SEC Football 2018 Predictions

Complete SEC preview for the 2018 season.

After winning its fifth title in nine seasons last year, Alabama is primed for another run at the national championship and SEC title in 2018. The Crimson Tide are the pick in 2018 SEC predictions to edge Auburn and win the West Division and knock off Georgia in the conference title game to claim the league championship. The Bulldogs are also primed for another run into the CFB Playoff. Coach Kirby Smart continues to add elite talent on the recruiting trail, and there's a strong foundation to build off the 2017 season. Auburn is Alabama's biggest challenger in the West, followed by Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The race to finish second in the East is wide open. Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky or Missouri are next up, with Tennessee and Vanderbilt projected at the bottom of the division.

 

Georgia and Alabama: Clear Favorites to Win the Divisions in 2018

The top of any conference usually spurs a healthy debate in Athlon's prediction meetings, but it didn't take much time to identify the favorites in the SEC for 2018. Georgia is once again the team to beat (by a healthy margin) in the East, with Alabama expected to top Auburn for the West. Both teams have a favorable path to an undefeated record in the regular season, which should allow the loser of the SEC Championship Game to remain alive for a CFB Playoff spot. Oddly enough, most of the question marks surrounding Georgia and Alabama reside on defense this year. The Crimson Tide must replace their entire starting secondary, while the Bulldogs suffered key losses at every level, including standout linebacker Roquan Smith. Both teams are led by standout sophomore quarterbacks, as Georgia's Jake Fromm looks to build off a promising freshman campaign, and talented lefty Tua Tagavailoa should improve Alabama's passing attack this fall.

 

Don't Forget About Auburn in 2018

While Alabama was the pick at the top of the SEC West, Auburn – the defending West Division champion – shouldn't be overlooked. Coach Gus Malzahn's team suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball from last year's 10-win team. The offensive line must be rebuilt, but quarterback Jarrett Stidham and receiver Ryan Davis are among the SEC's best at their position. In addition to restocking the trenches, Auburn must find a replacement for running back Kerryon Johnson and plug a couple of personnel losses on defense. After catching rivals Georgia and Alabama at home last season, the Tigers get both programs on the road in 2018. Assuming Auburn gets by Washington on Sept. 1 and Mississippi State in Starkville on Oct. 6, this team is likely to be undefeated headed into the Nov. 10 matchup against Georgia.

 

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Which Team is Georgia's Biggest Challenger in the East?

Florida. The Gators are a good buy-low candidate for 2018. This program is just a year removed from winning back-to-back East Division titles and lost three of its seven games by eight points or less, including matchups against LSU and South Carolina. New coach Dan Mullen is known for his background on offense, which is good news for a group that averaged only 22.1 points a game in 2017. Mullen won't transform this offense into a high-powered attack in one season, but there should be some improvement. The Gators have a promising set of playmakers at receiver, and Jordan Scarlett's return bolsters a solid backfield. Will Feleipe Franks hold off Kyle Trask and Emory Jones at quarterback? Regardless of how the offense performs, Florida's defense should be good enough to get this team back in the postseason. The Gators own one of the SEC's top defensive backfields and lines, with David Reese poised to push for All-SEC honors at linebacker. The schedule also works in Florida's favor. The Gators won't leave the state of Florida after Oct. 13 and play just three SEC road contests: Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

 

Texas A&M vs. LSU in the SEC West

The toughest call of Athlon's SEC prediction meeting for the West Division was the debate between Texas A&M and LSU for fourth. The Aggies were eventually the pick, but there's not much separation between these two teams. Why the edge for Texas A&M at No. 4? Coaching. Jimbo Fisher is one of college football's top head coaches and inherits a team that isn't short on talent. Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel are promising quarterbacks for Fisher to build around, and running back Trayveon Williams is one of the best in the SEC. Additionally, Fisher's hire of Mike Elko as defensive coordinator was one of the top assistant hires of the offseason. Elko inherits a young defense that gave up 30.7 points a game last fall. But with seven starters back, including a standout linebacker unit, Texas A&M's defense should show marked improvement. In addition to the coaching upgrade, the Aggies host LSU on Nov. 24. That game could decide the No. 4 spot in the West. Just like Texas A&M, LSU isn't hurting for talent. However, the Tigers have a difficult schedule and enter 2018 with significant question marks on offense.

 

New Coaches at Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss

Low expectations surround new coaches at Tennessee (Jeremy Pruitt), Ole Miss (Matt Luke) and Arkansas (Chad Morris). With all three teams in transition, all are projected to have a losing record in 2018. In addition to a tough schedule, the Volunteers need to find a quarterback and improve a defense that surrendered over 400 yards a game last season and struggled to stop the run. Arkansas has a favorable path to bowl eligibility, but the Razorbacks also need to identify an answer under center and find help for a porous defense. With quarterback Jordan Ta'amu and receiver A.J. Brown leading the way, scoring points won't be a problem for Ole Miss. However, the Rebels are ineligible for the postseason and enter 2018 with major question marks on defense. These three teams need a break or two in order to reach six victories in 2018, but the future outlook is promising for each program with new coaches leading the way.

