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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:57 PM

2019 SEC Preview

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2019 SEC PREVIEW

Coach Me Up

Several SEC teams changed coordinators, adopting new styles or systems on offense and defense. Meanwhile, in years of no head-coaching turnover, the biggest trend is the success of the newer coaches who take significant jumps in Year Two. In 2006, Les Miles won 11 games at LSU, and Urban Meyer won his first national title with Florida. Mark Richt won 10 games in 2017 with Miami, and last year Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Texas’s Tom Herman took the top two spots in the Big 12 while Matt Rhule led Baylor to a bowl victory. This seems like good news for the fan bases at Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher), Tennessee (Jeremy Pruitt), Arkansas (Chad Morris), Mississippi State (Joe Moorhead) and Florida (Mullen) entering year two for their coaches. Stay tuned.

Fast Facts

The Crimson Tide is the only FBS school to make it to all five College Football playoffs ... Only one time since 2007 has Alabama or Auburn failed to win the SEC West division (LSU in 2011) ... Georgia will face five FBS foes (all SEC) in 2019 that will be playing with a week of rest. Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are next with 4 such opponents

Note: The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk () designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

EAST DIVISION

FLORIDA (Offense -
5/1 Def - 8/3RPR: 26/27/43)

TEAM THEME: MAN ON A MISSION

Florida’s six-victory improvement under first-year head coach Dan Mullen in its “mission season” last year was among the best in the FBS, and Mullen’s 10 victories were more than what Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier won in their first season at Gainesville. Through it all, the Gators’ 7th-ranked offense finally ranked inside the Top 10 in the SEC for the first time since 2009, no thanks to the unsteady play of QB Feleipe Franks, who ranked 10th in the SEC in passing. With only one starting OL back in 2019, Mullen will have his hands full matching last year’s production – especially with all six games away from the Swamp coming against bowl teams.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Dan Mullen’s teams have won the stats in 20 of their 26 games the past two seasons.

PLAY ON: at Missouri (11/16)

GEORGIA (Offense - 6/4 , Defense - 7/2 RPR – 69 /99/36)

TEAM THEME: QUE UP THE DAWGS

The Bulldogs started 11 freshmen or sophomores in 2018, and head coach Kirby Smart added a second-straight top-two recruiting class. Through it all, four juniors left early for the NFL Draft, while five-star QB recruit Jacob Eason has transferred out to Washington. Despite the offseason turmoil, QB Jake Fromm returns after having made 28 starts in a row, winning 23 of those games. With only 4 true road games for the second straight season, the Dawgs must deal with no less than 10 foes that were in bowl games last year, including their final 7 contests of the season. Nonetheless, Georgia returns 20 players who made starts as underclassmen last season. And the five 5
recruits they landed this year are the most in college football. Color them dangerous, again.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Bulldogs have scored 31 or more points in 20 of their last 24 victories under Kirby Smart.

PLAY AGAINST: at Tennessee (10/5)

KENTUCKY (Offense - 4/2, Defense - 4/2, RPR: 114/64/127)

TEAM THEME: GUT CHECK

The schedule maker was certainly kind to Kentucky this season, sending them out on the road only 4 times in 2019. That should aid the Cats’ chances this season given the fact this team was gutted by player losses. It will be extremely difficult replacing the more than 2,000 rushing and 2,000 passing yards the Wildcats have tallied each of the past three seasons (they had accomplished this only two other times in school history). Replacing RB Benny Snell will be problematic, too, as he is the only player in UK history to rush for 1,000 yards three straight seasons. Fortunately for HC Mark Stoops, QB Terry “Touchdown” Wilson returns after passing for 1,889 and rushing for 547 yards last year.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Last season marked the first time since 1958 that both Kentucky and Duke each appeared in the same AP Top 25 poll.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Florida (9/14)

MISSOURI (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 81/94/57)

TEAM THEME: FROM ONE TIGER TO ANOTHER

The loss of QB Drew Lock, the SEC’s second all-time passer, leaves large shoes to fill but former starting Clemson QB Kelly Bryant transfers in nicely. Bryant completed 65.8% of his passes with Clemson. With three starting OL and three of the top four WR’s back, a Tigers’ offense that has averaged 35 points and nearly 500 yards per game under head coach Barry Odom looks to be in good hands in 2019. Meanwhile, the Mizzou defense has improved 91 YPG from their first season to last behind Odom. With five straight home games from September thru mid-October, the mojo figures to continue all year, especially with Missouri banned from bowling this season for academic fraud by the NCAA.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Tigers are 40-9 SU and 31-14 ATS the last six years in games they manage to outgain their opponent.

