Year in and year out, the SEC is among the top conferences in college football. For the last eight years there has been at least one SEC team represented in the National Championship Game, and the winner of seven of those games came from this conference. This upcoming year will be no different when it comes to the power that comes from the SEC, as five of the teams find themselves in the top ten for the conversation for having the best odds to win the 2015 College Football Championship. Here is a preview of the SEC and what we expect to see this upcoming season.
Alabama has won three of the last five National Championships and, if it wasn’t for a miracle win from Auburn last season, they might’ve added another. ‘Bama starts the season with 13/2 odds, which is second best in all the land. The biggest thing that they’ll have to worry about is replacing AJ McCarron, who is now playing on Sundays. They are excited to get Jacob Coker, who is a quarterback transfer from Florida State. To make things easier on Coker, the Crimson tide also will get TJ Yeldon back, who has been one of the most reliable running backs in all of college football. Alabama is currently ranked #2 in the Preseason AP Top 25 and they are projected to finish first in the SEC West.
The team that shocked the college landscape last season was the Auburn Tigers. After having a pathetic campaign two years ago, the Tigers came roaring back last season and played in the National Championship Game. The Tigers return this season as the #5 team in the preseason polls. The Tigers have Nick Marshal returning and many have him as a potential Heisman candidate. Marshal threw for 1,976 yards last season, and also rushed for 1,068. His dual threat attack will benefit the Tigers as they try and win the SEC West for a second season in a row. The Tigers currently sit at 17/2, which is only behind Florida State, Alabama, and Oregon.
Ole Miss starts the season being ranked #18 in preseason polls. Bo Wallace is the most experienced quarterback in the conference and he’s racked up a multitude of big wins over other teams in the SEC. Despite losing Donte Moncrief to the NFL Draft, Wallace will have Laquon Treadwell to pass to, and the sophomore receiver has already shown that he can fill the shoes of his predecessor. The biggest concern for Ole Miss may be on the defensive side of things, but they’ve added transfers Fadol Brown and Anthony Alford to bolster their secondary. Ole Miss currently is listed at 45/1 odds to win the National Championship next year.
The LSU Tigers are routinely atop the SEC West and always seem to be in the National Title conversation as well. However, they had a bit of a down year last season and 2014 might be a bit of a rebuilding process as well. The team is currently listed as the #19 team in the nation and they have 25/1 odds to win the championship. However, they’ve lost four major players on offense – Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry – to the NFL. We still aren’t sure who will be taking snaps when the Tigers open their season, as sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris are competing for the spot. The biggest hope that the Tigers have is freshman running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette was the top high school recruit last season and he’ll be looking to run his way through the SEC to keep LSU in the conversation in the West.
Mississippi State may not be getting much preseason love, but they hope that Dak Prescott can surprise a few defenses on Saturday’s this fall. Prescott is the SEC’s active leader in rushing touchdowns from a quarterback and he also put up 1,657 yards through the air. On the defensive side of things, the Bulldogs will return eight defensive players from last season. This core was able to account for 4 sacks during the Liberty Bowl and that experience will help them moving forward this season.
The days of Johnny Football are over at Texas A&M, so they’ll be in a bit of a rebuilding process as well. Kenny Hill is a sophomore and Kyle Allen is a freshman, and both are competing for the starting nod when the season starts. The Aggies will also miss Mike Evans, but they get Ricky Seals-Jones as a reliable target. The Aggies defense is also going to be rebuilding this season, as Isaiah Golden and Darian Claiborne were dismissed from the team this summer. Texas A&M finds themselves at 100/1 odds as a long shot to win the National Championship this year, but that might be the same thing they said before Johnny Football came to town as well.
The team that is expected to finish last in the SEC West is the Arkansas Razorbacks. Despite completing just 49% of his passes last season, which was worst in the SEC, it looks like Brandon Allen will get another go as the starter this season. A bright spot for the Razorbacks may be the fact that Alex Collins led all freshman with 1,026 rushing yards, becoming the first Razorback to surpass 1,000 yards since Darren McFadden.
Many may argue that the SEC West is going to be the tougher of the two divisions this year, but you can bet that it’s going to be a dogfight to see who wins the SEC East. The Georgia Bulldogs start the season as the team with the highest ranking, as they sit at #8 in the preseason polls and 13/1 odds to win the National Championship. Quarterback Hutson Mason was thrown into the first last year and his first two starts were against Clemson and South Carolina. While he faired well in both contests, he’ll have much more experience heading into this season. The superstar for this team is likely going to be Todd Gurley, who finds himself as an early season Heisman candidate. The problem that Georgia hopes to address form last year is their defense. They gave up a program record for most points given up and also allowed opponents to average 375.5 yards per game. Their defense is young, but they have prospects in Ramik Wilson and Jordan Jenkins who will hope to carry their load on the defensive side of the ball.
Right behind Georgia in the polls is the South Carolina Gamecocks at #9. Mike Davis hopes to follow up his 1,183 yards of rushing last season, which happened to be fourth most in school history. Under center is Dylan Thompson, who is listed as the starting quarterback for the first time now that Connor Shaw is gone. The Gamecocks also had trouble on defense last year, giving up the second most points per game in the conference at 20.3. However, South Carolina still has 25/1 odds to win the National Championship this year. You can check back with sportspicks.com for more insight into the Gamecocks season, as well as the rest of the SEC once the regular season kicks off on August 27th.
Fans in Gainesville are hoping that last year becomes a distant memory as the Florida Gators get things going in 2014. The Gators won just three games in conference play and finished the season with a 4-8 record. In order to help Jeff Driskle, who is now entering this third year as the starter, Florida brought in former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to bolster their offense. The Gators also have the benefit of having many of their starters return from last season. While many may think that if it’s the same cast of characters it’s hard to expect a different result from their down year last season, the added experience could be what they need to have a much better campaign. Florida currently sits at 40/1 odds to win the National Championship in 2015.
Missouri was a huge surprise last season, winning the SEC East with a 12-2 record that included going 7-1 in conference play. Unfortunately for Tigers’ fans, they’ve lost a few key players that were instrumental in their success. The most noticeable loss is likely Dorial Green-Beckham, the former five-star recruit who is now at Oklahoma. Quarterback Maty Mauk will have to find another star receiver to pass to if he wants to help the Tigers repeat as SEC East Champs. The Tigers start the season just outside the Top 25 and at 110/1 odds to win the National Championship.
The Tennessee Volunteers have struggled the last few years, and Vegas doesn’t expect things to get much easier for them this upcoming season as they sit at 200/1 odds to win the National Championship. The Vols will have five new players on their offensive line, but they still don’t know who they’ll be protecting. The early favorite may have been Justin Worley, but now Riley Ferguson is coming in as a young challenger with potential. In order to take the load off of whoever is under center, Tennessee will hope to follow up their 2,261 total team rushing yards with another big year on the ground this season.
Fans in Lexington probably get excited about football season, but it’s unlikely that the Kentucky Wildcats will have nearly as much success in the fall like they do during March Madness. After finishing 98th in the country in passing yards last season, the Wildcats are looking at either sophomore Patrick Towles or freshman Drew Barker to take majority of the snaps under center in 2014. Luckily for whoever gets the nod, they’ll have a host of options to rely on behind them. Jojo Kemp and Braylon Heard are both former four-star recruits and they have a veteran offensive line protecting them. On defense, the Wildcats have eight returning starters and some exciting new talent as well. The Wildcats may not upset