When the College Football Playoff was introduced many people said it would eliminate two teams from the same conference playing for the National Championship. Fast-forward to 2017. It was the first year two teams from the same conference made the CFP, and those two teams ended up meeting in the National Championship. So much for eliminating single conference domination, right?
An SEC team has played in 11 of the past 12 National Championship Games. The dominance has shown for years across the board, and this year looks to be no different in the SEC. Alabama and Georgia enter 2018 as favorites in their respective divisions, but a handful of teams in South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, and Mississippi State have the tools to dethrone the reigning SEC and National Champions.
The drama and intensity of the SEC will be high as always, and one can definitely look forward to every Saturday’s games in the South this fall.
Georgia did many surprising things last year as they dominated the East for the most part. Coaching changes at historical division powerhouses Tennessee and Florida bring optimism to Knoxville and Gainesville, but a gauntlet schedule for both will be a true test to each squad. South Carolina and Missouri roll into 2018 looking to feed off of last year’s successes with veteran cores, while Kentucky and Vanderbilt will most likely end up struggling throughout the season. Georgia has the best chance to reach Atlanta from the East, but South Carolina, Florida, and Missouri have the best outside chances of dethroning the Dawgs.
Predicted Order to Finish:
- Georgia (12-0, 8-0): If the Dawgs can find solid replacements at key positions on defense they could be looking at back-to-back SEC East titles.
- South Carolina (10-2, 7-1): The Gamecocks will rely on offensive weapons to make a push towards Atlanta.
- Florida (8-4, 5-3): Can Dan Mullen bring the Gators back to SEC prominence in his first season as head coach in Gainesville?
- Missouri (8-4, 4-4): Will Missouri feed off of last year’s late season successes and keep improving under Barry Odom?
- Tennessee (5-7, 2-6): New head coach Jeremy Pruitt gives the Vols a new outlook, but will it result in wins?
- Kentucky (4-8, 1-7): The Wildcats’ experience should keep them in games, but their lack of depth may hurt them in the end.
- Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8): A fifth straight losing season could potentially cost Derek Mason his job in Nashville.
Sleeper Team: South Carolina: Will Muschamp has done nothing but improve the Gamecocks in his first two years in Columbia. With veteran QB Jake Bentley, and speedy WR Deebo Samuel back from injury, USC looks to be an offensive juggernaut in the East. A Week 2 matchup against Georgia could potentially decide the division, but even a loss in this game shouldn’t derail the Gamecocks’ potential of reaching the SEC Championship Game and even a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Alabama didn’t even win the division last year and still won the National Championship. Even though the Tide only return three defensive starters, let’s not forget that Alabama doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The defending Western Division champ, Auburn, looks to defend its division crown with a talented QB in Jarrett Stidham and a monster defensive line. The middle and bottom of the West will be a bloodbath yet again as three of the other five teams have new head coaches and all five are rebuilding certain key parts of their teams. The least amount of rebuilding needed is at Mississippi State, where the Bulldogs should contend with Auburn and Alabama for a top spot, while LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss will have to fight for bowl berths.
Predicted Order to Finish:
- Alabama (12-0, 8-0): As long as Nick Saban is the head coach, the Tide will keep rolling.
- Auburn (9-3, 6-2): A strong defense and veteran QB leadership can propel the Tigers into another Western Division title.
- Mississippi State (9-3, 5-3): Can new head coach Joe Moorhead take a talented Bulldogs team to places Dan Mullen couldn’t?
- LSU (7-5, 4-4): Coach O will have to find stability on both sides of the ball in order to have LSU contending in the West.
- Texas A&M (6-6, 3-5): New head coach Jimbo Fisher has plenty of talent to work with, but can he handle the jump to the SEC?
- Arkansas (5-7, 2-6): Can new head coach Chad Morris’ offensive scheme help the Hogs dig themselves out of the West cellar?
- Ole Miss (5-7, 1-7): With a talented group of WRs to brag about, that may be all the Rebels can do in 2018.
Sleeper Team: Mississippi State: As mentioned above, Mississippi State has a new head coach (Joe Moorhead), but has the least amount of rebuilding to do. Moorhead inherits a solid offense that ran a familiar scheme under previous head coach Dan Mullen. QB Nick Fitzgerald will have little issue adapting to the new system, while a very deep and experienced defense will have all the tools in place to potentially upset both Auburn and Alabama. If done, the rest of the schedule is favorable for the Bulldogs to make a run at the SEC CHampionship Game for only the second time in school history.
SEC Championship Game Matchup: Georgia vs Alabama: In a rematch of last year’s National Championship Game, the Dawgs and the Tide could meet for the second time in the SEC Championship Game. Yes, this is the easy pick of who will play in this game, but as it stands now, both teams have the power and talent to make their way through their schedules and meet once again in Atlanta in December. As for a winner… this is a toss up. The last two times they have met in Atlanta, each game came down to the last play, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this year’s game did as well.