Here at Apollo we like to spend most of our time creating content for the Houston based sports teams, but I’m here to branch out the content a little bit. We have a bigger mission and want to compete on a bigger scale, and that means covering more than just Houston sports teams. The SEC is the best conference in college football, that’s not up for debate.
Before I get into season previews for each and every SEC team I have to get my biases out of the way. I was born in Texas, raised in Alabama. Football has been a staple in my family since I came out of the womb. I grew up hating Alabama and Auburn, and landed on the Florida Gators being my team growing up because my grandpa was a fan of them. However, back in May, I graduated from Mississippi State University where I spent two years working for the football and baseball teams. Needless to say my allegiance switched from orange and blue in the swamp to maroon and white in the heart of Mississippi.
I will be as unbiased as possible when writing about the SEC and all of its teams, but just needed you all to know where I stand with my fandom before getting into it. Now, in alphabetical order, let’s get into the best conference in college football.
University of Alabama
Down in Tuscaloosa Alabama football is a religion. Tua Tagovailoa is gone and I’d like to say that things at Alabama will return to normal. The hype is most definitely going to be there, but the high powered passing game with big plays to abnormally fast wide receivers and a lefty quarterback that has the accuracy of a god are gone. They are going to pound the ball rushing, while still killing teams with speed. Their defense seems to be healthy and is going to be wildly scary once again. Nick Saban is still at the helm and the SEC West should be absolutely terrified.
Alabama’s schedule didn’t change all too much from the original schedule with non-conference opponents. They still have Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Auburn in the gauntlet of the SEC West, but seem to be in better position than those other teams. They know their starting quarterback, Mac Jones, will be good enough to manage the offense, and they know their defense will be strong enough to win games. The Crimson Tide doesn’t have back to back terrifying games on the schedule, and even if they do lose to Georgia they could still end up in Atlanta competing for the SEC title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
I’m guessing that Alabama won’t lose a game this season because last year was sort of a fluke with all the injuries that they suffered and the weird Iron Bowl loss where two pick sixes won Auburn the game. Saban won’t let them do that again, I fully expect Alabama to be competing for a national title once again this year.
University of Arkansas
The Razorbacks were the worst last year. Now, they have a new head coach that wasn’t a flashy hire like some other SEC West teams, they have a new transfer quarterback in Feleipe Franks and they have the worst schedule in the SEC. Arkansas truly may only win one game this season.
Sam Pittman is their new head coach as he came over from Georgia’s coaching staff, but he was an offensive line coach. I haven’t heard of an offensive line coach turned head coach and turning a program around. They most definitely got screwed on the SEC only schedule as they received Florida and Georgia as their East opponents and now their only two games that they may win are Ole Miss and Missouri.
I don’t expect much from this Arkansas team even with Franks as their new quarterback. He was mediocre at Florida that happened to win some games on miraculous Hail Mary’s, but couldn’t hit the bright side of a barn door on screen plays sometimes. This Arkansas team was horrendous last year and have potential to do the exact same thing this year.
Auburn is always one of those teams you don’t expect to compete one season and they end up in the playoff or national title conversation. Being in the SEC West and having an all SEC schedule, things are tough for the little brothers in the state of Alabama. Gus Malzahn appears to always be on the hot seat and then beats Alabama in the Iron Bowl to save his job for another two years. Luckily for him, he did that last season, and with the covid season on the way, he should be safe once again this year.
Auburns schedule didn’t get much harder this year because they always play Alabama, Georgia and LSU. They added some SEC East opponents and will play Tennessee for the first time in what seems like a century, but all in all, the schedule and the expectations remain the same. They’ll win some big games in some freakish ways and ultimately will be heartbroken in other big games because Cam Newton hasn’t been their in over a decade. I don’t expect too much change in results because I simply think Malzahn and Bo Nix aren’t good enough to win the SEC West in a season where there is only SEC play. Auburn will be good, but not good enough.
University of Florida
Florida is one of the teams to watch this season. Dan Mullen is in his third year of being head coach, and with the revised schedule the Gators only have two or three tough matchups. Texas A&M will be their first test, and by then we will see how good LSU actually is without Joe Burrow or Joe Brady calling the shots for the offense. Georgia is obviously the biggest matchup for the Gators because the winner of that game will probably represent the East in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game.
Mullen was a great coach at Mississippi State and turned that program into something that no one could have ever imagined. He couldn’t win the tough games that would turn his team into a national title contender, rather than a very good 9-11 win team. This season will prove if he can turn the team from an 11 win team that will play in a New Years Six bowl, or will be in the playoffs and play for what really matters.
Last year quarterback Kyle Trask was thrown into the fire having only played like two games in high school and none as a Gator when Feleipe Franks went down for the season. He played well and the team won a lot of games, but they didn’t win the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia and that is the only one that will truly matter this season. If the Gators pull that one out, we could see them actually competing for the first time since Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer were in the Swamp in what seems like decades ago.
