The SEC is possibly the premier football conference in all of America. Alabama has ruled the show for years and they are a living dynasty with Nick Saban as their coach. Georgia and Kirby Smart are testing Alabama’s limits, Auburn is ready to go, and teams like Mississippi State and Florida are on the rise. There is nothing like a Saturday in SEC country and the excitement that this conference brings is truly remarkable. I can still hear the SEC on CBS theme playing in my head during the offseason. Now, let’s take a look at each team from the bottom to the top.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores
Kyle Shurmur is returning at quarterback but losing Ralph Webb at running back will hurt. There is a solid chance that 2018 may be yet another tough year for Derek Mason and the Commodores. There isn’t much else to say other than this team is an SEC misfit. They really can’t compete and their defense is only returning four starters. Things could get really ugly really fast once again in Nashville.
13. Arkansas Razorbacks
The Bret Bielema disaster is over and now Chad Morris will have his plate full in just his first season in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks now need to recruit a caliber of player that can thrive in Chad Morris’s high octane and fast system. Bielema’s players make up the entirety of the Razorback roster and they are used to a slower and hard-nosed style of play. The adjustment to the new speed of Morris’s philosophy will take time and the Razorbacks will most likely struggle in 2018.
12. Tennessee Volunteers
After long and tiring search, former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt accepted the head coaching position at Tennessee. Now, let the massive rebuilding process begin. The Butch Jones era was toxic and fans were fed up. The Volunteers added Stanford grad transfer quarterback Keller Chryst but that is just a temporary fix to a long-term problem. Both sides of the ball need to be addressed immediately and just reaching a bowl game would be huge for this ailing program in year one under Pruitt.
11. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss lost quarterback Shea Patterson to Michigan and they’re ineligible for a bowl game. The defense is going to be the biggest problem and they will give up a whole lot of points in 2018. This team literally has nothing to lose. Jordan Ta’amu is returning and the receivers on this team are extremely talented. AJ. Brown is a potential first round pick and then players like D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge will provide even bigger sparks.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
Mark Stoops has been building up this Kentucky program for years and they have been hanging strong for the past few years. Benny Snell Jr is expected to be the workhorse in 2018 for the Wildcats and could be towing the ball well over 25 times per game. The quarterback situation is still a question mark and the receivers are extremely inconsistent. Eight starters have returned on defense and if the defense can win some games, Kentucky could make some noise in the SEC East.
9. Missouri Tigers
Drew Lock is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he will put his talents on full display in 2018. The offense will allow him to buy time and he may even reach with 4,000-yard plateau should everything go according to plan. Derek Dooley seems to be a bit of an odd fit at offensive coordinator. He was the head coach at Tennessee from 2010-2012 and it wasn’t pretty. Dooley came back to the college game by way of the Dallas Cowboys and this team could be a bit of a question mark.
8. LSU Tigers
Adding Ohio State grad transfer quarterback Joe Burrow was a huge offseason get for this team. The talent is present on this roster but some question how head coach Ed Orgeron will use it. Losing Arden Key on defense hurts and the downfield threat of DJ Chark is gone as well. Greedy Williams and Devin White are legit NFL prospects that are returning on defense but the expectations for this team may be a bit too high for 2018.
7. Texas A&M Aggies
$75 Million later, Jimbo Fisher fled Florida State for a new home in College Station. The expectations are sky high in 2018 but Aggie fans should take a step back and realize that they may need a year to adjust to Jimbo Fisher’s style of coaching. Trayveon Williams has returned at running back but the quarterback controversy lingers on. Christian Kirk is now in the NFL and they need a rebuild on both sides of the ball. The Aggies will be competitive but 2018 will definitely be a break-in year for Fisher and his players.
6. Florida Gators
Dan Mullen abandoned Mississippi State for Florida and he is inheriting an extremely talented group. Mullen turned around a once-struggling Mississippi State program and now Florida fans are hoping he will bring them to the top again. The addition of Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson adds a much-needed boost to the offense but the quarterback position is still a question. Whether it be Feleipe Franks or Emory Jones taking the snaps, this position will ultimately determine Mullen’s fate in year one.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks
Will Muschamp’s time in Columbia has been extremely short but he has really turned around this Gamecock program. South Carolina is a serious sleeper in the SEC entering 2018 and the offense has now become one of the team’s greatest strengths. The development and arm-strength of quarterback Jake Bentley have been crucial for this program and wide receiver Deebo Samuel has become a big-play threat. This team will make life difficult for teams like Florida and Georgia in the SEC East.
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs
MOOR COWBELL! Joe Moorhead has taken over to lead this Bulldog program and they are in good hands after Dan Mullen’s departure. Nick Fitzgerald is easily one of the most dynamic and prolific quarterbacks in college football and he is expected to come back even better in 2018 after a horrible ankle injury against Ole Miss in the 2017 season finale. Aeris Williams returns at running back and the defense will be led by Jeffery Simmons, Mark McLaurin, Gerri Green and Montez Sweat. This team will beat Alabama. Maybe not this year but very soon.
3. Auburn Tigers
Jarrett Stidham has serious NFL potential and could end up becoming the best quarterback in the SEC in 2018. Auburn has an extremely interesting schedule by playing playoff-hopeful Washington in the season opener, Georgia on the road, and then Alabama on the road. It’s very possible that the Tigers could lose those three games and still be better than their 2017 team.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
The reigning SEC champions enter 2018 with sky-high expectations. This is Jake Fromm’s team after leading the Dawgs to the National Title game as a true freshman. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are gone but D’Andre Swift is just as explosive. The real question is how the defense will regroup after losing Lorenzo Carter, and Butkus Award Winning linebacker Roquan Smith. Regardless, the Dawgs are the SEC East favorites.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama’s schedule is pretty favorable in 2018. Saban’s minions are expected to win the SEC West in convincing fashion after losing to Auburn for the division title in 2017. Linebacker Terrell Lewis tore his ACL in spring practice and VanDarius Cowan was dismissed for violation of team rules. Two linebackers are gone and there’s a quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts led the Tide to the title game but Tagovailoa led the comeback to win the title game. Debate time has begun in Tuscaloosa.