Shibley’s 2017 SEC Preview

Time to break down and rank my favorite conference team by team. A little different format this time as we go from last to first.

SEC East

#7 Missouri – The Tigers turned the corner at the end of the season as Drew Lock can really throw the football. The defense will be improved but still not good enough to get out of the basement of a very competitive (though average) division.

#6 Vanderbilt – Head Coach Derek Mason is keeping the Commodores competitive. As long as RB Ralph Webb keeps running at a high level the Commodores should be bowling again.

#5 South Carolina – In a contradiction to a standard Will Muschamp team, the Gamecocks should be great on offense with the emergence of Jake Bentley at quarterback. Meanwhile, the defense is a bit lacking in depth and speed.

#4 Kentucky – The Wildcats are sticking with Mark Stoops as coach and right now it seems to be paying off. The offense is great with talent at the skill positions. The big questions are again on defense. They need to get much better against the elite offenses in the conference.

#3 Tennessee – I will break down my beloved Vols a bit more in their own column, but for now there are just so many questions no one really knows what to think. Can Dormady or Guarantano sufficiently replace Joshua Dobbs at quarterback? Can the defense stop anybody? Talent alone will keep the Vols competitive, but they will need more to get to the top.

#2 Florida – Despite the fact that it seems like half the team is suspended for the opener against Michigan, the Gators are still going to make noise in the division. Most of the Muschamp recruited defense is in the NFL right now so head coach Jim McElwain will have to finally get the ball going on offense.

Champion: Georgia – Can the Bulldogs break through in year two under Kirby Smart? I think so. Jacob Eason has the potential to be a big star in this conference. Eason has two solid backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to carry some of the load. Plus, 10 starters return to a defense that ranked 16th nationally last season.

SEC West

#7 Ole Miss – When NCAA sanctions keep your team out of a bowl game, and your head coach was fired for making calls to hookers, it really does not matter how talented the team is, you just want to start playing games.

#6 Mississippi State – Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is back after leading the SEC in total offense last season. He might have to carry the load for the Bulldogs again as the defense needs to get better in a hurry.

#5 Arkansas – The Razorbacks will be a carbon copy of last year, the offense will be strong with QB Austin Allen leading the way, but the defense will struggle to help out. Another middling year for Bret Bielema.

#4 Texas A&M – So much of this team’s success rides on how mentally tough they are. The  Aggies always seem to start strong and then fade come November. It is a tough schedule for the Aggies this season. They have the talent to be successful, but how strong will they be between the ear holes if things start to go sideways again.

#3 LSU – Much of the Tigers success this season will depend on two things, the coach and the quarterback. The interim tag is off Ed Orgeron and now he must produce. Quarterback play has been the bain of the Tigers for a while now. It has to get better or else teams will just stack the box again to try and stop RB Derrius Gucie.

#2 Auburn – It all looks good on paper for the Tigers. An exciting QB in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, plus 17 other starters returning from a Sugar Bowl team. Now Auburn has to go out and prove it.

Champion: Alabama – This is almost too easy. Alabama was a second away from winning the National Championship last year with a true freshman quarterback. Now Jalen Hurts has a year under his belt, plus a literal parade of Parade All-Americans behind him in the backfield, plus WR Calvin Ridley is still there to throw to. Head coach Nick Saban just reloads every season and this year is no different.

SEC CHAMPION: Alabama

Georgia may have the potential, but Alabama is proven. Think of this as well, Alabama does have a very tough opener against Florida State, but Nick Saban just crushes every quality team Alabama opens against. After the opener it is not until October 7 when the Tide travel to Texas A&M that they have what I consider an opponent that might be a threat. The Crimson Tide dominate the SEC once again and quite possibly win another National Championship.

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