Conference Preview 2021: SEC
By George Somerville
In what feels like the night before Christmas I sit here in a London hotel trying to contain my excitement for a new season of SEC football.
The SEC is a beast of a conference which is as competitive as you will find, but in recent times has not thrown up so many shocks in terms of the final two teams who will slug it out in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, Georgia come December. But while I expect (spoiler alert) the Tide and the Dawgs to be back in the Mercedes Benz stadium for the SEC showpiece, that is not to say the season will be without its spectacle and drama. Far from it. And as I suspect my views are not in line with the common consensus – I expect some hearty feedback!
So as someone great once said…read on MacDuff…
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
After Alabama’s Championship win last year and the subsequent exodus to the NFL Draft – I understand why many are saying that this is the year when Texas A&M and Georgia can take advantage. But I look at the returning Defense and the consistency on the Offensive scheme, despite losing Offensive Co-ordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas and think that Alabama are still the team to beat in the SEC.
Of course Jimbo Fisher knows this and I touch upon the Aggies in the next section – so for me the SEC West comes down to that game in College Station on 9th October.
But lets focus on the Crimson Tide for a moment as I try to justify why I think the Tide come out on top again this season.
QB is going to be the fascinating position to watch this season. The highly rated Californian Bryce Young continues the Alabama conveyor belt of Quarterback talent. Can Young join the list of Hurts, Tagovailoa and Jones? Well as is normally the case at Alabama, we only saw Bryce Young in 4th quarter blowout games last season, meaning it’s very hard to tell how special this young man is. But new Offensive Co-ordinator, Bill O’Brien has been effusive in his praise of the Californian, meaning hopes and expectations are high.
At Wide Receiver, Canadian John Metchie III will lead the receiving corps and Bama fans will be excited to see Brian Robinson take over from Najee Harris at running back. Robinson has patiently waited his time behind Damain Harris and Najee Harris and last year showed flashes of what he can do.
The concern in Tuscaloosa will be how to fill the void left in the O-Line by three players who proved invaluable in last years Championship win. However in Evan Neal, I believe that Alabama has the best tackle in College Football, which helps to ease the pain. The biggest problem here is whether Neal and Chris Owens can shake off niggling injuries to allow them to start against Miami in week one.
It’s at Defense where I think things get exciting in Tuscaloosa. A secondary which was much maligned at the start of last season – with most, including me forgetting just how young and inexperienced a secondary it was – turned early performances around to become quite a formidable defensive line. The entire secondary returns in its totality with the exception of Patrick Surtain II, so its no surprise that expectations are high for this Bama defense.
I believe that this team go to College Station and win. For me this fixture is a winner take all. Should Jimbo Fisher and his Aggies take the spoils then they will go to Mercedes Benz to challenge for the SEC Championship game. But I think the Aggies fall short. The other fixture to watch out for is Ole Miss in Oxford. The Rebels have had an uncanny knack of upsetting Nick Saban in prior years and if Lane Kiffin can sort out his defense I would expect a tough night in Vaught Hemingway for the Tide.
Record prediction: 12-0
Wins: Miami, Mercer, Florida, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, MS State, Tennessee, LSU, NM State, Arkansas, Auburn
2. Texas A&M Aggies
As I let slip earlier, this could be the year for Jimbo. Maybe. Perhaps.
So let me start by saying that this is the best A&M side that Jimbo Fisher has ever collected in College Station. And in an interesting comparison Fisher won the National Championship in his fourth year at FSU. This is Fisher’s fourth season in Texas.
This last week, Fisher named youngster Haynes King as his starting QB, which set off an aftershock of excitement across AggieLand. Haynes comes with a sparkling High School Football CV so I understand this excitement. In the same way that it remains to be seen how Bryce Young copes with the Tuscaloosa pressure, we will see how the young King get on with the pressure of the 12th man. King’s job is made easier by the return of Isaiah Spiller who is rightly being touted as a first round draft pick, and Tight End Jalen Wydermyer who both boasted great production last season and will be expected to do so again this year.
The powers that be in College Station think that Jimbo is their man having just given him a ten year extension to his current deal. Why this confidence in their Head Coach? Well they can see that Fisher is building something year on year.
On defense, the Aggies have nine of their eleven 2020 starters returning and they are certainly of the belief that they have the best D-line in the country. During the 2020 season, the Aggies ended the regular season with the best defensive statistics in the country – in what was an all SEC schedule – making them firmly believe that they can be even better this year.