PLAY ON: vs. South Carolina (9/21)

SOUTH CAROLINA (Offense -
7/3, Defense - 7/3, RPR: 45/51/64)

TEAM THEME: TIME IS NOT ON MY SIDE

While 7 wins and a bowl game is often considered a successful season, we were disappointed in South Carolina’s effort last season. For openers, seventy-percent of USC’s roster in 2017 was composed of underclassmen, meaning immediate improvement was in the offing. The offense held up its end of the deal, but a usually stout defense did not. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact the Gamecocks ranked dead last in the nation in Time of Possession in 2018: the more the offense is on the sidelines, the more the defense is on the field. That’s a major correction that will need to be dealt with this year. Good luck with that. That and the fact that Carolina will take on the saltiest schedule of all FBS teams in 2019 with this year's foes owning a collective .679 win percentage last season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: South Carolina will be tackling 9 bowlers in its final 10 games of the campaign this season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Vanderbilt (11/2)

TENNESSEE (Offense - 10/4, Defense - 7/0, RPR: 2/2/25)

TEAM THEME: ROCKY FLOP NO MORE

Tennessee’s failure to produce during its 4-win season in 2017 was like waiting 20 minutes in the rain for a black Toyota Camry at the airport. You hoped it would pull up... but it never did. Now it’s time for the Volunteers to deliver the goods under second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Showing improvement on both sides of the ball last year in Pruitt’s rookie season, Rocky Top brings back one of the most experienced teams in the FBS in 2019. With no less than six SEC games on this year’s slate ripe with revenge from last season, look for a smoother ride this campaign from JP and the Vols, provided of course they can overcome a nasty 1-13 SU and 2-12 ATS mark in SEC games against foes coming off a win.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: All eight SEC games this season are against foes that played in a bowl game last season.

PLAY ON: vs. Vanderbilt (11/30)

VANDERBILT (Offense - 7/2, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 91/38/119)

TEAM THEME: PEST CONTROL CALLING

One might think that with two bowl appearances in the last three years that head coach Derek Mason’s job is as safe as a bug in a rug. But unless he can do better than 8-32 in conference games, with nary a winning season overall, he’s on a Terminix watch list. To stave off an impending spray-down, Mason will need to keep his offense engaged, especially after the Commodores scored more points than they allowed last season for the first time in his tenure. And for the first time in four years, there will be a quarterback competition with five scholarship QBs competing for the starting spot. Remember, Vandy has recorded 24 losing seasons in the last 27 years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Commodores are 0-18 SU and 2-16 ATS in Game Six of the season the last 18 years.

PASS

WEST DIVISION

ALABAMA (Offense -
6/2, Defense - 6/1, RBR: 63/54/80)

TEAM THEME: 15 MILLION REASONS WHY

According to USA TODAY, the Tide will pay its 10 assistants $7.541 million for the 2019 season, an increase of $1.4 million over what Alabama paid its assistants last season. Ironically the lead elephant, Nick Saban, will earn more than all of his assistants combined. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will make $1.55 million this season. Pete Golding, who was promoted to defensive coordinator, will be paid $1.1 million. And the 4-and-5-star athletes... they receive scholarships, just like the collegiate football factory’s business plan calls for. Leading the charge for Bama is top Heisman Trophy candidate QB Tua Tagovailoa, who is so talented he forced former SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts to leave for Oklahoma. He’s just another reason the Tide stands 47-1 SU in its last 48 regular season games.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Alabama is 2-4 SU and 0-6 ATS in its final game of the season the last six years.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. LSU (11/9)

ARKANSAS (Offense - 6/2, Defense - 6/2, RBR: 73/63/79)

TEAM THEME: HANGING CHAD

Some say that after its first 10-loss season in school history, the Arkansas faithful were ready to wring Chad Morris’s neck. To that, we say phooey. Along with DC John Chavis from LSU, he brought a modified spread playbook with him. Let’s see what happens when Ben Hicks, his quarterback at SMU, transfers in this year. Hicks’ 51 TD passes in two years with the Mustangs should be the missing elixir. Three 4-star wide receiver recruits (among the 25 three-and four-star recruits they hauled in this offseason) won’t hurt, either. With 7 of the last 8 games coming against bowl teams, look for Arky to get out of the gate in quick fashion.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Hogs have played UNDER their season win total in five of the last six seasons.

