SEC Football 2019 Predictions

Complete SEC preview for the 2019 season

Familiarity reigns atop the SEC predictions for 2019, as Georgia and Alabama are picked to meet once again in the conference title game in December. The SEC has plenty of depth throughout the league this season. Florida, LSU and Texas A&M rank inside the top 10 of Athlon’s projected top 25 teams for 2019, with Missouri and Auburn in the next tier. The depth within the conference extends to the middle, as South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Kentucky are projected to hit at least six wins in 2019.

 

SEC FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS

 

Alabama and Georgia the Clear Favorites in the Divisions Once Again

The top of the conference didn’t produce much debate in Athlon’s SEC prediction meeting. Alabama and Georgia were a clear favorite atop the respective divisions, and both teams are projected by Athlon to make the CFB Playoff. The concerns for both teams are minimal. Alabama’s high-powered offense – led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the nation’s top receiving corps – must retool up front and adapt to new play-caller Steve Sarkisian. Defensively, the Crimson Tide have holes to fill up front and at middle linebacker. However, the return of cornerback Trevon Diggs and linebacker Terrell Lewis will provide a boost to those positions.

 

Georgia brings back 13 starters from last year’s 10-3 squad and another elite recruiting class only added to the talent level in Athens. Quarterback Jake Fromm should push for All-America honors behind the nation’s No. 1 offensive line, and as usual, the Bulldogs are loaded at running back. The biggest concerns surrounding Georgia’s offense rest with the transition at coordinator (Jim Chaney to James Coley) and new playmakers at receiver. The defense is loaded with talent and depth at all three levels and should improve upon last year’s points allowed total (19.2).

 

Florida checked in at No. 8 (with Georgia at No. 3) in Athlon’s overall rankings, so coach Dan Mullen’s team has to be in the mix to win the East Division. Quarterback Feleipe Franks should continue to develop under Mullen’s watch, and the Gators have one of the league’s deepest backfields and receiving corps. Florida’s defense ranks among the SEC’s best up front and in the secondary. This group must get better against the run after allowing 162.5 rushing yards a game in 2018. If the Gators want to overtake Georgia, an offensive line that returns only one starter is the key to the season. Mullen has a solid team in place, but Florida is a step behind the Bulldogs in the East.

 

LSU’s Offense Ready to Take a Step Forward?

A familiar theme surrounds LSU in 2019. The Tigers return eight starters on a defense that should rank among the best in the SEC. However, the difference between 11-1 and playoff contention or 9-3 rests on how much the offense improves. There are reasons to be optimistic about this unit. Quarterback Joe Burrow delivered a solid debut in 2018, the Tigers return one of the league’s top receiving corps, and the addition of freshman John Emery provides a capable one-two punch at running back with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The spring also provided a glimpse of some scheme tweaks, as new passing game coordinator Joe Brady was hired to help with RPO/tempo principles. LSU averaged 32.4 points a game last season, so modest improvement would be huge in navigating a schedule that features road trips to Texas, Alabama, Mississippi State and includes home games versus Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn.

 

A Brutal Schedule Awaits Texas A&M in Year 2 Under Jimbo Fisher

Texas A&M took a step forward in coach Jimbo Fisher’s first season and followed the on-field success with a standout recruiting class. The arrow on this program is pointing up, but Fisher’s team faces a tough path to a better record in 2019. Texas A&M plays at Clemson on Sept. 7, hosts Alabama on Oct. 12 and ends the year with back-to-back road trips to Georgia and LSU. The offense should take a step forward with quarterback Kellen Mond at the controls, along with a solid supporting cast at receiver and a breakout candidate (Jashaun Corbin) stepping in for Trayveon Williams at running back. Texas A&M’s defense needs to retool up front and continue to improve in the secondary. At the end of 2019, the Aggies could be a better team than the one that ended ’18. However, the schedule may prevent a jump in the win column.

 

Can Kentucky Repeat Last Year’s Success?

Athlon’s projections have Kentucky falling short of last year’s 10 wins, but coach Mark Stoops has raised the overall trajectory of this program, so another postseason trip should be expected. Replacing the production and leadership of running back Benny Snell and linebacker Josh Allen won’t be easy. However, the cupboard isn’t bare with some talented pieces coming back in the front seven on defense, while the offense will be anchored by a line that features three potential All-SEC candidates. In order for Kentucky to exceed Athlon’s win projection (six) and return to 10 victories, a lot is riding on the development of quarterback Terry Wilson.

 

Auburn: The SEC’s Wild Card Team

Auburn was one of college football’s biggest disappointments last season. The Tigers opened 2018 ranked inside of the top 10 but finished 8-5 with losses to Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU and Tennessee. Under coach Gus Malzahn’s watch, Auburn has experienced plenty of highs (2013 and ’17) but also won eight or fewer games in four out of his six seasons. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for this program, and in an effort to get the offense back on track, Malzahn is taking over the play-calling duties in 2019. The Tigers will start a freshman at quarterback – Bo Nix or Joey Gatewood – but return an experienced offensive line and standout group of skill players. Led by tackle Derrick Brown, Auburn’s defensive line is ranked No. 1 in the nation by Athlon Sports. This unit will anchor a defense that should rank near the top of the SEC. The schedule features a neutral site opener versus Oregon, along with road trips to Texas A&M, Florida, LSU and home dates against Georgia and Alabama. If all of the pieces fall into place, contending for nine or more wins isn’t out of the question. However, the uncertainty at quarterback, up-and-down nature of this program in recent years, and a tough schedule push Auburn to 7-5 in our projections.

 

What’s Expected from Second-Year Coaches at Tennessee and Mississippi State?

