With SEC Media Days over and the four most popular teams in this area talked about, it’s time for me to announce what I think the rest of the SEC will look like. I’ll be posting the record of every team in the position I think they will finish with an MVP for each team. Here we go!
- Tennessee 11-1 (7-1 SEC) – If you’ve read my stories on UT, you know that I think that the Vols are the team to beat in the East this year. And not many teams will beat them. With a long list of unbelievable players, Butch Jones will finally have enough playmakers to build a possible national championship-winning team. MVP: Jalen Hurd, running back
- Georgia 9-3 (6-2 SEC) – Kirby Smart inherited a great football team from Mark Richt once Richt was fired by Georgia and then hired by Miami. He’s got Nick Chubb – a powerful runner who, barring a freak injury at Tennessee last year, may have made a case for a Heisman run. A solid defense who will be rough and tough all year. The only downside is that Smart will have a quarterback battle on his hands – the experienced senior Greyson Lambert and the fan-favorite rookie sensation Jacob Eason. Depending on which one Smart chooses could determine just how well this team will finish. Losses will include Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. MVP: Nick Chubb, running back
- Florida 8-4 (5-3 SEC) – Florida will have a good team yet again this year. They surprised the nation last year when they went 10-2 in the regular season before losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship and getting walloped in the Citrus Bowl by Michigan. Jim McElwain lost his best defensive back in Vernon Hargreaves to the NFL Draft, but he’s got another one just as good, if not better, in Jalen Tabor. If Florida had an offense at all, they’d win the East. I see Florida losing to Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU and Florida State this year. MVP: Jalen Tabor, cornerback
- Vanderbilt 7-5 (3-5 SEC) – Vanderbilt may shock the world and beat Florida in Week Five, and if that happens, it would mean sliding Vandy up to third. Third! Can you imagine if Vanderbilt slid into that spot and Florida went from winning the SEC East a year ago to finishing fourth? It may happen, so keep an eye on that game on Oct. 1. MVP: Ralph Webb, running back
- Kentucky 5-7 (2-6 SEC) – I’ve said it before, but the Wildcats just don’t have the firepower to do much in the SEC this year. Mark Stoops’ seat grows ever hotter. MVP: Stanley “Boom” Williams, running back
- South Carolina 4-8 (1-7 SEC) – Another first-year coach catching the blunt of a challenging schedule. Will Muschamp won’t have many play makers on his team this year, and he will have a rough road ahead of him. At least until he gets some recruits in. MVP: Perry Orth, quarterback
- Missouri 3-9 (0-8 SEC) – I don’t think Missouri wins a game in the SEC this year. The Tigers have a slow offense, a weak offensive line off the field issues and a subpar defense. It’s going to be a tough first year for new head coach Barry Odom. MVP: Charles Harris, defensive end
- LSU 12-0 (8-0 SEC) – An undefeated LSU team in the SEC Championship against a one-loss Tennessee team?! You betcha. LSU has the defense, the quarterback and the running back to run away with the West this year. Leonard Fournette will not be stopped, and I think he actually wins the Heisman this year now that Brandon Harris, the Tigers’ quarterback, isn’t completely useless anymore. MVP: Leonard Fournette, running back
- Alabama 9-3 (5-3 SEC) – It just feels weird not picking Alabama to do any better than this. But I’m sticking by my guns here. Bama doesn’t have an offense this year. I understand that it’s Nick Saban and that in the past, he’s always seemed to rise to the occasion. But look, in the past, Saban has had either a dominant QB, a dominant running game or both. This year, he has neither. And it will show. Granted, Bama’s defense will be one of the best in the country. But they won’t be able to put up points against the top SEC defenses. MVP: Calvin Ridley, wide receiver
- Arkansas 9-3 (5-3 SEC) – Bret Bielema is one of my favorite current coaches. He’s built quite a team in Fayetteville, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what the Razorbacks do this year. Bielema has a sturdy defense and a good quarterback. With a better run game, this team might even surprise people. I have Arkansas losing to LSU, Alabama, Auburn and TCU. MVP: Austin Allen, quarterback
- Ole Miss 8-4 (5-3 SEC) – Ole Miss gets dropped to fourth after losing the tiebreaker to Arkansas. Chad Kelly is a great quarterback and will do wonders for the Rebels this year. But losing their best offensive and defensive linemen in the draft (Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche, respectively), the Rebels will have a tough time winning the West this year. I have the Rebels losing to Florida State, Georgia, Arkansas and LSU. MVP: Chad Kelly, quarterback
- Texas A&M 8-4 (4-4 SEC) – The Aggies have a great quarterback in Trevor Knight and a great defensive leader in Myles Garrett. But outside of that, there’s really not much to say about Texas A&M this year. With a few more pieces here and there, I think this would be a stellar team. But until then, fifth place is all they’ll muster. MVP: Myles Garrett, defensive end
- Auburn 6-6 (3-5 SEC) – How the mighty have fallen. This was a team expected to win the SEC last year, but after a disappointing season, scrapped out a bowl victory over Memphis. The Tigers had the “future Heisman winner” in Jeremy Johnson, but the quarterback fell from grace and was replaced by Shaun White in the middle of the season. The Tigers haven’t really added many more weapons since last year, so look for a repeat of last season. MVP: Jeremy Johnson, quarterback
SEC Championship game: Tennessee over LSU –
- Mississippi State 6-6 (2-6 SEC) – When you finish last in the SEC West and can still make a bowl game, you’re doing something right. Dak Prescott, Miss. St’s best quarterback ever, is gone now, and the Bulldogs will have to rebuild from the ground up. It’ll be a tough climb. I actually have the Bulldogs losing to every SEC West opponent this year but beating their two opponents from the East, Kentucky and South Carolina, and winning all of their non-conference games. Go figure. MVP: Fred Ross, wide receiver
You may be thinking I’m bias. That I’m just picking the team that I like because I’ve been a fan and how the Vols haven’t won the SEC crown since 1998. But think again.
This is the best possible time for the Vols to win it all. The Vols are the more complete team on both sides of the ball. Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd anchor the offense. That’s a three-headed beast. You never know who will get the ball. On defense, you’ve got Derek Barnett and all 344 pounds of Khalil McKenzie coming at you from the line while Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton lock down the rest of the field.
I’m going with my gut here. After this year, the Vols will lose Dobbs, Kamara, Hurd, Barnett, Reeves-Maybin and Sutton to the draft, which means a steep decline in talent. If Tennessee wants a title, this is their best chance for a few years. They need to take it.
Thank you all for reading my work! It was an honor to write these stories for NCTC. I’ll be covering the Vols this season in Knoxville, so if you want to follow along, my name is Trenton Duffer and I work for the Daily Beacon.
Story written by NCTC summer intern and Vols’ football beat writer Trenton Duffer