This season watch out for defensive linemen DeMarvin Leal and Micheal Clemons who bring a ton of experience into the defense and will lead from the front.
As I said up top, the Aggies season is dependent on that week 6 visit from Alabama. TAMU are at home for this so it will certainly be the must watch game of the week, if not the whole season. I also think the game against Ole Miss will be a humdinger. As I note below I reckon Lane Kiffin has his Rebels in a good place this year and this game will be the difference between finishing second and third in the West.
Record prediction: 11-1
Wins: Kent State, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, MS State, Missouri, South Carolina, Auburn, Ole Miss, Prairie View, LSU
3. Ole Miss Rebels
For me it’s the Rebels who have the greatest capacity to shock in the West this year. That’s not to say I predict an Ole Miss Championship appearance, but in this gun slinging, OK Corral (pun very much intended) offensive shootout that SEC football has become of recent, Lane Kiffin is the Harry Potter of his time. One of, if not the most exciting games we saw last year was when Kiffin’s Rebels took the Crimson Tide to the precipice of a midseason defeat – a game in which that Alabama Defense (which ended up winning a National Championship) shipped 48 points.
As I cleverly alluded to the Rebels return their Huckleberry this year in the form of Matt Corral. His go to guy, Elijah Moore is gone to the NFL but Mississippi still have weapons. I am particularly intrigued by John Rhys Plumlees’ switch from QB to receiver. This sounds like an exciting switch for me, especially now that Corral has cemented himself as QB1. But realistically Corral’s wide receiver targets will be Braylon Sanders and Dontario Drummond. At running back expect to see Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish fighting it out for carries.
Kiffin knows that the defense has to improve this year, his second season in Oxford. As much as the Rebels scored against Bama, they also conceded 63 points in that game. So defense is a priority. The Rebels are deeper in defense this year, but the question is can Kiffin and his Defensive Coaching staff mesh together a collection of transfers and recruits? Kiffin himself isn’t quite sure what he has on his hands and the season opener vs Louisville will tell us more in this roller coaster journey that Kiffin invites us on.
Ole Miss has nine starters returning on defense, however they also have 14 of 29 defensive players on their depth chart who have either switched positions or didn’t play for the Rebels last year. So this could easily be a Jekyll & Hyde season for the Landsharks. But saying this, I am all in on the Lane Train. Come to the Sip!
Record prediction: 10-2
Wins: Louisville, Austin Peay, Tulane, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Liberty, Vanderbilt, MS State
Losses: Alabama, Texas A&M
4. Arkansas Razorbacks
I am already on record as saying that Sam Pittman is doing an awesome job in Fayetteville. The Arkansas defense in his first year was dogged, tough and extremely hard working. Arkansas under Pittman suddenly became a very hard team to beat. And I say this sincerely given their 3-7 record in 2020. The question is, can he get production from his offense? Because that will be the key to bowl eligibility for the Razorbacks.
However as Sam Pittman said at SEC Media Days, their schedule is tough. It was last year, it is probably the toughest in FBS this coming year, and it is similarly tough in 2022.
For the Razorbacks offense to click into gear, they will need to find a way to get the ball quickly and regularly to wide receiver Traylon Burks. There is no question that Burks has improved year on year in Fayetteville and this should be his breakout season. Of course Burks’ season is literally in the hands of KJ Jefferson or Malik Hornsby, whichever QB wins out the QB1 battle. For now the job belongs to Jefferson but I wouldn’t be so surprised if Hornsby wins the war. And this to me is the determining factor in which direction the Razorbacks season goes. 8-4 could easily become 4-8.
So where do wins come for the Razorbacks this year? Well bizarrely the Razorbacks play teams from the state of Texas in three of their first four fixtures in this new season – Rice then Texas, and after a game against Georgia Southern, they face Texas A&M.
I believe the Texas game comes at the right time for Arkansas. Sarkisian will need time to build his team and I reckon an upset can be on the cards in game two. So going into the Texas A&M game, the Razorbacks could be 3-0. Although as you know by now I expect the Aggies to have a great season so Arkansas will fall to TAMU.
The schedule after that is Georgia, Ole Miss, Auburn, UAPB, Mississippi State, LSU, Alabama, and Missouri. For me UGA, Mississippi and Alabama are losses. But the rest are up for grabs. It’s hard to tell at this point how Mizzou will fare. I expect the Razorbacks to beat LSU – I don’t think this should be considered a shock – so wins against Auburn, Pine Bluff, State and Mizzou would get the Razorbacks to a bowl game.