 

What's Expected at Mississippi State Under New Coach Joe Moorhead?

Moorhead could be inheriting the best roster situation of any first-year coach in the nation. Mississippi State returns 16 starters from last season's 9-4 team, including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and two of the SEC's top defensive linemen in Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. As with any first-year coach, there will be a transition period as Moorhead looks to put his stamp on the program. However, with Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M visiting Starkville, along with a veteran roster and dynamic quarterback leading the way, Moorhead could lead Mississippi State to 10 victories in his debut.

 

Will Missouri Take a Step Forward in 2018?

It's no secret Missouri has the firepower on offense to make a run at a spot in the top 25 this fall. Quarterback Drew Lock returns after throwing 44 touchdowns last season, and the Tigers return one of the SEC's top backfields, receiving corps and offensive lines. But there's a big question mark at play-caller. What tweaks will new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley put on this group in 2018? Missouri's defense also has room to improve after giving up 31.8 points a game last season. Road trips to Purdue, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida are tough to navigate for coach Barry Odom's team.

 

 

SEC 2018 Unit Rankings

Best RB

Units

Best WR

Units

Best OL
Units

Best DL

Units

Best LB

Units

Best DB

Units

1.  1.  1.  1.  1.  1. 
2.  2.  2.  2.  2.  2. 
3.  3.  3.  3.  3.  3. 
4.  4.  4.  4.  4.  4. 
5.  5.  5.  5.  5.  5. 
6.  6.  6.  6.  6.  6. 
 
SEC Football 2018 Predictions
         
East Division
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Georgia 8-0 12-1
2 Florida 5-3 8-4
3 South Carolina 4-4 7-5
4 Missouri 3-5 7-5
5 Kentucky 3-5 6-6
6 Tennessee 2-6 5-7
7 Vanderbilt 1-7 4-8
         
West Division
Rank Team   Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Alabama 8-0 13-0
2 Auburn 6-2 10-2
3 Mississippi State 5-3 9-3
4 Texas A&M 5-3 8-4
5 LSU 4-4 7-5
6 Ole Miss 1-7 5-7
7 Arkansas 1-7 5-7
         
SEC Championship Game
 Alabama over Georgia 

 

 

SEC 2018 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven 

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Mark

Ross

Braden

Gall

  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch @AthlonMarkR @BradenGall
Offensive POY

Tua Tagovailoa

QB, Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa

QB, Alabama

Drew Lock

QB, Missouri

Deebo Samuel

WR, S. Carolina

Defensive POY

Devin White

LB, LSU

Devin White

LB, LSU

Devin White

LB, LSU

Jeffery Simmons

DL, Miss. State

Coach of the Year

Dan Mullen

Florida

Dan Mullen

Florida

Joe Moorhead

Miss. State

Dan Mullen

Florida

Coach on Hot Seat

Derek Mason

Vanderbilt

Derek Mason

Vanderbilt

Derek Mason

Vanderbilt

Ed Orgeron

LSU

Top Freshman

Patrick Surtain Jr.

CB, Alabama

Patrick Surtain Jr.

CB, Alabama

Patrick Surtain Jr.

CB, Alabama

A Miss. State

WR

Top Newcomer

Saivion Smith

CB, Alabama

Ke'Shawn Vaughn

RB, Vanderbilt

Keller Chryst

QB, Tennessee

Ke'Shawn Vaughn

RB, Vanderbilt

Sleeper Team South Carolina Florida South Carolina Texas A&M

Key Position

to Watch

Alabama DBs Florida QBs Alabama DBs

Florida/LSU

QBs

Best Coordinator

Hire

Mike Elko

DC, Texas A&M

Mike Elko

DC, Texas A&M

Mike Elko

DC, Texas A&M

Mike Elko

DC, Texas A&M

Hardest Team

to Evaluate

Florida or

LSU

Tennessee Tennessee

The Tigers

(all three of them)

Coach on the Rise

Pete Golding

Co-DC, Alabama

Travaris Robinson

DC, S. Carolina

Travaris Robinson

DC, S. Carolina

Chad Morris

HC, Arkansas

Must-See Game

Auburn at

Alabama

Auburn at 

Alabama

Auburn at 

Alabama

Auburn at

Alabama

Breakout Player

D'Andre Swift

RB, Georgia

Jerry Jeudy

WR, Alabama

D'Andre Swift

RB, Georgia

Kadarius Toney

WR, Florida

Comeback Player

Deebo Samuel

WR, S. Carolina

Deebo Samuel

WR, S. Carolina

Deebo Samuel

WR, S. Carolina

Deebo Samuel

WR, S. Carolina

 

Podcast: Athlon's Editors Discuss 2018 Conference Predictions

Event Date: 
Monday, June 4, 2018 - 02:04
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