SEC Football 2015 Predictions

Athlon projects the SEC for 2015.

The SEC is in a two-year drought for national championships, but this league still holds the top spot among college football conferences. Nine SEC teams appear in Athlon’s top 25 projections for 2015, including all seven teams from the West Division. Georgia is the favorite in the East, while Alabama gets a slight edge over Auburn in the West. 

 

Here are five storylines to watch in the SEC for 2015, followed by a full preview and predictions for the upcoming year.

 

5 Key Questions That Will Shape the SEC in 2015

 

1. Alabama vs. Auburn

Once again, the stakes and intensity should be high when Alabama and Auburn meet in the annual Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide won an entertaining 55-44 matchup over the Tigers last season, and this season’s meeting could decide the West Division and a spot in college football’s playoff. Auburn must replace standout center Reese Dismukes and quarterback Nick Marshall, but the Tigers shouldn’t miss a beat on offense. New quarterback Jeremy Johnson should provide a seamless transition under center, and the supporting cast is among the best in the SEC. Defense is where Auburn has struggled in recent years, but coach Gus Malzahn addressed this unit by hiring Will Muschamp as coordinator. Alabama has its share of question marks with only two returning starters on offense and holes to fill at quarterback and receiver. However, Nick Saban has recruited an abundance of talent, and the Crimson Tide will have an elite defense if the secondary finds a few answers this fall. Until the quarterback and receiver situation stabilizes, Alabama can lean on its rushing attack and defense. With 11 games to find the right answers, the Crimson Tide's offense should be at full strength by the Iron Bowl.

 

2. New Faces at Quarterback

The SEC enters 2015 with a significant amount of uncertainty at quarterback. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott headlines the returning crop of signal-callers after earning first-team All-SEC honors last season. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson is should have a breakout year, and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen are two additional rising stars. But Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Ole Miss enter the fall with inexperience or uncertainty under center. Additionally, Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Arkansas’ Brandon Allen will be looking to take the next step in their development. It’s no secret quarterback play is a huge part of how the season will play out. Considering the overall uncertainty of this position, there’s an extra layer of intrigue surrounding the quarterbacks in 2015.

 

3. New Coordinator Impact

Only two SEC teams (Alabama and Ole Miss) did not have a change in the coordinator ranks this offseason. With coaching changes at some of the SEC’s title contenders, how quickly the new coordinators make an impact will have a key role in the division title picture. Can John Chavis (Texas A&M) and Will Muschamp (Auburn) provide a quick fix for struggling defenses? Will Brian Schottenheimer keep Georgia’s offense among the best in the SEC? Will Jon Hoke turn around South Carolina’s defense in just one offseason? Several of the new coordinator hires should have a huge impact in 2015 – which one could alter how the divisions are decided?

 

4. Tennessee on the Rise

Entering Butch Jones’ third season on Rocky Top, Tennessee is poised to take another step forward in the East Division in 2015. The Volunteers improved by two games from 2013 to 2014 and closed last year by winning four out of the last five contests. Jones continues to elevate the talent level in Knoxville, and Tennessee returns 17 starters from last season’s 7-6 team. With a full year from quarterback Joshua Dobbs, combined with better play from the offensive line, the Volunteers should easily improve off last season's scoring mark (28.9). Tennessee’s defense is also poised to take a step forward. End Derek Barnett is one of the nation’s best, and cornerback Cam Sutton should be in the mix for first-team All-SEC honors. This unit is where recruiting has paid big dividends for Jones, especially with freshmen Kahlil McKenzie (DT) and Kyle Phillips (DE) adding to a good core of linemen for 2015. 

 

5. Sleeper Teams to Watch

Looking for teams that could spoil the division title hopes of favorites Georgia and Alabama? It’s hard to call Missouri a sleeper since coach Gary Pinkel’s team has won the East in back-to-back years. However, the Tigers suffered heavy losses at receiver and defensive end and begin 2015 under the radar. Florida has talent, but new coach Jim McElwain has major issues to address up front with a thin offensive line and at quarterback. In the West, Arkansas was one of the hottest teams in the SEC at the end of 2014. The Razorbacks will be a tough out once again and could improve their win total by two games if quarterback Brandon Allen improves under new coordinator Dan Enos. But the biggest wild card team to watch in the West is LSU. The Tigers have recruited as well as any team, yet is just 9-7 in SEC play over the last two years. Both sides of the ball are under the microscope for coach Les Miles this season. The quarterback play must improve, and the defense lost coordinator John Chavis to Texas A&M. Also, we can't forget Mississippi State's effort to reload on both sides of the ball after a 10-win campaign in 2014, along with in-state rival Ole Miss. The Rebels boast one of the SEC's top defenses, but will coach Hugh Freeze find a quarterback?

 

SEC 2015 Team Previews
East Division
 
National
Rank:
26 10 55 27 37 22 79
West Division
 
National
Rank:
2 16 4 15 21 11 20

 

Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 SEC Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 14 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 
 

SEC Football 2015 Predictions

         
East Division        
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Georgia
(No. 10)
6-2 10-3
Read the full, in-depth preview of Georgia for 2015.
2 Tennessee
(No. 22)
5-3 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Tennessee for 2015.
3

Florida

(No. 26)

5-3 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Florida for 2015.
4

Missouri

(No. 27)

3-5 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of Missouri for 2015.  
5

South Carolina

(No. 37)

3-5 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of South Carolina for 2015.
6

Kentucky

(No. 55)

2-6 6-6
Read the full, in-depth preview of Kentucky for 2015.
7

Vanderbilt

(No. 79)

0-8 3-9
Read the full, in-depth preview of Vanderbilt for 2015.
         
