama to the title this year, he should be heavily considered. Winning the gauntlet that is the SEC West is always impressive, and doing so with a 10-game schedule will be even more impressive. Saban is also faced with a QB battle to navigate, as well as a defense that lost their top three leaders in interceptions and their top two pass rushers. If he can reload that defense on the fly against a division of lethal offenses, then Saban should absolutely earn this award.

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: Texas a&M Aggies

Just 7 times in the past 20 years, the Aggies have been ranked at the preseason top 25, and although they’ve finished in the ranking just one of those seven times. Three times they finished within the top 25 after being unranked in the preseason. It’s been an odd tale of a team that’s always good not great. They’ve finished with 7-9 wins in every season since 2012, but can they elevate their game in 2020. 

Top Returners: Kellen Mond, Myles Jones

It feels like Mond has been around for a while, but somehow, he’s only now entering his fourth and final season with the Aggies. He took a big step in his sophomore season, but his numbers slipped a little bit during a junior year that featured a brutal schedule. However, this year, I think Mond takes another step in a division with very few experienced quarterbacks. I would expect 3500 yards and between 25 and 30 touchdowns. Cutting down on the picks (18 over the past two years) would be a huge improvement for him. 

Myles Jones will be the leader of the secondary for A&M, after breaking up six passes, intercepting two, and forcing a fumble in 2020. He’s their top defensive asset, and some big performances from him could give their lethal offense more opportunity to go to work. 

Biggest Concerns: The Pass Rush

Justin Madubuike is gone, and with him goes the Aggies’ leader in sacks. Tyree Johnson returns with four sacks, and nobody else had more than two. Can Johnson elevate his game, and can the Aggies get someone else to step and up and be a force on the defensive line. 

X-Factors: Demarvin Leal

I’m not listing Johnson here because I believe he’s one of the top returners and is definitely capable of putting up big numbers. Rather, I’m going with Leal, who I believe will be Texas A&M’s best shot at gaining a second impact pass rusher. He recorded 38 tackles – 5.5 for loss- with two sacks a year ago. With Madubuike out of the picture, can Leal step up and be the extra star performer the Aggies’ defense is looking for?

SEC Record Prediction: 7-1

You’re not going to convince me this offense can’t swing with the best of them in the country and in the SEC. With Mond returning, their top two rushers, and two of their top three receivers, there’s little turnover for A&M, so if their senior signal-caller improves his numbers, I like the Aggies to roll against their competition. Give me a loss to Alabama on the road, but a regular-season ending statement victory at home against LSU. I’ve never bought into Aggies’ hype, but I’m doing so this year. Let’s see if 2020 brings big things for Jimbo Fisher’s squad. 

MLB Draft: College Teams And Players Who Won and Lost the Draft

Much is made of which MLB teams had good and bad drafts, with each team’s selections graded and separated into distinct winners and losers. But what about collegiate teams? College baseball is more affected by the draft than most other sports, as high school prospects battle a decision between signing with the team that drafted them, or honoring their commitment to play at the NCAA level. So which teams and players were most impacted by the results of the shortened, two-day, five-round MLB Draft? 

Winner: Texas
There’s one reason for Texas making the winner’s category, and that reason is Jared Kelley. Kelley became the first ever draft pick out of Refugio High School in Texas, but despite being ranked as the 12th best prospect by MLB.com, Kelley’s name went uncalled during Wednesday’s first round. Fears of the power-throwing righty being a tough sign caused Kelley to slip all the way to the Chicago White Sox at pick #47. Why is that good news for Texas? Because if Kelley was considered a tough sign near the top of the first round, it’s going to be way tougher for the White Sox to lure the Texas product from his in-state commitment. The slot value for pick #12 is 4.4 million, the 47th overall pick comes with an expected 1.6 million dollar signing bonus. Getting Kelley to leave his home state for barely a third of the money is going to be a tough one to sell for the White Sox, leaving Texas ready to enjoy the luxuries of a stud who looks like he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the country. 

