Updated: Sep 3
The most powerful of the Power 5 conferences was the talk of the close season, adding Texas and Oklahoma, the jewels in the Big 12 crown, to their impressive ranks. An already intensely competitive conference will only get harder to win as of 2025 (possibly sooner), not that it's a walk in the park at the moment.
Alabama won the SEC and their sixth national championship under Nick Saban. To snuff out any glimmer of hope the other teams might have, Alabama's head coach signed a six-year contract extension, keeping him in Tuscaloosa until 2028. Texas A&M could have the Crimson Tide in their sights - Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher signed his a three-year extension, having led them to a 9-1 season. Georgia, perennial Playoff contenders, 2019 winners LSU, and resurgent Florida and Ole Miss teams mean it's hard to take your eyes off the SEC this year.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Alabama Crimson Tide
LSU (Louisiana State University) Tigers
Texas A&M Aggies
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels
No.1 Alabama, despite losing some impressive players on offense and defense, remain the team to beat. How the heirs apparent step into the NFL-bound shoes of their illustrious predecessors will shape their ability to secure a rare repeat national championship. For QB Mac Jones, read Bryce Young, RB Najee Harris, read Brian Robinson Jr and for WR Devonta Smith, read John Metchie III. It's a relentless production of the highest talent that keeps the Crimson Tide on top. New offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has big shoes to fill himself in Steve Sarkisian, who is now presumably wearing cowboy boots in Austin. at the helm of Texas.
Luckily, the Tide are loaded on defense. Despite the loss of Patrick Surtain at corner, linebacker Dylan Moses and lineman Christian Barmore, Alabama has Christian Harris returning at linebacker, joined by Tennessee transfer Henry To'o To'o (so good they named him twice!) and the exciting freshman corner, Ga'Quincy McKinstry, who goes by the name "Kool-Aid". Sponsorship came at a perfect time for him! The defense may need to dominate while Bill O'Brien settles in.
No.5 Georgia, by their very high standards, have dropped off a little in the last two seasons. They have been tipped this year as the team to potentially dethrone Alabama in the SEC, and on the national stage too. It's a fair assumption as the road to the national championship usually runs through the SEC. With a full preseason under his belt after his transfer from USC, QB J.T. Daniels can continue his fine form from the second half of last season. He has promising backs and talented receivers to help him out. RB Zamir White scored 11 touchdowns last year.
On defense, the Bulldogs' front seven is awesome but with the departures of Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell from the backfield may leave them at the mercy of some very good receivers in the SEC.
College Station in Texas is buzzing in anticipation of the visit of Alabama on October 9th. No.6 Texas A&M are on an impressive upward trajectory under coach Jimbo Fisher, losing only to Alabama (albeit a 52-24 thrashing), and will be keen to take the opportunity to stake their claim to the SEC crown. The defense returns four fifth-year veterans, losing only two starters and the SEC's top defense last year looks like it will be even better.
On offense, freshman QB Haynes King replaces Kellen Mond and Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane provide a strong running game, nicely complemented by split runner/receiver Ainias Smith who led the team in receptions despite being used as a running back last year. Can they upset Alabama? Bring on October 9th. This time, in front of 102,000 fans, they'll be at home.
An 8-4 record for No.13 Florida was an unfair reflection of their season and look for them to run Georgia close in the SEC East. Two of their losses were three-point heartbreakers to Texas A&M and LSU, while they got within six points of Alabama in the SEC title game, before a blowout loss to Oklahoma where most of their key players opted out ahead of the Draft.
QB Emory Jones will lead a new-look, run-focused offense. He averaged over six yards per carry when deputising for Kyle Trask and is supported by a promising group of runners. The losses of Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney leave the Gators a bit light on receiving options. A disappointing defense looks to bounce back, led by DE Zachary Carter and outstanding CB Kaiir Elam. Coach Dan Mullen may have to bide his time for Florida to get to the very elite level.