Record prediction: 8-4
Wins: Rice, Texas, Georgia Southern, Auburn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri
Losses: Texas A&M, UGA, Ole Miss, Alabama
5. LSU Tigers
Much is being said about LSU Tigers for this season. A new offensive coaching staff has been brought in to replicate the 2019 Joe Brady Offense. Orgeron has also rid himself of the Pelini nightmare, and will go back to basics on the Defense. I expect Orgeron will be more hands on this year as he admits to stepping away from day to day operations last season – which clearly came at a cost.
The big question for me is how much did this team learn from what was a very humbling 2020 season – going from kings to paupers in a very short space of time.
LSU return a much higher number of players this year – not hard given the mass exodus to the Draft following the Natty win – but it’s the hunger that intrigues me. Are they still hurting from last year?
And I haven’t touched on the QB position. Like other SEC teams, the Tigers start a young QB. The injury to expected starter Myles Brennan was a blow but may end up being a blessing. Much like the Burrow situation, Max Johnson has captured the imagination of those in Baton Rouge – but as talented as this young man may be, expectations will be higher.
Johnson does have assistance in the skill positions. At Wide Receiver, the Tigers may be as talented as any in the nation. Kayshon Boutte will steal the headlines this year but the Bayou Bengals are also blessed with the services of Jaray Jenkins, Jontre Kirklin and Trey Palmer.
On Defense, all eyes will be on Derek Stingley Jr to see if he can recapture his freshman year form. As expectations are high for QB Max Johnson, they are sky high for Stingley Jr. Take for example ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit singling Stingley out as his top overall player in the country for 2021. This is the kind of chat we saw in his Freshman year. Stingley for Heisman!
But with a tough schedule not helped by facing what appears to be a resurgent UCLA in week one, I’m not so high on the Tigers this year as everyone else.
Record prediction: 7-5
Wins: UCLA, McNeese St, Central MI, MS State, Auburn, Kentucky, LA-Monroe
Losses: Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs
2020 was a learning curve for Mike Leach, which was carried out against a backdrop of an all conference schedule – the toughest possible debut for a Head Coach making his SEC bow. Given the state that he found the program in, the implementation of his air raid offense during a period where he could only zoom call with players and that tough introduction – Mike Leach could be forgiven for question his sanity at times last year.
So can Mississippi State improve upon a 4-7 2020 season?
Well, the Bulldogs schedule doesn’t get so much easier this season – it is ranked 6th hardest in FBS ball, but there are some winnable games in there which should help build confidence in the scheme, the players and the program. But regardless I have the Bulldogs with a 0.500 season which I think Leach would grab at this moment in time, especially factoring in the difficulty of schedule.
On the offense, QB Will Rogers gets another year under his belt and importantly another fall camp to learn the air raid system. And with returners at Wide receiver (Jalen Walley) and running back (Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson), State have some consistency and experience to build upon.
Record prediction: 6-6
Wins: LA-Tech, NC State, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Auburn, TN State,
Losses: LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama, Kentucky, Aransas, Mississippi
7. Auburn Tigers
I’m sorry Auburn Tiger fans, but I think that 2021 is going to be a rough ride for Bryan Harsin. I know many will disagree with this but the noises coming out of Jordan Hare are not full of the optimism and confidence you would normally associate with the arrival of a new Head Coach. This is despite the fact that Auburn actually are one of the few West teams who return their starting quarterback – Bo Nix.
To help Nix take a step forward, the offensive line returns all five starters, although somewhat worryingly there has been a lot of movement amongst these positions during fall scrimmages.
Derek Mason takes over from Kevin Steele as Defensive Co-ordinator and inherits a reasonable defensive unit. In particular the secondary can rightly stand up to any other backfield in FBS football let alone the SEC, with Smoke Monday and Roger McCreary providing much needed leadership. The defensive line is undersized, however Harsin brings a particularly aggressive defensive scheme with him from Boise, which will be fascinating to watch how quickly this can be implemented at Auburn.
