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My SEC football predictions: 'Bama over Tennessee

SEC media days are winding down in Hoover, Ala.

Matt Baker | Tampa Bay Times

SEC media days are winding down in Hoover, Ala.



HOOVER, Ala. - The media's sure-to-be-wrong projected order of finish for the SEC will be announced later today. My colleagues don't have a very good batting average: They've been right only once in the last seven seasons (Alabama in 2014).

Because I'm here this year, I get to participate and add my folly to the predictions. I'm terrible at betting (just ask my friends about my poker skills), and if I were any good at predicting things, I'd be a millionaire in Vegas.

But in the interest of full disclosure, here's what I submitted last night:

SEC East
1. Tennessee. Yes, it seems as if every year is supposed to be the Volunteers' year...but this could be the Volunteers' year. Seriously. I'll have more on UT later this weekend, but the Vols return the most starters (18) in the league. They're one of the few teams with an established returning quarterback (Joshua Dobbs), and their recent recruiting classes have them poised for success. For real this time. Maybe.
2. Georgia. Barely over Florida, assuming star running back Nick Chubb returns as expected.
3. Florida. I think the Gators improve as a program in Jim McElwain's second season, even if the record doesn't show it. The offense takes a step forward, but the defense loses a lot and takes a slight step back.
4. Missouri. The Tigers' defense kept them in games last year and always seems to replenish standout ends.
5. Kentucky. If the Wildcats can't figure out how to finish out games, former FSU assistant Mark Stoops might not be in Lexington much longer.
6. Vanderbilt. Coach Derek Mason talked a good game here, but the talent disparity is still too much.
7. South Carolina. Former UF coach Will Muschamp doesn't have much to work with in his first season.

SEC West
1. Alabama. I went back and forth with LSU here but settled on ‘Bama. It's hard to pick against the Crimson Tide until the Tigers finally top Nick Saban. The winner of their Nov. 5 game at LSU should win the division and be one of the favorites to come to Tampa for the Jan. 9 national title game.
2. LSU. The Tigers' offense consisted mostly of freshmen and sophomores last year. Those talented players are all a year older and more seasoned. Also, Leonard Fournette is very good at football.
3. Auburn. The biggest disappointment last year, but I think it was a one-year blip for coach Gus Malzahn, one of the smartest minds in the game.
4. Texas A&M. Prediction sure to go wrong: Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight will be the best quarterback in the league.
5. Arkansas. Bret Bielema's Razorbacks keep making progress, but I don't know how they become contenders in the division.
6. Ole Miss. The Rebels have talent and a good quarterback (Chad Kelly), but the ongoing NCAA drama could cause the program to tumble.
7. Mississippi State. No team will miss a player as much as the Bulldogs will miss Dak Prescott.

SEC championship

Alabama over Tennessee. The Crimson Tide has had six consecutive recruiting classes ranked No. 1 in the country, so the talent is there. Expect ‘Bama to win in Atlanta and appear in the national title game at Raymond James Stadium.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2016 9:26am]


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