Losers: Mississippi State, Arizona

On the flip side of Texas’s situation is Mississippi State and Arizona, who both couldn’t have been too happy with the Boston Red Sox. For Arizona, they watched one of their premium prospects in Nick Yorke get drafted 112 spots above his ranking, going from a projected fifth-round pick to 17th overall. While the Red Sox did make the pick to save some money on the slot value of the 17th pick, they will likely make an offer far more competitive and enticing to Yorke, who was described by Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin as “the best high school hitter in the nation”. Arizona may not have anticipated it being a battle to keep Yorke in the program for the next three years, but Boston just made it a lot harder. Meanwhile. Mississippi State was likely ecstatic when viral slugger Blaze Jordan slipped all the way to the third round. The further he slipped, the more it looked like they would be benefiting from the services of one of the nation’s best power hitters, until Boston swooped in and grabbed the Missouri product at 89th overall. Boston did not have a second round pick, and they will either not sign Yorke or sign him for below slot value, leaving them with plenty of money to throw at Jordan, making his decision a lot tougher. With some of their top prospects’ future on their teams in doubt, Mississippi State and Arizona are in the losers category for this draft. 

Winner: Austin Martin
Slipping from a potential first overall pick to fifth may not be a ideal situation normally, I think this a massive win for Austin Martin. Martin got drafted to the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning he avoids the hapless organizations of the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, and the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays are the only team out of that group of five that has recently shown some upside, and they have a recent track record of developing elite prospects like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s a great situation for the best all-around player in the 2020 MLB Draft.

 Loser: Texas A&M
The Aggies knew they were losing Asa Lacy, their ace left-hander was picked fourth overall. However, they then saw outfielder Zach DeLoach go 36 spots earlier than his ranking suggested, and pitcher Christian Roe jump 41 slots. Both juniors, it looks unlikely they’ll return to the crowded collegiate rosters, with their expected signing bonuses jumping up by nearly a million dollars, leaving Texas A&M floundering a little more than expected in a highly competitive SEC next season. Long-term, however, the Aggies may look like a winner if they can turn this draft night surprise into success on the recruiting front.

Daily Headlines: Texas A&M and Texas to resume basketball rivalry

It’s slim pickings for daily headlines today, as there’s been a lull in the recruiting action on the gridiron, and if there’s anything to talk about in the sports world, it’s the current efforts of the NBA and NHL resuming their season this summer. 

Daily Headlines

Aggies and Longhorns revive series on the hardwood

There’s been a lot of discussion about Texas and Texas A&M resuming their fierce rivalry on the gridiron, but while we have to wait for further news on that, the two schools did announce they would be meeting again on the basketball court, as their women’s basketball teams were announced as opponents in the Big 12/SEC challenge. It may not be the clash of titans hoped for by football fans, but their contests have provided some excellent competition in the past, although they have’t met on the court since 2014. The Longhorns have had more success in the series, winning four straight and owning a 62-23 record against the Aggies, but their in-state rivals have had more success on the national level recently. They won the national title in 2011, whereas Texas has not been to the Final Four since 2003, reaching only one Elite Eight in that time frame (2016). This match-up, regardless of the sport, is a classic rivalry, and we can only hope this game serves as the springboard for more contests between the two teams, both in women’s basketball and across other sports. 

Other Headlines

  • NCAA offers detailed plan for athletes’ return to campus by June 8
  • Power-5 Leagues continue to push for athlete compensation law, but they have not had a breakthrough.
  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is optimistic for a full college football season and an on-time start
  • Minnesota to not use Minnesota Police for major sporting events after George Floyd tragedy
  • Luka Garza yet to make decision on NBA Draft, five days before his deadline to decide

SEC West QB Rankings

They may have lost two quarterbacks in the top five picks of the draft, but the SEC West will be the nation’s best passing conference this upcoming season. Due to Tua Taugovailoa’s injury, six of seven teams have their starting QB making a return to the field – only LSU Myles Brennan has yet to take a snap under center as a teams starting QB. Mac Jones should thrive in the Alabama system, and Bo Nix showcased his potential last year. Is this finally Kellen Mond’s breakout season, and who does LSU really have in Brennan as their signal-caller? Unlike years past, there may not be a clear star to watch, and this will be the year of the entire SEC West.
 