PLAY ON: vs. Colorado State (9/14)

AUBURN (Offense - 7/5, Defense - 7/3, RBR: 84/95/59)

TEAM THEME: KEEP THE FOOT ON THE BUS, GUS

With Gus Malzahn resuming play-calling duties last season, the Tigers’ 63-14 pummeling of Purdue in the Music City Bowl carries the momentum forward as they set an SEC record for most points in a bowl game. However, the loss of QB Jarrett Stidham to the NFL draft hurts. Word is five-star true freshman Bo Nix, son of Auburn great QB Patrick Nix, may win the job. Whoever starts for the Tigers will be the 9th new QB to start the season in the last eleven years. And he’ll have to go up against bowlers in 5 of his first six games of the campaign. Meanwhile, the defense received a big boost when star junior defensive tackle Derrick Brown decided to return in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound force had 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2018. Perhaps he’ll help Malzahn carry past a muddled 6-13 SU mark against ranked opponents the last 4 years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Over the last three regular-season campaigns, the SU stats winner is 35-3 in Tigers’ games.

PLAY AGAINST: at Arkansas (10/19)

LSU (Offense - 8/4, Defense - 8/4, RPR: 15/12/49)

TEAM THEME: DO NOT SWALLOW

Despite a 10-win season in 2018, LSU was highly inconsistent – finishing seventh in the SEC in scoring, seventh in passing and ninth in total offense. It’s an Ed Orgeron trait. The Mongolian sword-swallower (try deciphering what he says in post-game interviews) used seven different combinations on the offensive line last year. And therein lies the problem. The big ‘O’ will hope the nation’s No. 1 guard and No. 1 running back recruits will work in tandem with returning QB Joe Burrow to iron things out. A testy road slate finds them at Alabama (8 straight losses) and Texas. Let’s hope the Tigers’ post-game interviews are short.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ed Orgeron is 9-23 SU as a head coach against winning SEC foes in his career.

PLAY ON: vs. Texas A&M (11/30)

MISSISSIPPI (Offense - 3/2, Defense - 10/4, RPR: 116/130/41)

TEAM THEME: ALWAYS A REBEL

After being forced to replace the most players of any team in the nation from 2017’s 2-deep roster last year, head coach Matt Luke got his Rebels off to a 5-2 start. However, the season concluded with an ugly 5-game losing skid. Luke’s roots run deep at Ole Miss, spanning three generations, including four years as a starting center. Despite losing a few stud players to the NFL draft, he’ll benefit this season from back-to-back Top 25 recruiting classes along with deeply experienced returning production. With no back-to-back road games in the way – and after avoiding NCAA sanctions that would ban them again from post-season play – the Rebs look to be bowl-bound in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ole Miss is 28-2 SU and 23-7 ATS as a favorite in lined games against non-conference foes.

PLAY ON: vs. Vanderbilt (10/5)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 4/0, RPR: 92/81/90)

TEAM THEME: WE WANT EVEN MO

When former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead came over from Penn State to take over the reins from Dan Mullen last season, it was thought there would be an offensive fireworks show in Starkville, with the defense taking a back seat. In Moorhead’s previous four years as a head coach at Fordham, he took the Rams from a 1-10 team to 38 wins behind an innovative offense. Winning 8 games in his first year behind a scoring defense that finished No. 2 in the land (13.2), while taking on a rugged SEC schedule was certainly commendable. But a defense that finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation was not only praiseworthy, but it was also unforeseen as well. How well QB Keytaon Thompson replaces Nick Fitzgerald will determine MSU’s fate in 2019. That and 5 new assistant coaches joining the staff in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Bulldog defense has improved 19 points and 196 YPG the last two seasons.

PLAY ON: vs. LSU (10/19)

TEXAS A&M (Offense -
7/3 , Defense - 4/1, RPR: 102/71/108)

TEAM THEME: NEW LOOKS GOOD ON YOU

A&M won nine games for the first time since 2013 in Jimbo Fisher’s debut season with the Aggies despite facing the toughest regular-season schedule in 2019 (foes 97-47 / .674). Meanwhile, A&M inked a Top-5 recruiting class for the second straight year. Better yet, the Aggies improved on both sides of the ball in 2018 with the offense up 64 YPG and the defense 60 YPG. To top it off, QB Kellen Mond and his entire receiving corps are back in 2019. Still, another daunting schedule this season finds them at Clemson in Week Two, and then back-to-back road games at Georgia and LSU to button up the season. Hang on.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Jimbo Fisher is 28-1 SU and 16-4 ATS against .900 or fewer non-conference opponents in his career.

PLAY ON: vs. Auburn (9/21)

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