Holy crap we did it... We actually did it... We made it to game week!
After whetting the palette with a light three weeks of silly Big 12 and ACC games, the main course is set to arrive this weekend in the form of SEC football. Granted, week 1 in the SEC ain’t exactly great but it signals the end of what has to be one of the worst off-seasons of all time.
You aren’t officially a football blog until you drop some #PowerRankings so today I’ll take a stab at where I think things stand in the SEC before the season kicks off. Barring a shocking upset, I don’t expect this list to change all that much next week but I also wouldn’t be surprised if something unexpected goes down this weekend...
Boooooooooo.... Yes I know, I am a bad barner. But I like to at least feign the ability to approach things with an unbiased mind and as lame as it might be until someone takes the Tide down this fall, they’ll be the consensus favorite. Sure Tua and company are gone but plenty of offensive weapons return and that young defense is a year older with All-American linebacker Dylan Moses back to manage things in the middle. The biggest question facing the Tide is whether or not Mac Jones will be the guy or if hotshot 5-star signee Bryce Young is ready to take the reigns. A depleted Mizzou team is unlikely to provide much of a test but I’ll be interested to see how these QBs look.
Next Game: @ Missouri
SP+: 4 | FPI: 5 | FEI: 6
I know there are those that would disagree with me having UGA over UF right now but until Dan Mullen can actually beat Kirby Smart, I favor the Dawgs. Yes, UGA has plenty of questions on offense with a brand new OC, likely a redshirt freshman QB, a retooled offensive line, no D’Andre Swift and questions at wide receiver but this defense is still stupid good. They will likely lose a game they shouldn’t due to a special teams score or an offensive turnover but they are also going to beat quite a few teams by just suffocating their offenses. I suspect this questionable Dawg offense will look just fine against a very bad Arkansas squad.
Next Game: @ Arkansas
SP+: 5 | FPI: 11 | FEI: 12
Is this the year? The Gators have been impressive under Mullen with two straight 10+ win seasons and two NY6 Bowl victories but “struggles” on the recruiting trail and no SEC East titles have UF fans craving more. This feels like the year for Mullen to get over the hump but the Gators lost some firepower off that front 7 and along with some important offensive weapons. Mullen has also struggled to do much offensively against Smart’s D in the past. We’ll see if they can finally get over the hump in 2020 but they better watch out week 1. Lane Kiffin has some dudes on the offensive side of the ball and it wouldn’t shock me if he put up some yards on this Gator defense. Just not sure the Rebels can stop anyone.
Next Game: @ Ole Miss
SP+: 13 | FPI: 7 | FEI: 4
I am sure #4 feels disrespectful to some LSU fans considering they are the defending champs but I suspect it will end up being too high. The Tigers have recruited at a high level so there’s plenty of talent still on this roster but losing both coordinators, a plethora of off the field personnel and 10+ starters including a Heisman winner, two 1,000 yard receivers, a 1st rd running back, 4 OL starters and multiple early NFL defensive draft picks is not easily replaceable. There will be a step back. How far back? Not sure yet but I will be shocked if this team only loses 2 games this fall. The Pirate sails into town week 1 but I doubt they have the firepower to threaten LSU out the gate.
Next Game: vs Mississippi State
SP+: 11 | FPI: 9 | FEI: 7
While SP+ and FPI both like AU more than LSU, I am applying the same logic I did with UGA/UF. Until Gus proves he can beat Ed Orgeron, I am going to have a hard time putting AU over the Bayou Bengals. The Tigers return plenty of skill players and arguably the best LB corps in the country but must rebuild both lines of scrimmage and break in new starters in the secondary. Per usual, AU is one of the bigger boom/bust teams in the SEC this fall and they don’t get a walk in the park this weekend. UK is a veteran, physical team hungry to earn some respect and start the season with a statement victory.
Next Game: vs Kentucky
#6.) Texas A&M
SP+: 10 | FPI: 14 | FEI: 17
The honeymoon period is over for Jimbo Fisher. He could hide behind recruiting deficiencies of the previous regime and a brutal schedule but now it’s time for the $75 million man to show the big payday was worth it. The Aggies are one of the sexier picks this off-season to challenge Alabama but I am skeptical. I think they will be very good on defense but Kellen Mond hasn’t proven he can win the big games and I don’t think they are loaded with elite skill athletes. They won’t be tested week 1 though against a really bad Vanderbilt team.