  1. Bo Nix- Auburn 

The best QB Auburn has seen since Cam Newton has the Tigers excited for this upcoming season. Bo Nix had a promising freshman year leading Auburn to a 9-4 record with an Outback Bowl loss to Minnesota. Although Nix didn’t blow up the stat sheet he proved he can show up in big games, like the Iron Bowl against Alabama, and do whatever it takes to win. Bo Nix reminds me a lot of Justin Herbert – his numbers may not dazzle, but with he’s a physical prototype at quarterback, and he’s a winner. Look for Nix to lead the Tigers to Atlanta next December.

  1. Mac Jones- Alabama 

Mac Jones had it rough in Tuscaloosa last season, as he was pretty much the ‘guy that wasn’t Tua’. Alabama fans now cannot complain about Mac Jones since their savior has up and gone to the NFL, and they will come to realize that it is a good thing. A perfectly run Nick Saban offense has defenses preparing for the ground game and still runs it down everyone’s throat. With Tua under center, the Tide got away from their ground and pound style on offense and they paid the price for it, missing the Playoff for the first time in program history last season. Putting Jones under center allows the Tide to return to their gritty style of offense and return to glory.

  1. Kellan Mond- Texas A&M 

How is Kellan Mond still in college and at what point do we all stop expecting him to be great? Kellan Mond is a good QB. He isn’t great and will never bring A&M to the playoff, but you can consistently count on A&M ending the season 9-4 ,winning every game they are favored in and losing every game they are an underdog in. Kellan Mond will have a good season and the Aggies should sit top 4 in the West and ranked in the Top 25 when the season is over.

  1. KJ Costello- Mississippi 

The Pac12 is coming to the SEC… kind of. This past offseason was big for Mississippi State, bringing in Head Coach Mike Leach from Washinton State and poaching Stanford’s starting quarterback in KJ Costello. Although Costello struggled his junior year, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns his sophomore year. I expect big things from Costello in Mike Leache’s air raid offense so look for another 3,000-yard season, around 35 passing TD, and a 7-5 record this upcoming season in Starkville. 

  1. John Rhys Plumlee- Ole Miss

Lane Kiffen is back in the SEC, and his starting QB is expected to be John Rhys Plumlee. Last season as a true freshman Plumlee split time under center with Matt Coral but made the most of his time when on the field. Plumlee threw for 900 yards and 4 TD’s while running for 1,000 yards and 12 TDs. With Plumlee being the guy this season in Oxford, I expect a 2,000 yard passing and rushing season from Plumlee, along with 30 all-purpose touchdowns. The man is athletic and one of the fastest QB’s in the SEC – I expect some offensive fireworks this season in Oxford. Expect a 6-6 season from the Rebels for Kiffen and Plumlee’s first season together.

  1. Feleipe Franks- Arkansas 

Feleipe Franks just screams .500. The quarterback is mediocre in everything he does. His career completion percentage is just around .500 his team was always slightly over with a career winning percentage of .642 which, for Florida,won’t cut it in the SEC East. Franks getting hurt may end up being the best thing to happen to Florida football since Tim Tebow. I expect Franks to go .500 at Arkansas and to struggle mightily in his new environment of the SEC West. 

  1. Myles Brennan- LSU

Myles Brennan is the one QB in the SEC who has yet to start a game. Freshman year Brennan backed up for Danny Etling, and sophomore and junior year, he backed up for the great Joe Burrow. After patiently waiting his turn Brennan is set to be the guy in Death Valley this fall with huge shoes to fill. I wouldn’t expect him to have a Joe Burrow-type season, but I expect him to be decent. People may read these rankings and believe I’m saying he sucks, but Brennan is 7th purely from the fact that he is in the best passing conference in the country, and he is the only one who hasn’t proven himself. I anticipate a solid if not spectacular 8-4 season for Brennan and the Tigers.