Which SEC Teams Will Surprise In 2017

SEC EAST: 

Florida Gators over 8 or under 8 wins is the real question here. Jim McElwain hired Randy Shannon to take over the defense after Geoff Collins left for Temple. Eight starters are gone including Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson from the secondary. This could be one of those rare years in Gainesville where the offense has to carry the team. Since the strong suit of the Florida defense could be in question as to how good will their secondary be. Antonio Callaway is back and will lead the group of wide receivers. He could possibly miss a game due to suspension, but nothing has been determined yet. The opener is against Michigan in Arlington, Texas. After that, Florida has five of its next six at home. I think seven to eight wins is a really good number for the Gators. If you think the Gators lose to the Wolverines in week one which could very well set the tempo for the rest of the season.

Georgia, I have the Bulldogs winning 9 games. It’s clearly Jacob Eason’s team and he’s got Sony Michel and Nick Chubb back at running back to help relieve a lot of the pressure. The biggest question mark for the Georgia offense is the offensive line and wide receivers.  With 11 starters coming back on the defensive side of the ball. The defense could be the side of the ball that carries the team. Up front, Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter chose not to go pro could make the front 7 a top front 7 in the SEC. The group was 16th in FBS in 2016 and could hover around there this season as well. With games at Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are intriguing matchups. The Bulldogs should be able to win both of these games.

Kentucky, Winning seven games is very likely for this team. After last season finishing up 7-6 and returning eight starters on both sides of the ball. Leadership shouldn’t be a big question for the team. With the majority of their offensive line back as well as running back Benny Snell Jr. And wide receivers Dorian Baker and Garrett Johnson. On defense, the secondary should be solid with Derrick Baity, Chris Westry and Mike Edwards returning. Things are looking up for Kentucky. The schedule features four of their first six at home with the two road contests being winnable games against Southern Miss and South Carolina. There really isn’t that tough of a stretch the whole year unless you consider back-to-back trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia.

Missouri, Six games is believable here. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel did good things with QB Drew Lock, who has top target J’Mon Moore (23 receptions over last three games) to throw to. The offensive line is pretty much intact for the most part and Damarea Crockett is in the backfield so the offense could match some of its stats from last season. The problems come on defensive side of the ball. Where only three starters return. The linebacker group has potential yes but is unproven. The first four games and seven of eight are at home. The wins will come early I can see, but a hard finishing stretch against Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas will be tough and hard to see Missouri winning more than 6 games.

Tennessee, Tennessee is a little difficult to decide on how many games they will win and lose. Last season they won games late and in fashion that will be very hard to copy. Head Coach Butch Jones has 11 starters back, six of those on defense. The Volunteers allowed more than 200 yards per game on the ground which hurt them in several matchups. Spring was not to kind on the defensive line as several potential starters did not participate. (Vols took a big hit when Derek Barnett left for the draft who was arguably a top 5 defensive lineman in the country) Todd Kelly Jr. and Nigel Warrior form a solid safety group. Quinten Dormady appears to be the favorite to win the quarterback job over Jarrett Guarantano. There are some questions at the skill positions, but the offensive line should be strong. Tennessee as tough games against Florida and Alabama away from home. With LSU coming to Knoxville, But LSU will not be a easy win at all.

Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt will have a difficult schedule but 6 wins and a bowl game is possible. Derek Mason was finally able to produce a worthy season to watch in 2016 with six wins and a bowl appearance. Building off that is a possibility with a veteran group returning. Ralph Webb is a great running back who would be able to do so much more if he wasn’t constantly facing stacked boxes every game. Kyle Shurmur threw only nine touchdowns in 2016 to 10 interceptions ( he MUST be better). He’s got weapons out wide in Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott and C.J. Duncan. However linebacker Zach Cunningham is gone on defense so this unit needs to find a new leader to rally around. It could come from the all-senior secondary. After a tough road game at Middle Tennessee to open things up, Vanderbilt will have three straight and four of five at home. The problem is two of those games are against Alabama and Florida which will be extremely hard games. I do see Vanderbilt winning 6 games but it won’t be an easy route to a bowl game.

