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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:53 PM

2020 SEC Betting Preview, Picks, Strategies

2020 Southeastern Conference Preview

Major Changes

The great pandemic of 2020 has had far reaching effects worldwide. One has been the shakeup of college and pro football, where the “Group of Five” conferences have currently been pared down to the “Group of Three” with the Big Ten and the Pac-12 opting out of the 2020 season this fall.

It won’t look like it usually does, but the SEC is still planning to play a college football season in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be a 10-game, conference-only slate starting Sept 26 and concluding the regular season Dec 5, with the SEC title game the following week.

One of the major side effects is that it cancels key inter-conference rivalry games, such as Florida-Florida State and Clemson-South Carolina.

But survival is the operative word and with it we enter a new era of SEC football in 2020.

Fast Facts

The Crimson Tide is the only FBS school to make it to all six College Football playoffs...last year was only the second-time since 2007 that Alabama or Auburn failed to win the SEC West division (LSU in 2011 and 2019).

Note: In the SEC East, Georgia’s scheduled softened with the addition of Arkansas and Mississippi State. In the SEC West, Texas A&M lost it’s cupcake schedule for the first two months of the season. With Alabama adding Kentucky and Missouri, they remain the team to beat in the West. LSU’s schedule softened dramatically with the addition of Missouri and Vanderbilt.

2020 SEC EAST DIVISION PREVIEW

FLORIDA

TEAM THEME: SWAMP AND STANCE

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 8
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *6 / Defense - 6
  • RPR - Total: 61 (67 O / 55 D)

The Gators return only a dozen starters in 2020, but it’s our belief they can challenge in the SEC East. It starts with QB Kyle Trask, who tossed for 2,941 yards and 25 TDs with 7 INTs last season and welcomes back his top two targets in TE Kyle Pitts and WR Kadarius Toney. Then think about all the quarterbacks the SEC has lost – Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm, all off to the NFL.

Pass the torch over to head coach Dan Mullen, who has won 21 of 26 games with Florida. He’s also recruited consecutive Top 10 classes, and his team’s offense and defense have both improved in each of his two seasons. Yeah, we’re swamped with all the Gator bait, and we’re biting.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Dan Mullen’s teams have won the stats in 29 of their last 39 games.

GEORGIA

TEAM THEME: BEST IN CLASS

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 1
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 3 / Defense - 8
  • RPR - Total: 59 (99 O / 21 D)

Things are going so swimmingly well at Georgia these days the Bulldogs added another top-ranked recruiting class this offseason, marking the second time in three years they’ve topped the charts. They also won 36 games over that span. It will be life without QB Jake Fromm (42 consecutive starts) this year though, as he’s off to the NFL.

Transfer QBs J.T Daniels (USC, eligibility pending) and Jamie Newman (Wake Forest) will battle to fill Fromm’s shoes. However, due to the many holes on offense, including a new offensive staff, this year’s low season win total is a mere 10 victories. Kirby Smart’s 15-1 record in his first four games of the season will likely set the tone for the 2020 season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

The Bulldogs were No. 3 in overall defense and No. 1 in 4th Down Conversion Defense last season.

KENTUCKY

TEAM THEME: STOOPS TROOPS

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 23
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 8 / Defense - 7
  • RPR - Total: 25 (56 O / 27 D)

This much we know for sure: Mark Stoops is winning the college football recruiting wars in the fertile SEC, cracking the nation’s Top 25 for the first time in memory this offseason. And the hard work is paying off in spades with Kentucky going to a bowl game each of the last four seasons. Not bad for a program that was 14-34 overall the prior four years.

Adding fuel to the fire, strapping 6-5 five-star QB Joey Gatewood arrives in Lexington from Auburn. But he may have to sit out a year unless the transfer waiver the Wildcats requested from the NCAA is approved. If he plugs in this season the Wildcats can be a challenger in the SEC East.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Kentucky passed for 100 or more yards in only one of its final nine games last season.

MISSOURI

TEAM THEME: DRINKING THE KOOL-AID

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 50
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 5 / Defense - 8
  • RPR - Total: 100 (111 O / 62 D)

A 5-1 start dissolved into a 1-5 finish last season in what proved to be the end of the Barry Odom era in Missouri. Enter one-year wonder Eliah Drinkwitz, who guided Appalachian State to a school record 13 wins in his lone season with the Mountaineers last year.

Drinkwitz will also take over offensive coordinator duties, masterminding a pro-tempo style, no-huddle attack. “We’re going to be quarterback driven. We’re going to be able to have a dominant downhill run game; a vertical passing game and we’re going to execute well under pressure,” insists Drinkwitz.

