Why I’m picking Georgia to beat Alabama for the SEC football championship

The Florida Gators will have a fine season, but not fine enough to top the Bulldogs.
Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) runs against Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses (32) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) runs against Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses (32) during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Published July 18

As SEC media days wrap up today at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – Wynfrey Hotel, here are my sure-to-be-wrong projections for how I see the SEC shaking out this season.

As always, I’ll revisit my predictions in January. They can’t be much worse than last year, right?

SEC West

1. Alabama

Shocking, I know, but when you have one of the two best quarterbacks in the country (Tua Tagovailoa), the best receiver in the country (Jerry Jeudy), one of the best linebackers in the country (Dylan Moses) and the best coach ever, well, I’m not picking against them.

[ MORE SEC MEDIA DAYS COVERAGE: Did Alabama football stray too far from Nick Saban’s Process? ]

2. LSU

Coach Ed Orgeron says this is the best secondary he has ever had, and do-it-all defender Grant Delpit is this year’s Derwin James. I wasn’t sold on Coach O last year, but I’m coming around to him. I think his Tigers finish in the top six.

3. Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher could have the No. 4 team in the country but still finish 9-3 with that schedule. I think he does one worse and goes 8-4.

4. Auburn

I probably have too much faith in Gus Malzahn’s offensive acumen. Oh well. I think Malzahn win a game he shouldn’t to keep sticking around.

5. Mississippi State

The coaching transition from Dan Mullen to Joe Moorhead ended up spoiling what could have been a special year in Starkville. This will be a return to mediocrity for the Bulldogs.

6. Arkansas

Prediction: I think Chad Morris gets things turned around in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won’t be great or anything, but they’ll make enough strides this year to stay ahead of…

7. Ole Miss

A young, inexperienced roster scares me. So does a staff with a head coach I’m not sold on (Matt Luke) and two coordinators who have both had success as head coaches (Mike MacIntyre and Rich Rodriguez).

SEC East

1. Georgia

This isn’t a hot (or even lukewarm) take, but the national champion will be either ’Bama, Clemson or the Bulldogs.

[ MORE SEC MEDIA DAYS COVERAGE: Georgia’s Jake Fromm ready to do more for national title contenders ]

2. Florida

If the Gators were going to get Kirby Smart, I think last year was the time to do it. The gap between UF and UGA is growing, and I don’t think Mullen’s Xs and Os alone can close it.

[ RELATED: Greg McElroy on Florida Gator Feleipe Franks: ‘Sky’s the limit’ ]

3. Missouri

Barely ahead of…

4. South Carolina

Purely a schedule pick, because I think South Carolina is the better team. The Tigers get Ole Miss and Arkansas from the West. The Gamecocks get ’Bama and A&M, plus they have to play at Mizzou, which is a tiebreaker here.

5. Kentucky

Mark Stoops’ Wildcats won’t be as good as they were last year, but they won’t fall back to 6-6, either. And if Stoops does OK and Florida State struggles, don’t be surprised if you hear his name come up as a potential replacement for Willie Taggart (which I still don’t see happening this year).

6. Tennessee

Coach Jeremy Pruitt’s preamble at media days scared me off the Vols, even though some advanced metrics like them. When a coach keeps bringing up his vision and the future spots he’ll available at receiver or pass rusher, that tells me his present isn’t in good shape.

7. Vanderbilt

I don’t think the Commodores make it to a bowl game in an improving East.

SEC Championship: Georgia over ’Bama

The Bulldogs have three consecutive top-three recruiting classes, so I don’t think the talent gap between the two is very big. Both have experienced, excellent quarterbacks, although UGA’s green receiving corps is a legitimate cause for concern. So why Georgia? I don’t have a schematic reason, or even a particularly logical one. I just think the Bulldogs are due. They’ve played ’Bama extremely close the last two seasons, and things eventually level out. I think that comes this year, when Georgia gets the right bounce at the right time to eke out a close win. The loss will be Nick Saban’s first against one of his former assistants, but it won’t keep the Tide out of the College Football Playoff.

[ MORE SEC MEDIA DAYS COVERAGE: Dan Mullen is not worried about Florida Gators’ attrition ]

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