This year’s schedule isn’t kind to the coach making his SEC debut. But the West schedule rarely gives breathing space. Just ask Gus Malzahn. Opening games against Akron and Alabama State give the Coach a 2-0 start. Then the Tigers travel to Happy Valley to play Penn State. This I believe sets the tone for the Tiger season. A victory here, on the road in the Big Ten provide some welcome relief to Harsin and starts to build momentum. However, Penn State are being tipped to have a resurgent season under James Franklin so to defeat Penn at home (in the WhiteOut) is quite an ask.
Georgia State follows which should be an easy victory before the Tigers travel to Tiger Stadium. As much as I believe that LSU struggles this season I am confident they dominate War Eagle in Baton Rouge. This is the start of an eight straight run of SEC games with Georgia, Arkansas (road), Ole Miss, Texas A&M (road), Mississippi State, South Carolina (road) and then the Iron Bowl in the last game of the season. I think it is very difficult for the Tigers to escape that run with a winning record. Tough schedule.
Record prediction: 4-8
Wins: Akron, Alabama State, Georgia State, South Carolina
Is the East more predictable than the West? Well, for me with perhaps the exception of Kentucky and maybe Mizzou, we kinda know that UGA will be in the SEC Championship game and that Vandy will be dead last. Oh wait, did I just spoil this?
1. Georgia Bulldogs
Who is going to knock the Bulldogs from the top of the East tree? No-buddy say I!
We talk on the College Chaps Podcast about coaching hot seats a lot. A LOT! And I don’t say that Kirby Smart is on a hot seat, because he isn’t. However expectations are high in Athens and the fanbase wants, needs, expects not only SEC East titles – these are almost a given (except they are not), but SEC titles – and also a National Championship from Smart. So pressure is building for Kirby.
As the season build up continues I have listened to a lot of college football commentators, with far superior knowledge than I, talk about the fact that Smart is operating successfully (i.e. winning) during the Saban era. Which is very true. If Nick Saban wasn’t here, we would easily be talking about the Kirby Smart era. But King Nick is here and isn’t going away anytime soon.
So Kirby Smart has to keep doing what he is doing and win. Often and well.
Does this happen in 2021? Yes it does.
UGA has exciting talent on both sides of the ball. JT Daniels at QB is centre of attention and rightly so. If there is a concern it is at wide receiver where they are excited to get back Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint after that horror injury last season, but have WR1 George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock out with injuries.
While the College football universe focuses on the week one matchup with the Clemson Tigers, you have to look beyond this blockbuster fixture to see how UGA will dominate the East. That’s not to say that I expect Clemson to win this game. Honestly for me it’s too close to call. But a loss for either side in week one allows them the rare luxury to put it behind them and build for the rest of the season.
On the O-line. guard Justin Shaffer returns for his fifth season to bring much needed experience to what is now quite a young group tasked with keeping JT Daniels upright at all times.
In defense, seniors Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt will lead a largely experienced lineup which will give Dawgs fans the confidence that their team can hold off not just Clemson, but also all the other teams on the schedule. However the concern for week one will be how the UGA secondary matches up against Clemson’s elite wide receivers. Derion Kendrick (a transfer from Clemson) is expected to slot in and replace one of six defensive backs who left for the NFL last year.
I reckon the Bulldawgs come out the gate snarling and catch the Tigers napping a little here. Which kick starts UGA’s run to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta come December.
Watch out for games against Florida (neutral venue in Jacksonville), Arkansas and Mizzou as tough games. By the time UG plays Tennessee close to the end of the season, I expect the Vols to be done and dusted. But let’s see.
Wins: Clemson, UAB, South Carolina, Vandy, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Florida, Mizzou, Tennessee, Charleston So, Georgia Tech
2. Florida Gators
Dan Mullen continues to build in Gainesville, but why do I feel less confident about the Gators this year? Well they lost quite the bevvy of talent to the NFL last year, including the trifecta on offense of Trask, Toney and Pitts. So I am struggling a bit to see how the Gators can stand up to the UGA Bulldogs this year.
There is huge hype over freshman QB Emory Jones and I am super excited to see how dynamic this young guy is. He has bided his time behind first Feliepe Franks and then Kyle Trask. Now it is Jones’ time. Jones is an athlete that Franks and Trask were not, but that is not to say that he cannot throw the ball – he has a strong arm – but it is his mobility that I am intrigued to see and how Dan Mullins develops him.
Similarly to UGA, Florida need to fill gaps in the secondary, and Rashad Torrance and Trey Dean will fill these spots in the first game against FAU. The back end is a worry for Gator fans, as it was their ultimate undoing last season – and stopped them from progressing further in 2020.
