Alabama is picked to win the SEC for the third straight year and if the Crimson Tide prevail, it will be their 4th SEC title in 5 years, a feat not achieved in Tuscaloosa since the Bryant years. Experience at QB is lacking and Alabama lost a lot of talent, but under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide do not rebuild, they simply reload. The quality of athletes passing through Tuscaloosa is unprecedented in the history of college football. Alabama’s schedule is brutal, so repeating as SEC and National Champs will not be an easy task. The Crimson Tide open with USC in Dallas and follow that with a home date against C-USA favorite Western Kentucky. But Alabama has never shied away from playing difficult schedules. They won the National Championship last season playing the most difficult schedule in college football history. The Crimson Tide play Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU on the road this season.
LSU has more experience returning than any other SEC team, 8 starters on offense and 10 on defense, including Brandon Harris at QB and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette at RB. The question is one of whether Les Miles can get the most out of that experience week in and week out. The schedule is manageable, even favorable by SEC standards as the Tigers get Ole Miss and Alabama at home, but opening in Green Bay against Wisconsin is worrisome and a loss there could derail LSU’s hope for a dream season.
The race for the SEC East Title is up for grabs, basically a tight 3 way race between Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Much has been expected of Tennessee for a couple of years, but the Volunteers have been unable to deliver. Last year’s 4th quarter meltdown at home against Oklahoma, the stunning 28-27 loss at Florida, plus the close losses to Alabama (19-14) and Arkansas (24-20) were very disappointing. The Vol fans are restless. But Tennessee finished very strong in 2015, winning 6 straight, capped by an obliteration of Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl. The Volunteers carry a lot of momentum into 2016.
Georgia has a new coach in Kirby Smart. The Bulldog’s loss of Mark Richt was Miami (Fla.)’s gain. Not sure what Georgia was thinking…. but time will tell who will come out better in that transaction.
Florida was quite a surprise in 2015, unexpectedly winning the SEC East after starting the season with 6 straight wins, but the end of the season was not kind to the Gators losing 3 straight, first to arch rival Florida State, then the SEC Championship game against Alabama and finally ending the season with a poor performance against Michigan (losing 41-7) in the Citrus Bowl.
This is the way I see the SEC finishing for 2016