Who’s Hot – Florida
Dan Mullen has this thing cookin’. 10 wins in year one and a steady improvement by an offense that’s almost entirely back sets up real nice. Quarterback Feleipe Franks has a grip on the scheme, and running backs Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce should be an intimidating-enough duo that the play-action game sets up big pass plays to receivers Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland.
Who’s Not – South Carolina
Will Muschamp football is big and dumb and painful, like real life. Unlike real life, however, you not obligated to participate.
Purgatory – Missouri
Let’s say the Tigers start 8-0, a reasonable thing to predict this year given the schedule setup. That same setup starts November with 3 straight weeks of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. The East is getting too good to expect Mizzou to break through and win the division, but 8-9 wins is also not out of the question.
Clock’s Ticking – Georgia
The clear-cut dominant force in the East the last 2 seasons, the Bulldogs have been on the cusp of a national title and back-to-back SEC championships. The problem? The Dawgs have not had the lead in the final minute of their matchup with ‘Bama each of those seasons and have thus lost the game. Kirby Smart getting close but not finishing the job is going to wear on folks if it continues.
Best Future Pro – Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Previous receivers who were as dominant for the Crimson Tide? Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley. Pretty good bet what the Biletnikoff Award winner ends up doing after his college days are over.
Best Defensive Player – Grant Delpit, LSU
The Tiger safety is the next version of Tyrann Mathieu and Jamal Adams. He’s a game-changing player and a freak athlete who will always be around the ball and making the biggest plays.
Best Offensive Player – Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
Yes, I know who the actual correct answers are here, but don’t sleep on the junior Aggie WR. 585 yards and 7 touchdowns should both be headed up without TE Jace Sternberger around for Kellen Mond to rely on.
Player of the Year – Tua Tagavailoa, Alabama
He finished just shy of 4,000 yards passing and could eclipse that mark if he’s actually gotten better. Avoiding nagging injuries and brutal turnovers are all he needs to win the Heisman.
West Division Champion – Alabama
Jeudy is still paired with Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and last year’s breakout star Jaylen Waddle. If Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. become the traditional running machine, the Crimson Tide will have arguable the nation’s best offense.
East Division Champion – Florida
Yeah, Georgia runs this division, but Jake Fromm’s cast of receivers is a little too thin on paper for my liking. On top of an ever-improving offense, the Gators are stacked at linebacker and in the secondary. If another pass rusher emerges alongside Jabari Zuniga, you can make a case they’ll be able to play with anybody.
Southeastern Conference Champion – Alabama
Worth noting Florida’s headed in such a good direction I think they could hang with ‘Bama for a bit, but Nick Saban became the most successful coach in the sport with great defense, and the Tide should have enough on that side of the ball to complement their electric offense. There are still some concerns in the secondary, and the linebackers are a little thin, but the return of stars like Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings, Raekwon Davis and Xavier McKinney puts Rammer Jammer safely on top of the SEC once again.