There will be a new king of the SEC West for the first time since 2013
The polls are coming out. The odds are set. The pundits and prognosticators have all had their say. There really isn't much more to do before the 2017 college football season kicks off, right?
Who am I kidding?
For better or worse, it's time once again for some OUTRAGEOUS* college football predictions heading into the 2017 slate.
Continuing on with our series of preseason outrageousness, it's time to take a look at the SEC. The conference had a nice run of being viewed by most as the strongest from top to bottom, but that hasn't been the case over the last couple of seasons. Alabama has made it pretty much a one-team race, but you can expect that to change in 2017.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the SEC in 2017
Tennessee finishes .500
The Volunteers need to win seven games to avoid this, and I am not sure they have it in them. Georgia Tech, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU are all teams that can beat Tennessee at home or on the road. That's five losses right there. I'm also betting that UT will lose a sixth to either South Carolina or in the regular season finale against Vanderbilt. A lack of experience at the skill positions is going to be a problem when it comes to putting points on the board against some elite defenses.
Missouri won't win an SEC game
The Tiger defense was awful in 2016 and I don't see it getting much better in ‘17. They won't be able to match the offensive physicality of any of their SEC opponents, which will put too much pressure on a young offense that may be a year away from being very special. On the bright side, I believe the Tigers can run the table against their non-conference foes.
Florida loses to Georgia, still wins the SEC East
Another year, another round of preseason hype for Georgia that will lead to a legion of disappointed Bulldog fans. Florida is going to be a lot of fun to watch on offense, as the Gators will hang a bunch of points while navigating a very manageable conference schedule. I expect them to lose to Georgia, but that will be the only black mark on their conference resume. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, will lose to Auburn and either South Carolina or Mississippi State in a couple of trap games. That second loss will send the Gators back to Atlanta to play for the SEC title.
Auburn wins the SEC West
I see a very talented Tigers team leaning on Kamryn Pettway and perhaps the most underrated offensive line in the SEC rolling through its conference schedule with only a loss at LSU before the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide will arrive at Auburn unbeaten. For the first time in a while, The Tigers will be the more talented team, and they'll ride that and the energy from the home crowd to a win over Alabama and subsequently the SEC West title.
Auburn goes to the College Football Playoff
This is a matter of matchups, and though the Gators are talented, they won't be quite as physical as Auburn on either side of the ball. A close game early on evolves into a rout on the back of the Tiger running game. Auburn emerges as a one-loss SEC champion, punching a ticket to the College Football Playoff.
*Remember, "outrageous" can be defined as “wildly exaggerated or improbable,” and “very bold, unusual, and startling.” These are "outrageous" predictions and should be treated as such.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.