SEC WEST:

Alabama, The Tide is clearly the favorite not only to win the West but to win the SEC Championship again. And for good reason. I have the Tide winning every game except for possibly the opener against a very good and well coached Florida State team. And of course as always for Alabama it begins on defense with Ronnie Harrison and Minkah Fitzpatrick taking care and leading the secondary. Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand will put the pressure on the quarterback and stuff the run up front. On offense Jalen Hurts gets the call to start. And for the first time in what seems like forever Alabama is going into the season knowing who their quarterback will be. Even though Tua Tagovailoa will be nipping at his heels. The freshman got a lot of publicity for what he did in practice this offseason. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough lead a crowded backfield while Calvin Ridley is the team’s No. 1 target. Things lighten up against Fresno State and Colorado State after the opener in Atlanta.

Arkansas, Arkansas will be around the 5-7 wins. With Austin Allen coming back to be the starter. Austin Allen (3,430-25-15 in 2016) is one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, although he may not get the same amount of attention as some of the other quarterbacks in the SEC. Devwah Whaley will get a lot more of the workload in the backfield following Rawleigh Williams’ retirement because of a serious neck injury. The offensive line remains mostly intact so the Razorbacks should hit the ground running. Former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads takes over as defensive coordinator and he’ll try to fix a unit that gave up more than 420 yards per game. The secondary comes back intact with some depth to spare. Arkansas doesn’t play its first true road game until Oct. 7 at South Carolina. Before then there are four home or neutral site games. It is possible that Arkansas start the season 3-1. The games that are very possible loses or will be very hard winnable games will be @ Alabama, @ LSU, @ Ole Miss, and VS. Auburn.

Auburn, The Tigers are coming into the season with a new quarterback. Junior college transfer quarterback (by way of Baylor Bears) Jarrett Stidham is the key to success for the Tigers’ offense. Stidham looked good during the spring practice. He’s got the productive duo of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson to lead the way on the ground, along with one of country’s top offensive lines to help keep him up right. On defense, Kevin Steele has some holes to patch up with Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Rudy Ford gone. Last year Auburn finished seventh in FBS in scoring defense (17.1 ppg). There’s talent on each level with DE Marlon Davidson, LB Deshaun Davis and CB Carlton Davis. The Tigers play three straight on the road in October followed by three straight at home. There are four potential losses with a road game at Texas A&M, Clemson and LSU also in the mix.

LSU, The LSU Tigers are coming into the 2017 season following a 8-4 overall and 5-3 record. With Derrius Guice being widely considered to be as good of a running back, if not better, than Leonard Fournette. Guice also figures to see just as many stacked boxes with the uncertainty at quarterback. Danny Etling’s improvement is the biggest key for an improved offense now under the direction of new coordinator Matt Canada. D.J. Clark has some big shoes to fill at wide reciever with Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural gone to the NFL. Pass rusher/Sack specialist Arden Key (12 last season) is dealing with a shoulder injury and is uncertain for the season opener. Reports are saying that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery so he should be back at some point early this season. Christian LaCouture is back to help up front. The Tigers have an intriguing opener against BYU in Houston. The Tigers also play at Florida, Alabama and Tennessee, which will be pretty tough games considering they are away games. LSU could very well win 9 games this season.

Ole Miss, Ole Miss will be an interesting team to watch this season. Largely due to the news that Hugh Freeze will no longer be the Head Coach of the team. There as been a lot of excitement surrounding sophomore dual-threat quarterback Shea Patterson. Who finished out the 2016 campaign in good fashion. The offensive line remains pretty much back so that which will help with protection. D.K. Metcalf, Van Jefferson and A.J. Brown will look to contribute and be a solid trio at wide receiver. Defensive linemen Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks anchor the front and bring the pressure while Myles Hartsfield and Zedrick Woods will cover the back of the defense. The Rebels play three straight road games in late September, but will follow that up with three straight at home. If the Ole Miss Rebels don’t slip up early against South Alabama or FCS member UT Martin alongside hoping that off-the-field issues don’t carry over to the on-field product Ole Miss could win 6 games in 2017.

Texas A&M, The Aggies and coach Kevin Sumlin have plenty of things to figure out and fix some problems before they start the season @ UCLA. The quarterback position is up in the air with senior Jake Hubenak trying to hold off the freshmen Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel. Who will take over for No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Myles Garrett on defense as the guy to get pressure on the quarterback? Wide receiver Christian Kirk is a nice place to start on offense along with 1,000-yard rusher Trayveon Williams, So there are areas that A&M can build around. However there’s pressure on Sumlin to end the Aggies’ 8-5 rut or at least the late-season collapses. It doesn’t help that Texas A&M opens on the West Coast against the Bruins. After that four of the next five are at home with other game coming against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. A&M finish the season against a tough LSU team that could knock the Aggies out of being bowl eligibility. 6-8 games are in range of being wins.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s