Meanwhile, Mizzou retained three coaches from a defensive staff that engineered a 76 YPG improvement last season. Yes, they’re drinking it up in Columbia this season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

The Tigers were the top team in the land in 1st Down Defense last season.

SOUTH CAROLINA

TEAM THEME: IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 18
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *7 / Defense - 6
  • RPR - Total: 32 (43 O / 43 D)

After a 4-8 season, change was inevitable. And with it, Will Muschamp aggressively addressed the situation as only a coach sitting on a hot seat would do: by bringing in new OC. After the Gamecocks ranked 96th in total offense and 104th in scoring offense, the call immediately went out to Mike Bobo, former college teammate and Colorado State head coach.

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In addition, South Carolina’s overhauled staff has only three assistant coaches returning. Meanwhile, after facing the toughest schedule in the nation last year, it doesn’t get any easier in 2020 as our STAT YOU WILL LIKE below indicates, having to face Georgia, LSU and Clemson in November, all of whom finished in the AP Top 4 last season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

The Gamecocks faced the nation’s toughest Division I schedule in 2019 as their opponents averaged 8.9 wins, including nine opponents that won a bowl game.

TENNESSEE

TEAM THEME: GOT TEETH

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 10
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *9 / Defense - 8
  • RPR - Total: 50 (59 O / 50 D)

A 2-5 start to the 2019 season had all the earmarks of yet another disaster in the making for the Vols. Instead of staring at a third straight losing season, though, Tennessee put the bite on its final six foes of the season, including a 4th successive bowl win.

Rocky Top also received more good news, highlighted by All-SEC guard Trey Smith’s decision to return for his senior season, former 5-star offensive lineman Cade Mays opting to transfer back home from Georgia, and the Vols landing a top-10 recruiting class.

With it, fifth-year senior starting QB Jarrett Guarantano will look to hold off 5-Star freshman Harrison Bailey for coach Jeremy Pruitt, who by the way is 1-6 ATS as a favorite.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Tennessee ranked No. 130 (worst) in the nation in 4th Down Conversion Percentage last season.

VANDERBILT

TEAM THEME: FOUR IN AND FOUR OUT

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 52
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 5 / Defense - 11
  • RPR - Total: 71 (122 O / 4 D)

To say the Commodores have had a turbulent offseason is only the beginning. Not only did Vanderbilt lose its top three players in RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Kalija Lipscomb, and TE Jared Pinkney, VU also welcomes four new QBs to replace four outgoing quarterbacks. In addition, the OL also takes a major hit in 2020.

Knowing he’s residing on the hottest of hot seats, head coach Derek Mason overhauled the coaching staff from stem to stern. Holding the lifeline will be new DC Ted Roof, a 32-year veteran of college football coaching, who makes the jump after serving as defensive coordinator at 13-1 Appalachian State this past season.

Roof piloted Auburn’s defense to a national championship in 2010.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

The Commodores are 0-19 SU and 2-17 ATS in Game Six of the season the last 19 years.

SEC WEST DIVISION PREVIEW

ALABAMA

TEAM THEME: COUNTRY ROADS

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 2
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 7 / Defense - 5
  • RPR - Total: 88 (85 O / 75 D)

The biggest loss in the offseason occurred when Georgia swiped Tide strength coach Scott Cochran, the first real crack in the Nick Saban era. Cochran was a staff member on all six of the national Championship teams that Saban has coached at Alabama. Player after player credited Cochran for helping them become their best.

He oozes with energy and enthusiasm. It’s a good thing the Tide has ranked No. 1 in the College Football Recruiting classes in 8 of the last 9 years, and it’s the reason they have played in more CFB Playoff games than any FBS team. Squaring off sans Tua against 10 opponents that played in a bowl game last season could be another story.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Tide head coach Nick Saban is 53-1 SU in his career with Alabama versus .500 or fewer opponents, including 51 wins in a row.

ARKANSAS

TEAM THEME: FELEIPING THE SCRIPT

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 30
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 8 / Defense - 6
  • RPR - Total: 58 (68 O / 52 D)

The Razorbacks went through five quarterbacks on their way to a 2-10 record in 2019, matching 2018’s two-win effort. Through it all, the Hogs started the 8th most underclassmen in 2019 (50.8%).

Heading into a new era, Arkansas welcomes head coach Sam Pittman, and former Florida QB Feleipe Franks as its new signal caller. Pittman was a four-year assistant at Georgia with a wealth of experience, having coached at seven different

Power 5 schools during his 32 years of coaching. Franks, who was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft, had an up-and-down career with the Gators but has a strong NFL-ready arm. Together they’ll look to snap a 19-game SEC losing skid.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

The Razorbacks have played ‘Under’ their season win total in six of the last seven years.