University of Georgia
Georgia has done everything you would want your program to do over the last few years. They recruit in the top five every year, they win a ton of games, they’ve won the SEC, they’ve been to the playoff, they’ve been to the national title and they lost the national title in overtime. Being a Georgia fan has got to be exhilarating until you hit the high pressured games like the SEC Championship and playoffs.
Kirby Smart has turned a good program into a great one, but the question for Smart is sort of the same question as for Mullen, can you win the big ones? Georgia’s quarterback situation this offseason has been confusing, but we know that their defense will be great again. The offense is always what let’s Georgia down later in the season because Smart is a defensive head coach. If they can figure out their offense throughout the season, they finally will win a national title, but if they can’t, well you know how that went back in 2018.
Georgia can lose to Alabama and still make it to the SEC Championship Game, but they’ll have to beat Florida, too. Georgia is a contender, but I’m not sure which way they will lean this year. They could keel over and die, or finally rise above the doubters and hold the weird trophy up at the end of the season (bring back the crystal ball trophy for the love of god).
University of Kentucky
Kentucky is not a team you think of when you think of SEC football. They’re a basketball program through and through. This year is when people start to mention Kentucky as a tier two-ish school in the SEC for football. They’re going to be a good team, but their schedule does not offer them much wiggle room. They have Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and Florida on the schedule. Those are four extremely difficult teams to play in any given year, let alone a single season. They will win two of those games.
This Saturday, when Kentucky takes the field against Auburn they will win that game. I never have faith in Auburn, but I think this Kentucky team will surprise a lot of people and we’ll start talking about them in a couple of seasons to compete with Georgia and Florida in the East. They won’t win the East this year because they’ll lose to either Georgia or Florida or both, and definitely won’t be defeating Alabama. They will be a fun team to watch on Saturday’s this year, but they won’t be truly competing just yet. The Wildcats are a sleeper team that may get slept on a bit too much this year.
Louisiana State University
LSU came out and beat every top 10 team last year, had one of the most explosive offenses college football has ever seen and capped it off with a top three season ever in the national title. They were insane, they were fun to watch and they came out of no where. That was the best part. Now, Coach O has to figure out how to pick up the pieces that left in Joe Burrow and Joe Brady. The Tigers lost a ton of talent and performance to the NFL in the offseason and it will be interesting to see how the offense will perform without Joe Brady calling the plays.
They will be starting Myles Brennan at quarterback who was competing for MVP of the Elite 11 camp where Tua Tagovailoa won it. Brennan is unproven having sat behind Burrow for the last two seasons, and without star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson or Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the offense there are a lot of question marks. A lot of the defense was taken away in April due to the draft as well.
Coach O is an incredible recruiter and hype man as a coach, but the x’s and o’s last year seemed to be coming from Brady and it worked out wonderfully. Being in the SEC West they have the most competition to get to Atlanta, and with everyone being unproven there’s no telling how this team will react. They have all the talent in the world, but can they put it together and go on another run for the national title? I doubt it.
Mississippi State University
The Dawgs have a new look headed into the 2020 season. Mike Leach is here and he’s going to throw the football. A lot. State has never thrown the football, and when they did, it wasn’t the prettiest site. They have a new identity in Starkville and fans are going to be confused as all hell when the ball is flying around all over the place rather than a six-foot-five white quarterback running the ball for 20 times a game.
This offseason for Mississippi State and the whole state in general was whirlwind. Star running back, Kylin Hill, tweeted one afternoon and changed the direction of the state.
The new state flag will be voted on in November. The conversation of changing the flag had already started when the NCAA said there won’t be postseason or tournaments played at Mississippi schools until the flag was changed, but Hill expedited that process. Needless to say, it should’ve been changed a long time ago, but Hill was at the forefront of that conversation all summer long.
Now, for football talk. Transfer quarterback K.J. Costello will lead the Air Raid offense with Mike Leach calling plays. Kylin Hill is still going to be an integral part of the offense, even though he won’t be running the ball just as much. We’ll find out pretty quick how well the Air Raid will do in the SEC and specifically the SEC West.
State will always have a tough schedule, but they tacked on Georgia this year, so don’t expect a stellar season down in Starkville. The season will be exciting just because Leach will be giving wacky press conferences talking about mascots or toilets or something. Tune into CBS for the SEC game of the week against LSU on Saturday, I have a good feeling about it.
University of Mississippi
Ole Miss went out and got a splash hire of a head coach, much like Mississippi State later did with Mike Leach. Lane Kiffin will be at the helm of the program for a while in Oxford. They weren’t very good last year, but have been in trouble with scholarships and postseason bans because of the hooker situation with Hugh Freeze. Things might start to go back to the 2014-2015 teams where they were beating Alabama and looking like a national title contender.