No.16 LSU continue their quest to return to the pinnacle of college football. Following a disappointing defense of their 2019 national championship, the Tigers look in better shape this year with a number of experienced players returning. Sophomore Max Johnson starts at quarterback, on a run of form after throwing six touchdown passes in LSU's last two games. Also entering the new season in good form is receiver Kayshon Boutte, having set an SEC-record 308 receiving yards in the Tigers' 53-48 win over Ole Miss.
Derek Stingley, Jr. and Eli Ricks form a dynamic sceondary that LSU hope will elevate their defense.
Auburn go back to basics with the hiring of Bryan Harsin, former coach at Boise State. Harsin is a renowned stickler for detail who will be focused on getting the best out of former top overall recruit Bo Nix at quarterback. The arrival of T.J. Finley will give him some welcome competition. The very appropriately named Tank Bigbsy is tipped to have a big year while an at-times porous defense learns a new scheme. Back to back games against LSU and Georgia in October will define their season.
If you want to watch a high-scoring game, look no further than Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin's team were regularly involved in shootouts. A defense that ranked 126th in the nation was balanced by a high-powered offense that ranked No.3 overall. Matt Corral is the gunslinger at the helm. Averaging 333 passing yards per game, Corral was dynamite at times, and erratic at others. If he finds consistency to match his real potential, he could be a dark horse for the Heisman trophy. Jerrion Ealy leads the running backs and I'm hoping Kiffin can find space in his offense for the exciting John Rhys Plumlee, who led the SEC in rushing yards from quarterback when Corral was injured in 2019. Plumlee has spent time at slot receiver. If you're circling dates in the diary, highlight October 2nd, when Ole Miss travel to Alabama. Their 63-48 loss was one of the most entertaining games in college football last year.
Missouri made big strides in coach Eli Drinkwitz's first year in Columbia. Wins over LSU, Kentucky and South Carolina and the form of freshman QB Connor Bazelak will give Mizzou fans cause for optimism. Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks comes in to run the defense and they will continue to improve.
A promising start for Mississippi State in a 44-34 win over LSU quickly fizzled out after four straight losses, including a humbling 41-0 shutout loss to Alabama. Will Rogers showed signs he could make Mike Leach's offense work, while a solid defense could lead them up the table.
An intriguing season ahead for Kentucky. Penn State transfer Will Levis replaces three-year starter Terry Wilson at quarterback, Wilson departing for New Mexico in the transfer portal. Liam Coen comes in as offensive coordinator, landing from the Sean McVay coaching tree.
There were storylines galore in Knoxville during the offseason. In to Tennessee comes Josh Heupel from UCF to replace Jeremy Pruitt, who left under a cloud amid widespread NCAA recruiting violations. A quarterback battle between two incoming transfers was won by Joe Milton, formerly of Michigan. Hendon Hooker, who left Virginia Tech, will back him up.
Arkansas have the potential to climb the standings in the SEC West following a promising first season under head coach Sam Pittman. Having broken their 20-game SEC losing streak in an upset of Mississippi State, the Razorbacks scored impressive wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. K.J. Jefferson comes in at quarterback for Feleipe Franks with the impressive Treylon Burks to throw to. Arkansas must improve the pass rush to have a chance of competing.
South Carolina's hire of former Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, has injected much needed energy and optimism into the Gamecocks' program after a dismal 2-8 season. He looks likely to build the offense around exciting running back Kevin Harris.
Vanderbilt also bring in a new head coach, Clark Lea from Notre Dame after a winless 0-9 season. He has a long rebuilding period ahead of him. QB Ken Seals, returning after a promising freshman campaign, gives him a decent foundation.
Oct 2nd - Ole Miss @ Alabama - a 63-48 thriller last year, likely to be another shootout.
Oct 9th - Alabama @ Texas A&M - can the Aggies break an eight-game losing streak in this series, and take control of the SEC West?
Oct 30th - Florida vs. Georgia - the likely SEC East decider. Can Dan Mullen's team upset the Bulldogs?
Nov 27th - Auburn @ Alabama - the always entertaining Iron Bowl showdown between the in-state rivals.
Texas A&M and Georgia will run them close, but it's probably a year or two early for Jimbo Fisher's men. Alabama win the SEC and advance to the College Playoff Final for a too-close-to-call match with Oklahoma.