Cale Wilson from the Savage College Football Podcast is our guest columnist this week. Cale breaks down the SEC before the start of the season.
1. Florida Florida had a very successful 2019 season as they went 11-2. This was the first time Florida has won 10 games or more in back-to-back seasons since Urban Meyer. Dan Mullen is building something special in Gainesville. However, The Gators lost to Georgia after an offseason full of trolling by Mullen. Leading to UF finishing at 2nd place in the SEC East. Florida is one of the teams that are expected to be a playoff crasher this season. There’s a very logical reason for fans to expect that as the Gators return a large majority of their offense. Including starting QB Kyle Trask who threw for 25 TD’s last season.
2. Georgia Georgia had an impressive season last year. However they missed their shot of making the College Football Playoff after losing to 4-8 South Carolina at home and getting blown out by LSU in the SEC title game. An interesting Quarterback situation goes on in Athens as former Wake Forest Quarterback Jamie Newman had announced he would be suiting up in the red & black back in January. A few months later in May, Former USC quarterback JT Daniels had committed to UGA in May. Late August, Newman opted out of the 2020 season and declared for the NFL Draft. Now freshman Quarterback D’Wan Mathis is impressing everyone and is battling JT Daniels for the starting job.
3. Tennessee Tennessee had a very surprising season all around. After going 1-4 in their first five games including losses to Georgia State and BYU, fans were furious and it looked like Tennessee was going to be a laughing stock once again. However, UT won 6 of their last seven games and secured a Music City Bowl victory to finish 8-5. The Volunteers return 8 starters offensively including Quarterback Jaret Guarantano. Defensively, the Big Orange only return 4 starters. Even though it’s a young defense, the Vols return the core of the defense that allowed only 15.5 points per game in their season-ending win streak. Two big time playmakers were lost in the receiver core as Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway both graduated.
4. Kentucky Kentucky is a team that exceeded expectations last year. Going into 2020, The Wildcats have had a 1,000 yard rusher for the past 4 years. After Terry Wilson went down against Eastern Michigan in the 2019 season opener, backup quarterback Sawyer Smith took over for two games. Ultimately leading for Wide Receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. to take over. UK ended up going 8-5 including a Belk Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Which was the programs second best win total since 2007 Terry Wilson returns this season hoping to pick up where he left off in 2019. Asim Rose returns for the Cats at running back and Josh Ali returns at Wide Receiver. Defensively, the Wildcats return 6 starters including linebacker DeAndre Square. A few key losses being Lynn Bowden Jr, Ahmad Wagner, and former team captain Kash Daniel.
5. Missouri Missouri had a very disappointing season last year. With Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant arriving in Columbia, expectations were high. The Tigers were banned from a bowl game in 2019 due to an NCAA rule violation. But fans still thought it would be a great year. The first half of the season was looking great, The Tigers went 5-1 in their first 6 games. The last half of the season was a complete turn of events as Mizzou went 1-5 resulting in a 6-6 record and Barry Odom being fired. This season new head coach Eli Drinkwitz will have TCU transfer Shawn Robinson at Quarterback. Offensive sta running back Larry Rountree returns for his senior season. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and Trystan Colo-Castillo however, are not. Defensively in 2019, Mizzou finished at 18th in yards allowed per play. Most of last year’s defense returns with an exception of elite defensive Tackle Jordan Elliot leaving.
6. South Carolina 2019 was an absolute nightmare for SC to put it in short. SC went 4-8 last season which was the worst season in recent memory outside of Steve Spurrier's 3-9 season in 2015. The Gamecocks had an 18th overall recruiting class in 2020 and Mike Bobo has been brought in with hopes to give the offense a spark. Along with Bobo, Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill has also come to Columbia and has been announced the starting quarterback for their home opener Saturday against Tennessee. Some key losses for the Gamecocks include wide receiver Bryan Edwards, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, linebacker DJ Wonnum, and most of the running back room. Projected starting running back Marshawn Lloyd has also been ruled out after tearing his ACL in practice in August. But USC still has Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn in the secondary. Offensively, Shi Smith and almost the entire o-line return. Young superstars Zacch Pickens and incoming 5 star recruit Jordan Burch show a bright future for the USC defensive line.
7. Vanderbilt 2019 was a season that Vanderbilt would like to forget. Last season the Commodores went 3-9 which was a big disappointment. Derek Mason had won 5 games in year 2-4 of his time in Nashville. The only highlight of 2019 for Vandy was a win over Missouri. But looking back at that now, it was hardly an accomplishment to say the least. The good news is, they return all 11 starters defensively this season including senior linebacker Andre Mintz who had 39 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 1 interception last season. Offensively, the Commodores lose star running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and star wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb
1. Alabama 2019 didn’t meet expectations for the Crimson Tide. Tua Tagovailoa received a season ending hip injury against Mississippi State which meant Mac Jones would start the remainder of the season. Alabama had a very solid season but failed to make the SEC Championship game. The tide also failed to make an appearance in the College Football Playoff for the first time in its existence. They still ended up going 11-2 and were victorious over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. In 2020, Alabama will have Mac Jones returning at quarterback. A few other stars returning are running back Najee Harris, wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, as well as linebacker Dylan Moses returns this year after suffering a torn acl in 2019. 4 of last season's starters on the O-Line are also returning.
