This year has been a long, strange trip to say the least. There was a while when everything was up in the air, including the college football season. Some conferences threw in the towel on a fall football season.
The SEC was not one of those conferences.
Instead, the SEC remained devoted to having a season throughout the summer, and they'll play a ten-game conference-only slate.
That's right, the nation's notoriously toughest conference won't have any cupcakes to get right before big games this year. It's a Southern gauntlet, and it opens up a lot of outrageous possibilities. With that in mind, let's make some OUTRAGEOUS* predictions for the SEC for the 2020 college football season.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the SEC in 2020
Vanderbilt has a winning record
When the 2020 Athlon Sports college football preview magazine was released, Vanderbilt was projected to finish dead last in the SEC East with a 3-9 record. I'm not buying it. Head coach Derek Mason has gone out of his way to build a traditional SEC-caliber defense. That unit returns 11 players with starting experience. That's going to pair well with a new, up-tempo style on offense that will surprise a lot of teams. Looking at Vanderbilt's 10-game schedule, I see a path to six — and possibly seven — wins.
Florida loses four games
The Gators are the sexy pick to win the SEC East and — by some — to win the conference. The problem is, they play their toughest competition on the road or at neutral sites. Another hurdle will be a very green defense, which is going to put extra pressure on quarterback Kyle Trask to produce on every series. I believe Florida is the most over-hyped team in the conference heading into the 2020 season, and in the discussion for the same title in the nation.
Alabama loses three games
The tide is turning (pun intended), and the SEC West is catching up to Alabama from both a coaching and recruiting standpoint. Trips to Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, and the annual tilt with Auburn are going to test a team that once again saw a mass exodus of talent to the NFL. All dynasties come to an end, and it feels like the Nick Saban era of dominance in Tuscaloosa is coming to a close.
Tennessee has the highest-scoring offense in the SEC
The Volunteers return a lot of firepower and experience on the offensive side of the ball in 2020 — especially on the offensive line. Pair that up with a defense that could struggle, and you have the recipe for a lot of shootouts, which will allow (and demand) Tennessee to score plenty of points in every game.
LSU repeats as SEC Champions
The Tigers lost a ton of talent off of their national championship team from last season, even with the recent departure of Ja'Marr Chase. Ed Orgeron has recruited very well and built a winning, upbeat culture. He also brought in Bo Pelini to run the defense, an under-the-radar move that could pay huge dividends. Pelini owns two national championship rings as a defensive coordinator, and his schemes are historically most effective against the sort of wipe-open, pass-happy football we are seeing in all of college football, including the SEC. LSU is going to be a lot of fun to watch again in 2020.
*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.