Joe Moorhead’s first season at Mississippi State produced an 8-5 finish but exceeding that total in 2019 will hinge on the offense. Moorhead produced high-powered attacks as the offensive coordinator at Penn State, but the Bulldogs averaged 28.5 points a game and 5.2 yards a play (SEC-only games). Getting this unit on track starts with the quarterback position. Keytaon Thompson ended spring as the favorite to replace Nick Fitzgerald, but Tommy Stevens – a Penn State graduate transfer – arrives this summer to compete for the starting job. Stevens’ familiarity with this offense will be a huge asset in the quarterback battle. Mississippi State’s defense led the SEC in fewest points allowed (13.2 ppg) but only three starters are back in 2019. End Chauncey Rivers, linebacker Erroll Thompson and cornerback Cameron Dantzler should prevent a major drop in production, but standouts like Montez Sweat, Johnathan Abram and Jeffery Simmons will be missed.

 

Jeremy Pruitt’s rebuilding effort in Knoxville should deliver signs of progress in 2019. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano will benefit from the addition of veteran play-caller Jim Chaney, but the overall development of the offense will hinge on the offensive line. True freshmen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright are expected to push for starting spots at tackle this fall. The concerns up front extend to the defense, but the Volunteers should be solid at linebacker and in the secondary. The schedule provides a path to a bowl. Tennessee will be favored in its four non-conference games and hosts Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt in potential swing contests. 

 

 

Missouri/South Carolina: Can Either Finish Ahead of Georgia or Florida?

Unless an appeal is granted, Missouri is ineligible to play in a bowl game this season. While motivation is always a concern for teams in this scenario, the Tigers have the necessary pieces to be a top 25 team this fall. Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant should provide a relatively seamless transition from Drew Lock, and there’s no shortage of firepower at the skill positions to go with one of the SEC’s top offensive lines. Coach Barry Odom’s defense has a few concerns to address, as the Tigers need to find a couple of pass rushers and shore up the coverage in the secondary.

 

South Carolina brings back quarterback Jake Bentley, receiver Bryan Edwards and some talented defenders – Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum and cornerback Jaycee Horn – but the schedule is a major obstacle. The Gamecocks get Clemson and North Carolina in non-conference action, catch Alabama and Texas A&M in crossover play and meet Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee on the road. Bentley needs to cut down on the interceptions (14 last year), and the offense has to get more production out of the ground game. Even if that happens, the Gamecocks might not muster enough wins to exceed last year’s total (seven) prior to the bowl.

 

Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Arkansas: Which Can Push for a Bowl in 2019?

Athlon’s projections have 10 teams (not counting Missouri) eligible for bowl games in 2019. An 11th wouldn’t be a surprise, but all three of the teams mentioned in this section – Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Arkansas – have obstacles to overcome. The Commodores return one of the league’s top running backs (Ke’Shawn Vaughn), receivers (Kalija Lipscomb) and tight ends (Jared Pinkney) but must replace quarterback Kyle Shurmur. There’s also room for improvement on a defense that allowed nearly 200 rushing yards a game last fall. Ole Miss must replace quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and three standout receivers, and a defense that gave up 36.2 points a game in 2018 must be addressed. New quarterback Matt Corral is a breakout candidate, and coach Matt Luke added two former coaches – Rich Rodriguez (OC) and Mike MacIntyre (DC) as coordinators. Arkansas can only improve after a 2-10 finish in coach Chad Morris’ debut. The Razorbacks upgraded at quarterback with the addition of transfers Nick Starkel (Texas A&M) and Ben Hicks (SMU), but the offensive line and defense have to improve for this team to make a bowl.

 

SEC 2019 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. 
7.  7.  7.  7.  7.  7. 

 

SEC Football 2019 Predictions
         
East Division
Rank     Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Georgia 8-0 12-1
2 Florida 6-2 10-2
3 Missouri 4-4 8-4
4 South Carolina 3-5 6-6
5 Tennessee 3-5 7-5
6 Kentucky 2-6 6-6
7 Vanderbilt 2-6 5-7
         
West Division
Rank     Projected SEC Record Projected Overall Record
1 Alabama 8-0 13-0
2 LSU 6-2 10-2
3 Texas A&M 5-3 8-4
4 Auburn 3-5 7-5
5 Mississippi State 3-5 7-5
6 Ole Miss  2-6 5-7
7 Arkansas 1-7 5-7
         
SEC Championship Game
over    

 

 

SEC 2019 Superlatives and Season Predictions
 

Steven 

Lassan

Mitch

Light

  @AthlonSteven @AthlonMitch
Offensive POY

Tua Tagovailoa

QB, Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa

QB, Alabama

Defensive POY

Grant Delpit

S, LSU

J.R. Reed

S, Georgia

Coach of the Year

Nick Saban

Alabama

Dan Mullen

Florida

Coach on Hot Seat

Gus Malzahn

Auburn

Gus Malzahn

Auburn

Top Freshman

Derek Stingley Jr.

CB, LSU

John Emery

RB, LSU

Top Newcomer

Kelly Bryant

QB, Missouri

Ben Hicks

QB, Arkansas

Sleeper Team South Carolina South Carolina

Key Position

to Watch

Florida OL Georgia WRs

Best Coordinator

Hire

Rich Rodriguez

OC, Ole Miss

Rich Rodriguez

OC, Ole Miss

Hardest Team

to Evaluate

Auburn

Tennessee
Coach on the Rise

Pete Golding

DC, Alabama

Pete Golding

DC, Alabama

Must-See Game

LSU at

Alabama

Georgia vs.

Florida

Breakout Player

Najee Harris

RB, Alabama

K'Lavon Chaisson

LB, LSU

Comeback Player

Trevon Diggs

CB, Alabama

Marco Wilson

CB, Florida

 

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