2. LSU 2019 couldn’t have gone better for LSU. They won a national title, made a College Football Playoff appearance for the first time, went 15-0 for the second time since 1900, had a heisman trophy winner, and the highest-scoring offense of all time. So any and all expectations for them were definitely exceeded. But it’s a new year and there will be a lot of shoes to fill. Big losses have occurred as Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Grant Delpit and many others. The Tigers only return two starters after wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase announced he will be opting out. Junior Myles Brennan will be taking over at quarterback and his main target will be junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall, who had 46 receptions for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Defensively, the Bayou Bengals return 6 starters with the standout being Sophomore cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
3. Auburn Auburn loses a lot of talent from 2019’s 9-4 squad. But it’s last 3 recruiting classes have been No. 12, No. 11, and No. 7 according to 247Sports. Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix should take a significant step forward but the bigger issue is the offensive line which is a big question mark. Defensively, lots of top names are gone but the front seven should be alright. The secondary is vulnerable. The big topic of discussion is: How many SEC QBs can take advantage of this? This is another very solid Auburn team no doubt about it. But rock solid doesn’t promise a top 3 spot in the SEC West.
4. Texas A&M Texas A&M has a very tough schedule this season. 5 games are against ranked opponents and 4 of them are top 10 teams. But there is good news. Former 5-star quarterback comes into 2020 as a senior with 36 games under his belt. The Aggies return running back Isaiah Spiller and tight end Jaylen Wydermeyer. Defensively, A&M returns 8 starters including cornerback Myles Jones who had 29 tackles, 6 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and 2 interceptions in 2019. Two five-star prospects are part of an incoming top-10 recruiting class. The talent, experience, and coaching all can lead to success, but how they compete against Alabama, Auburn, and LSU will determine how the season will go.
5. Mississippi State Mississippi State has a lot of questions about this season. Lots of new faces have arrived in Starkville. A couple being former Washington State head coach Mike Leach and transfer quarterback from Stanford, KJ Costello. The dawgs have a lot of talent to replace with losses of linebacker Willie Gay Jr, cornerback Cam Dantzler, safety Brian Cole II, and more. A few big stars do return for the Bulldogs as running back Kylin Hill returns for his senior season along with wide receiver Osirus Mitchell. The thing is, when Mike Leach took over at WSU in 2012, the Cougars went 3-9, ranked 96th in total offense and 108th in points scored. It took him 5 years to have a top-40 scoring offense in the PAC-12. With a defensive unit that lost lots of players that was at the low end of the SEC, that isn’t good for MSU fans looking for immediate results
6. Ole Miss Ole Miss is looking to rebound from a 4-8 season in 2019. With Lane Kiffin arriving in Oxford, that gives Ole Miss fans a lot of excitement. Especially with some big time offensive players returning. A couple being wide receivers Elijah Moore and Jonathan Mingo. This leads to the biggest question for the Rebels: What does the quarterback situation look like? The quarterback’s battling for the starting position are sophomores John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral. In 2019, Plumlee led the SEC in rushing yards per game with 113.7 and has the versatility to play other positions, but Matt Corral led the team with 1,362 passing yards and 6 passing touchdowns. Defensively the Rebels return a big playmaker in Sam Williams who had 38 tackles, 6 sack, a forced fumble, and an interception. The linebacker core is has all 2019 starters returning. In the secondary, cornerback Keidron Smith and strong safety Jon Haynes return.
7. Arkansas There is no doubt that Arkansas went into a free-fall during the 2 year tenure of head coach Chad Morris. They didn’t win a single SEC game and suffered losses to San Jose State, Western Kentucky, and North Texas. First year head coach Sam Pittman has his work cut out for him. Defensively, there is so much to work on. Opponents scored on the Razorbacks defense on 46.9% of their drives. They also allowed opponents to score an average of 3.18 points. The Hogs also struggled to create pressure as the Hogs only recorded a havoc play (TFL’s, forced fumbles and passes defensed) rate of 13.42 which was lowest in the SEC. Not to mention, only 6 passes were intercepted by the Razorbacks last season. However, Arkansas received a lot of great additions from the transfer portal. A few being former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, former Clemson defensive tackle Xavier Kelly, and former Arkansas State cornerback Jerry Jacobs. Jacobs will be a big addition to the secondary. He only played 4 games in 2019 due to injury but managed to create 21 tackles and 2 pass deflections. In 2018, he recorded 32 tackles, a forced fumble, and 4 interceptions. To go along with these new additions, star running back Raheem Boyd returns for his senior year. Boyd ia a 1,000 yard rusher with good hands and great speed, strength, and vision in addition to being a great leader.
Thanks to Cale for his look at the SEC. Follow him on instagram.
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