West Division        
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1

Alabama

(No. 2)

7-1 12-1
Read the full, in-depth preview of Alabama for 2015.
2

Auburn

(No. 4)

6-2 10-2
Read the full, in-depth preview of Auburn for 2015.
3

Ole Miss

(No. 11)

5-3 9-3
Read the full, in-depth preview of Ole Miss for 2015.
4 LSU
(No. 15)
4-4 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of LSU for 2015.
5 Arkansas
(No. 16)
4-4 8-4
Read the full, in-depth preview of Arkansas for 2015.
6

Texas A&M
(No. 20)

3-5 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of Texas A&M for 2015.
7 Mississippi State
(No. 21)
3-5 7-5
Read the full, in-depth preview of Mississippi State for 2015.
         
SEC Championship
 Alabama over Georgia 

 

SEC 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions
  Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR @BradenGall @DavidFox615
Offensive POY Nick Chubb
RB, UGA
Nick Chubb
RB, UGA
Nick Chubb
RB, UGA
Dak Prescott
QB, MSU
Nick Chubb
RB, UGA
Defensive POY Derek Barnett
DE, Tennessee
Derek Barnett
DE, Tennessee
Vernon Hargreaves
CB, Florida
Robert Nkemdiche
DL, Ole Miss
Myles Garrett
DE, TAMU
Coach of the Year Butch Jones
Tennessee
Mark Richt
Georgia
Butch Jones
Tennessee
Hugh Freeze
Ole Miss
Gary Pinkel
Missouri
Coach on Hot Seat Derek Mason
Vanderbilt
Les Miles
LSU
Derek Mason
Vanderbilt
Derek Mason
Vanderbilt

Les Miles
LSU

Top Freshman Martez Ivey
OL, Florida
Kahlil McKenzie
DT, Tennessee
Kevin Tolliver II
CB, LSU
Kahlil McKenzie
DT, Tennessee
Will Grier
QB, Florida
Top Newcomer Marquavius Lewis
DL, SC
Jovon Robinson
RB, Auburn
Jovon Robinson
RB, Auburn
Marquavius Lewis
DL, SC
Alvin Kamara
RB, Tennessee
Sleeper Team Texas A&M Texas A&M Kentucky Ole Miss Texas A&M
Top Coordinator Hire Will Muschamp
DC, Auburn
Will Muschamp
DC, Auburn

John Chavis
DC, TAMU

Will Muschamp
DC, Auburn
John Chavis
DC, TAMU
Key Position to Watch Alabama DB Alabama DB Alabama QB LSU QB Missouri DL
Hardest to Evaluate LSU Missouri LSU Tennessee Arkansas
Coach on the Rise Barry Odom
DC, Missouri
Barry Odom
DC, Missouri
Mark Stoops
Kentucky
Butch Jones
Tennessee
Barry Odom
DC, Missouri
Must-See Game Alabama at 
Auburn
Alabama at
Auburn
Alabama at
Georgia
Alabama at
Auburn
Alabama at
Auburn
Breakout Player Jeremy Johnson
QB, Auburn
Robert Foster
WR, Alabama
Boom Williams
RB, Kentucky
Jeremy Johnson
QB, Auburn
Jeremy Johnson
QB, Auburn
Comeback Player Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn
Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn
Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn
Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn
Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn

 

Ranking the SEC's Coaches for 2015

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

4. Mark Richt, Georgia

5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri

 

Click here to view the full SEC Coach Rankings for 2015

 

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2015

 

1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

3. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

4. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

5. Maty Mauk, Missouri

 

Click here to view the full SEC Quarterback Rankings for 2015

 

Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2015

 

1. Nick Chubb, Georgia

2. Leonard Fournette, LSU

3. Derrick Henry, Alabama

4. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

5. Alex Collins, Arkansas

 

Click here to view the full SEC Running Back Rankings for 2015

 

The SEC's Top 5 Players on the Rise for 2015

 

1. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

3. Harold Brantley, DT, Missouri

4. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

5. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Players on the Rise for 2015

 

The Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015

 

1. Texas A&M vs. Arizona State (Houston) - Sept. 5

2. Auburn vs. Louisville (Atlanta) - Sept. 5

3. Oklahoma at Tennessee - Sept. 12

4. Georgia at Georgia Tech - Nov. 28

5. Florida State at Florida - Nov. 28

6. Clemson at South Carolina - Nov. 28

7. Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Dallas) - Sept. 5

8. South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Charlotte) - Sept. 3

9. Louisville at Kentucky - Nov. 28

10. Missouri vs. BYU (Kansas City) - Nov. 14

 

Related: SEC Schedule Analysis: East | West
 

Key Coordinator Hires for 2015

 

1. Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

2. John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

3. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

4. Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State

5. Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

 

Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)

 

1. Trent Thompson, DL, Georgia

2. Martez Ivey, OT, Florida

3. Byron Cowart, DL, Auburn

4. Kahlil McKenzie, DL, Tennessee

5. CeCe Jefferson, DL, Florida

6. Kevin Toliver II, DB, LSU

7. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

8. Terry Beckner Jr., DL, Missouri

9. Daylon Mack, DL, Texas A&M

10. Kendall Sheffield, DB, Alabama

11. Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama

12. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

13. Tyron Johnson, WR, LSU

14. Terry Godwin, ATH, Georgia

15. Daron Payne, DL, Alabama

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