On defense I continue to believe that offensive co-ordinator Todd Grantham is not the right man to take the Gators to the next level, but I wait to be proven wrong on this.
For me the games against Kentucky – which will be a sneaky hard game, LSU, Alabama and UGA are season defining. The Gators welcome Alabama into the Swamp under the lights in a conference crossover which will certainly be the highlight game of that week. The Ol’ Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier believes the Gators can win that one. Me? Not so fast my friend.
Record : 10-2
Wins : Florida Atlantic, South Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vandy, LSU, South Carolina, Samford, Missouri, Florida State
Losses : Alabama, UGA
3. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats of Kentucky are on the prowl and sneaking up on their East compatriots. For me Mark Stoops is doing the job of a silent assassin. The benefit of working in a basketball-dominated school is that the football team is largely left to its own devices, until it starts winning. Which was the case at one point last year. People sat up and took notice of the job Head coach Stoops was doing down there in Lexington.
So there are expectations this year. To improve upon last seasons record of 5-6? Certainly.
Kentucky will start the season with a new Offensive Coordinator (Liam Coen) who brings a new offensive scheme and a new QB in Will Levis. Levis is a transfer from Penn State who won the starting job over Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood. Gatewood has since transferred out of the program to UCF. What is going to be fascinating to watch is how Coen works with Levis, bearing in mind that Coen came from the NFL with the Rams.
Kentucky has targets for Levis, and Stoops will be looking for the wide receiver group to step up a gear this year – experienced campaigners Josh Ali and Wan’dale Robinson (who transfers in from Nebraska) will be joined by Isaiah Eps and Chauncey Magwood.
On the defense, Senior Jordan Wright will be asked to lead and improve a pass rush that really did not dominate in games last year.
The schedule is kind to the Wildcats this season. Key games for me are Mizzou and South Carolina. Mizzou could come out the gates strong and I am just not sure how the Gamecocks will fare during the season. Victories in these games will still give Stoops a winning record. A lot rests on the shoulders of Will Levis. This year in Lexington it is going to be all about the QB
Record : 9-3
Wins : LA Monroe, Mizzou, Chattanooga, South Carolina, MS State, Tennessee, Vandy, NM State, Louisville
Losses : Florida, LSU , UGA
4. Missouri Tigers
Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz – “Coach Drink” – has been a revelation so far in Columbia; he might just be the college football equivalent of Ted Lasso..
So the question is can the Tigers improve upon last seasons 5-5 very acceptable debut record?
Well I say yes!
The schedule opens up well for the Tigers if they can overcome what will be a very good Boston College side, then the road is open to them for a winning season. The games to watch out for are South Carolina – again who knows how the Gamecocks start this season – and then Tennessee and Arkansas. These are all games which could turn and make this forecast look foolish.
At QB, Conor Bazelak is back in the saddle for another roller coaster ride. Under Bazelak, the Tigers went 5-3 in games that he started so he has proved that he can drive the team to a winning season, although Coach Drink has done a lot to temper enthusiasm thus far.
New defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks looks to build on what was already a solid defensive unit. Defensive end and First Team All SEC Trajan Jeffcoat is the star of that defense and the Tigers have added transfer talent Blaze Aldridge at Linebacker and Akayleb Evans and Allie Green IV to their secondary. All are considered an upgrade from the talent already on the roster. The true excitement building in Columbia is from the 2022 recruiting class – which has got folks in Missouri real excited – which means that defensively the 2021 class might not reach the truly exceptional stage just yet.
One thing I do know is that the Tigers are a fun team to watch and Coach Drink’s press conferences are even more fun than that!
Record : 7-5
Wins : Central Michigan, SEMO, Boston College, Vandy, Tennessee, North Texas, South Carolina,
Losses : Kentucky, Texas A&M, UGA, Florida, Arkansas
5. Tennessee Volunteers
I fear for the Vols this season, I really do. New Head Coach Josh Heupel does not inherit a noteworthy roster from the previous coaching staff and is likely to be further hampered by NCAA sanctions once the investigation into alleged wrongdoings under Jeremy Pruitt’s regime is concluded.
All this, and new QB Michigan transfer Joe Milton not exactly covering himself in glory in their first game against Bowling Green in the opening fixture for Tennessee football, has people casting nervous glances around Knoxville.
The positive? The Vols won their Thursday night opener 38-6.