AUBURN

TEAM THEME: DON’T FUSS WITH GUS

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 7
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *4 / Defense - 5
  • RPR - Total: 78 (77 O / 78 D)

Not only has Auburn landed a Top-12 ranked or better recruiting class every year the past 10 seasons, head coach Gus Malzahn is a master at maintaining momentum, going 18-3 SU and 16-4-1 ATS in games when coming off consecutive SUATS wins, including 15-0 SU and 13-1-1 ATS when facing sub .888 foes.

What does it all mean? For openers, the Tigers are all but assured of challenging Alabama for the SEC West division title (they’ve defeated the Tide in 10 of the last 18 meetings). Meanwhile, Auburn faced the nation’s second-toughest schedule in 2019 as its opponents averaged 8.2 wins (107-50 overall), when they faced seven Top 20 foes and four teams in the Top 10.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Over the last four regular season campaigns, the SU stats winner is 44-6 in Tigers’ games.

LSU

TEAM THEME: FOR SALE AS IS

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 4
  • Ret Starters: Offense - 3 / Defense - 5
  • RPR - Total: 127 (128 O / 92 D)

For the second straight season, college football produced a National Champion with a 15-0 record when the Joe Burrow-led Tigers of LSU chewed up and spit out everyone in their path. Burrow finished his career with a 25-3 record – best in LSU history – and went on to win the Heisman Trophy and eventually become the top selection in this year’s NFL draft.

In fact, the Tigers had more players selected in this year’s draft (14) than any team in the land – including the most in the first round (5). As a result, they become one of the hardest hit teams in losses, ranking No. 127 in overall Return Starter Production, while also losing OC Joe Brady to the NFL. Whew.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

LSU ranked #4 in average net stat margin in games versus FBS foes last season behind Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

MISSISSIPPI

TEAM THEME: CHANGING LANES

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 34
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *8 / Defense - 5
  • RPR - Total: 35 (23 O / 61 D)

This will be interesting. Ole Miss, and their archrival Mississippi State – a pair of good ole down home southern-fried SEC squads – have each hired out-of-the-box radical head coaches in Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach, respectively. Which hire will prove to elevate its team to a higher level remains to be seen.

This much is certain: Run-first QB John Rhys Plumlee (1,000 rushing yards and 900 passing yards last season) will battle former 4-star high school recruit Grant Tisdale, who withdrew from the transfer portal to remain with the Rebels.

The Rebs’ four-year bowl drought can largely be attributed to a weakened recruiting class since Hugh Freeze was ousted four years ago. That will be changing soon.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad was No. 1 in the nation in Turnover Margin last season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

TEAM THEME: STARK RAVING MAD

  • 2020 Recruit Rank: 27
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *6 / Defense - 6
  • RPR - Total: 110 (87 O / 113 D)

Joining Mike Leach in Starkville this season is 6-5 QB KJ Costello, who arrives from Stanford via the transfer portal to join a crowded quarterback stable at MSU. With that, it’s worth noting that Leach has done wonders with transfer quarterbacks in the past – most recently Gardner Minshew (East Carolina) and Anthony Gordon (City College of San Francisco), both of whom led the nation in passing in each season.

And it’s hard to dismiss the Mad Scientist’s 7-0 AsTS career mark as a dog of 24-plus points. But nothing works unless the defense comes back to life as it regressed 16 points and 137 YPG last season after improving 19 points and 196 YPG the previous two years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Leach was 7-0 ATS when coming off a SUATS loss in his first seasons with Texas Tech and Washington State.

TEXAS A&M

TEAM THEME: GIG ‘EM

  • 2020 Recruit Rank:6
  • Ret Starters: Offense - *8 / Defense - 8
  • RPR - Total: 16 (17 O / 37 D)

CBS calls them a dark horse team ready to break through, and we do, too. QB Kellen Mond took it one step further when he told the USA TODAY that the Aggies can make an LSU-type of improvement in 2020.

“They were a good team the year we beat them [in 2018] but becoming an elite team and one of the best teams of all time this past year just kind of shows the work they put in.”

Sure, Mond is no Joe Burrow, but don’t fall asleep on the Aggies, either. Perusing their schedule, they could well be the Baylor of last season, especially knowing they’ll be take on only three opponents that owned a winning record last season. Jimbo can clearly smell the blood.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE:

Jimbo Fisher is 20-0 SU and 13-4 ATS versus .900 or fewer non-conference opponents in his career (remember that come bowl-time).



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