Don't expect it to be business as usual down south this season
The polls are rolling out and the odds are being set. College football season is upon us.
All of the most prolific talking heads have had their say, and when it comes to the SEC, it sounds like a two-team conference in 2019.
Don't count on it.
There may be more parity in the SEC than we've seen in quite some time. Every team has serious question marks, and some are big enough to impact the national championship picture.
Taking that into account, it's time to make some OUTRAGEOUS* college football predictions for the SEC heading into the 2019 season.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the SEC in 2019
Vanderbilt goes bowling again
The Commodores have participated in the postseason in two of the last three years. They'll make it two bowl trips in a row in 2019. Ke'Shawn Vaughn — one of the most productive backs in college football — will be relied on heavily as Vanderbilt navigates a favorable schedule with at least seven winnable games on it. They only need six, and Derek Mason's bunch will be up to the task.
Auburn misses bowl season
The Tigers are going to field a solid defense. The problem will be scoring points. A host of new skill position players will line up behind an offensive line unit that has been nothing short of average during their time together. This is not the old SEC. There are some high-octane offenses in the conference, and Auburn will not be one of them. The end result will be at least seven losses against a loaded schedule.
Alabama loses three games in the regular season
Do not discount the beatdown the Crimson Tide took in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That performance gave the blueprint for stopping Alabama. Granted, not every team Nick Saban and Co. face in 2019 will have the talent that the '18 Clemson squad had, but a couple will be close. Road trips to South Carolina, Texas A&M and Mississippi State won't be easy, and a home game against a loaded LSU team will tell us a lot. Look for the Tide to take a step back this season.
Missouri win the SEC East
The Tigers bring back experience and top-level talent on both sides of the ball heading into 2019. Quarterback Drew Lock has moved on to the NFL, but he'll be replaced by Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant. He comes from a place where they know a thing or two about winning football games. With Bryant's experience under center and the playmakers around him, Missouri won't have any issues scoring points. That offense will be backed up by defense loaded with future NFL talent. Linebacker Cale Garrett has All-American potential and will be the face of the unit.
LSU runs the table
No team in the SEC has a better combination of returning talent and experience than the LSU Tigers. Quarterback Joe Burrow has had plenty of time to be baptized into the SEC and has proven to be up to the challenge. He'll operate behind what will probably end up being the best offensive line in the conference — if not the country.
On defense, the Tigers are long in the tooth and feature NFL-caliber talent at all three levels. If they beat Texas on Sept. 7, there's a chance they'll be favored in every game for the remainder of the season — including the one on Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa.
Look for the Tigers to win out and represent the SEC in 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. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.