Next Game: vs Vanderbilt
SP+: 19 | FPI: 36 | FEI: 39
I don’t really know what to think about this Tennessee team and neither do the computers. Just look at the differences between SP+, FPI & FEI. The Vols have recruited well under Jeremy Pruitt and rallied together after an awful start in 2019. This weekend is an interesting first test against a Gamecock team that was not very good last fall.
Next Game: @ South Carolina
SP+: 22 | FPI: 24 | FEI:41
At this point, you know what you are going to get from Kentucky. They are going to attempt to punch you in the mouth on both sides of the ball and physically beat you up for four quarters. It won’t be pretty all the time but it won’t be a cakewalk either. The Cats return plenty from a team that found a way to win 8 games without a QB last season. Now with Terry Wilson back behind one of the best OLs in the SEC don’t be surprised if Kentucky takes down someone list above. Quite a few folks think it could happen this weekend in Jordan-Hare...
Next Game: @ Auburn
#9.) Ole Miss
SP+: 38 | FPI: 31 | FEI: 32
The Lane Train has returned to the SEC and he inherits some fun toys on the offensive side of the ball. John Rhys Plumlee, Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Elijah Moore are legitimate playmakers who have a chance to put up some big numbers under Kiffin. However, I am not sure if the Rebels will be able to stop anyone this fall which means that they should be apart of some fun shootouts. Week 1 vs Florida is an interesting matchup where I could see the Rebels piling up some yards on the ground but struggling to keep the Gators out of the endzone.
Next Game: vs Florida
SP+: 44 | FPI: 46 | FEI: 38
Gonna be honest, I don’t know much about this Missouri team. I know former Gus Malzahn analyst Eliah Drinkwitz is the head coach. I know that Nick Bolton is a beast. I know they are down a bunch of players due to covid so they are likely to get killed this weekend. But who knows? Maybe they’ll make make the Tide sweat a bit and give us all something to giggle about over the weekend.
Next Game: vs Alabama
#11.) South Carolina
SP+: 36 | FPI: 39 | FEI: 48
It turns out if you have trouble winning at Florida you might also have trouble winning at South Carolina. If not for the strangest of all upsets last fall over UGA, I am not sure if Coach Boom still has a job this fall. But now with the pandemic strangling athletic department budgets chances are good he’s got at least 2 more in Columbia. He’s brought in Mike Bobo to fix his always broke offense and Bobo in turn brought his former QB Collin Hill to run the offense. I am very interested in this week 1 matchup because I don’t really know how good or not good these two teams might be this season.
Next Game: vs Tennessee
#12.) Mississippi State
SP+: 48 | FPI: 57 | FEI: 26
Two years ago, Mississippi State looked to have made one of the sneakier hires of the off-season plucking away Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead. Turns out his northeastern ways did not vibe well with the cowbells of Starkville so he’s gone to the northwest and in his stead stands the Pirate. Mike Leach is finally in the SEC and at Mississippi State of all places. He brought at transfer QB in KJ Costello that should make what I expected to be a REALLY bad offense slightly better but despite what our colleagues might think, this is a rebuild season for the Bulldogs.
Next Game: @ LSU
SP+: 75 | FPI: 50 | FEI: 82
Chad Morris escaped before being roasted on an open pit by Hog fans and in his place is a Razorback of a man in Sam Pittman. Pittman is a well regarded offensive line coach who is now making the jump to head coach. He made some impressive coordinator hires in Kendal Briles (yuck) and Barry Odom. But talent is the big problem in Fayetteville even with the addition of Feleipe Franks so chances are good a single win should be considered a success for Pittman this fall.
Next Game: vs Georgia
SP+: 110 | FPI: 75 | FEI: 93
After tasting success under James Franklin, Vanderbilt has return to its roots under Derek Mason as the worst team in the conference. Early in Mason’s tenure, Vandy was at least salty on defense. Now the Dores are bad on both sides of the ball and likely to add gasoline to the Aggie hype train this weekend.
Next Game: @ Texas A&M