Kiffin is an offensive mastermind and the Rebels will probably be scoring a lot of points in the coming years, but don’t expect that high powered offense to do much this season. Obviously, with the all SEC schedule and adding Florida to the schedule, defenses are going to be wildly tough to beat.
Things are going to change for Ole Miss, but don’t expect it all to happen this year. The best part about the season is that we will all get an Egg Bowl matchup with Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach leading the two teams into the most hated rivalry in college football. (Yes, I know about Michigan/Ohio State, Alabama/Auburn and Texas/Oklahoma, I meant what I said. Ole Miss and Mississippi State HATE each other.)
University of Missouri
Let’s get this out of the way, I forget that Mizzou is in the SEC every single year. They’ve made the SEC Championship since they’ve joined, too. And I’ll be completely honest, as an SEC fan, I truly have no idea what to expect from this Missouri football team in 2020. I don’t think they will be good, and having to play Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia in the same season does not bode well for the Tigers.
Pair those teams with could be pretty good teams Tennessee and Kentucky and you can go ahead and kiss this season goodbye. They could bring back Drew Lock for another year and I don’t think anything changes with this season. Tigers fans, it’s OK to have a bad team and still enjoy SEC football.
University of South Carolina
South Carolina is not a great team and Will Muschamp is on the hot seat. If they win four games this year, it will be considered a good season and you can bet your ass Muschamp will be back at the helm of the Gamecocks next year. They haven’t been very good since the old ball coach Spurrier left, but they weren’t necessarily great with him either. In the SEC East you have to compete with Georgia and Florida every year, and now Tennessee looks to be a year way from being a year away. The East is starting to get much better, but it doesn’t appear that South Carolina is.
Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia are on the schedule, so if your a fan of the Gamecocks, buckle up, it isn’t going to be wildly fun. The good news is, if the team is incredibly bad, Muschamp will probably be fired and you can talk yourself into a new coach that probably won’t turn the program around either, but at least there can be hope for an offseason!
University of Tennessee
Feels like ’98 doesn’t it Vols fans? Well it isn’t ’98 and the Volunteers still won’t win a national title this year, and that’s OK. Jeremy Pruitt has this program on the right path for the first time in a long time, and is recruiting at a high level. The problem with that is that Tennessee has always recruited well, they haven’t been coached well. Maybe Pruitt is the guy that helps turn the ship around, and maybe he isn’t, I still don’t know.
The one thing I do know is that the Tennessee fan base on Twitter is unrelenting and they believe in their team more than any other team in the SEC East. Every fan base of a college football program is unbearable, but for some reason Tennessee stands above the rest online. Nevertheless, they seem to be on the right track, but this is still not the year.
They’ll always have Alabama and Florida on the schedule, and they will always be tough matchups for the Vols. This season they get Georgia and Auburn, too which will not be fun, but the Vols could surprise a lot of people, including myself, and turn a corner to win some big games. They look like a better team, but they will still not be a great team in 2020.
Texas A&M University
The Aggies’ original schedule had them poised to compete for the SEC West, and while they still might be able to do that, I’m not as sure anymore. They’ve added Florida to the list of schools they have to play, but that game happens to come off the Alabama game. Those are two rough games to play back to back and especially in weeks two and three where teams are still trying to find a rhythm.
Jimbo Fisher signed a deal with A&M for what seems like a billion dollars to turn this program from a pretender to a contender. He hasn’t done that just yet, and it seems like this year will be no different. Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel beating Alabama was a long time ago now, so will Fisher and company be able to do that this year? I won’t be able to tell until they match up October 3.
Kellen Mond is one of the very few quarterbacks that are returning as starters in the entire SEC, so it will be up to him whether he takes it to another level and wins big games this year. They played Clemson very well last year, but that doesn’t mean anything when the team loses a bunch of games they could very much win.
The Aggies will definitely be good this year, but will they be great? Only time will tell for the kids in College Station.
We can go ahead and get this out of the way, Vandy will not be good this year, nor will they be probably ever. Vandy is a baseball school and they have a decent basketball program, but it is not a typical SEC football school. They are based in Nashville which is the exact opposite of an SEC small town, they have one good NFL product off the top of my head in Jay Cutler and they have to play in the SEC every year as a plus academic institution. The two don’t mix well if you want to have a great SEC program.
Vandy has Texas A&M, LSU, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia on the schedule, as well as both Mississippi schools which those games could go either way, but their schedule does not favor the Commodores in any way. Vandy and Arkansas will be at the bottom of the SEC in some order, so don’t expect anything crazy coming out of Nashville this year.
Every team has been covered in some capacity, but the best part is we are only a couple of days away from real college football being on our TVs every week and my eyes being glued to it for hours on end. This season is going to be very strange, and will be different than any other, but at least, for now, we will have an almost full slate of college football Saturday.