The negative? Milton looked rusty and the Vols didn’t cover the spread. No biggie.
Next up? Pittsburgh – who will present an entirely different challenge than Bowling Green. For me the Vols won’t beat out Pitt. Next up the Vols face Tennessee Tech before going on a run of seven straight SEC games. Which I do not believe they survive – Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia. Sheesh!
The pivotal game in there is South Carolina, as I have the Gamecocks, Vols and Vandy all in a straight shoot out for the bottom perch.
Problem here is that Huepel was brought in specifically to address this offense. Tennessee fans like fast, exciting football and the Heupel offense (from the Art Briles coaching tree) is all about tempo. It is a fast paced spread offense, but it’s not quite what Vols fans saw against Bowling Green.
But like Rome, a dynamic attack is not built in a day, so Heupel requires some time – otherwise what really is the point?
Hopefully receivers Velus Jones Jr and Jalen Hyatt drink the Kool Aid quickly and start to produce for Huepel. That would take some pressure off Milton, who no doubt will be feeling some heat at this moment. Milton will certainly be feeling backups Harrison Bailey and Hendon Hooker breathing down his neck.
As Huepel knows, the issue with his roster is depth. His o-line is good in the starting line up but any injuries significantly impacts the quality on the field. On the defensive side, the secondary remains strong for the Vols, with Alontae Taylor, Warren Burrell, Kenneth George, Theo Jackson, Jaylen McCollough and Trevon Flowers all experienced enough for this season to expect a good return from the back end.
If this reads like it’s going to be an up and down season for the Vols, that’s probably because I think it is going to be an up and down season for the Vols.
Record : 4-8
Wins : Bowling Green, TN Tech, South Alabama, Vandy
Losses : Pitt, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
I am all aboard the Shane Beamer positivity train – Choo Choo – all aboard! I love Beamer’s energy, his honesty, his positive influence, his cheery demeanour. Does this mean that I think the Gamecocks will have a winning season? No Ma’am this does not.
Beamer has a job to do in Columbia and this is a tough gig. He knows the program well, he knows how high expectations are on him, his coaches and his team. But he has some fixin’ to do after Will Muschamp’s spell in charge of the Gamecocks.
Let’s start with the QB position. Beamer was not blessed with a great choice at QB, but named Luke Doty his starter. Then Doty got injured and now graduate assistant coach – yes, you read that correctly – Zeb Noland will set up at QB until Doty is recovered. This does not bode well for the opening fixtures – which thankfully are Eastern Illinois and East Carolina. But in the third week, Georgia plays the Gamecocks in Athens. That my friends is an entirely different ballgame. To be honest the schedule isn’t as tough as it could be for Beamer’s debut season as a SEC Head Coach.
Key games for me are Kentucky and Auburn – both at Williams Bryce. These are pivotal games for me and one win from either of these games will result in a 0.500 season. A position that I am certain Beamer would gladly accept in his first year.
Players to watch this season are linebacker Kingsley Enagbare who had six sacks in eight games last season (something which Beamer will look to build on), and running back Kevin Harris, who last season became the first Gamecock to lead the SEC in rushing yards.
Wins : Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, Troy, Tennessee, Vandy
Losses : Georgia, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Florida, Missouri, Auburn, Clemson
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Oh Vandy! Where to start with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Well they have a new Head Coach in Clark Lea who came across from Notre Dame where he was Offensive Coordinator. Therefore Lea’s first mission is to sort out a very leaky defense.
But you know, as much as Vandy has become the punching bag for the SEC, it wasn’t so long ago that Vanderbilt football experienced two back to back nine win seasons under then Head Coach James Franklin. So are they really so far behind the likes of South Carolina or Tennessee?
There are early signs that Vanderbilt may be turning things around. Certainly the School’s $300m investment into the archaic sports facilities will be a welcome sign to Clark Lea, as well as all the other Head Coaches of sports programs in and around Nashville.
As I said, Lea has to address the defense first. Last season this was a defense which allowed 296 passing yards per game, ranking them 113th in the NCAA. Depth in the roster is a huge issue for Vand,y which can only really be solved via recruiting. However from comments to the media, you get the real sense that Clark Lea is cleaning house and starting from scratch. In that respect 2021 might just be the write off expected. Anchors down for a rocky ride Commodores!
Record : 3-9
Wins : East TN, CO State, Connecticut
College football writer
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.