Many consider the SEC as the powerhouse conference of college football. Every year, it seems that the SEC has a team that is competing for a national championship. It’s no hot take to say that this conference produces high-quality football teams, as well as high-quality NFL-ready players. We expect nothing less out of the conference this season. There’s no doubt the teams in the conference will be ready to compete this season, but each team has unique situations happening and a different outlook on this season.
Alabama (13-2 overall, 8-7 ATS, 7-8 O/U)
When the momentum seemed to be going solely in Alabama’s favor last season, Georgia stunned the Crimson Tide in the national championship. 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young (4,872 yards – 2nd in CFB, 47 TDs – 2nd in CFB, and 7 INTs) returns after a sensational Freshman debut, but he will be supported by a whole new offense with two of his main targets declaring for the NFL draft. However, it doesn’t look like the offense will decrease in talent, as the Crimson Tide picked up RB Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech (746 yards, 4 TDs, 3rd team All ACC last season) and WR Jermaine Burton from Georgia (led team WRs past two seasons in receiving yards). They also will be returning a very solid TE in Senior Cameron Latu (410 yards, 8 TDs). Defensively, Alabama brings back one of, if not the best, linebacker in college football in Will Anderson (101 total tackles, 17.5 sacks – led NCAA), who is projected to be a top 5 pick in the NFL draft next year. Anderson is joined on defense with their leading tackler from last season, LB Henry To’oTo’o (111 total tackles). Although Alabama lost a lot of their star players from last season, they will not have any issues finding success this season with the squad that they have next season.
Arkansas (9-4 overall, 8-4-1 ATS, 7-6 O/U)
A team that surprised several in college football, the Razorbacks topped off an impressive 9-4 2021 season with a 24-10 Reliaquest Bowl victory over Penn State. QB KJ Jefferson showed how much potential that he has following a sophomore campaign that saw him throw for 2,676 yards, 21 TDs and 4 INTs, while also rushing for 664 yards and 6 TDs. Although Jefferson will be without star WR Treylon Burkes, the Razorbacks will see a lot of production out of Oklahoma-transfer Jadon Haselwood (399 yards, 6 TDs). Despite the injury bug, Haselwood has shown that he has the capabilities to be a star WR with his speed and route running ability. Defensively, star LB Bumper Pool (125 total tackles – 9th in the NCAA) returns following a spectacular season last year. Pool played an integral part in a Razorback defense that gave up only 24.6 points per game. If Jefferson continues to improve and the defense becomes more disciplined in a very competitive SEC, Arkansas could once again surprise everyone this year.
Auburn (6-7 overall, 6-7 ATS, 5-8 O/U)
There’s a new QB in town following the departure of Bo Nix, and it is a name that Auburn fans will remember oh too well: Zach Calzada. Calzada came in week 2 after Aggies QB, Haynes King went down with a season-ending injury. Calzada showed his inexperience at times as he passed for 2,185 yards with 17 TDs and 9 INTs. The good news for Calzada? Running back Tank Bigsby is back after a sophomore year with nearly 1,100 yards and 10 TDs, along with Shedrick Jackson, one of Bo Nix’s main targets, who had 527 yards last season. Defensively, the Tigers are only returning 4 starters from 2021, so it will be imperative for these new faces to get adjusted to the new system quickly or the Tigers could see themselves struggling in the SEC. Luckily they will have their best defensive lineman from last season Derrick Hall (52 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) to lead this defense. With all of the new faces, only time will tell if Auburn will succeed or flop in 2022.
Florida (6-7 overall, 3-10 ATS, 5-8 O/U)
This is going to be a fairly new Florida Gators squad returning only two skill position starters from last season, as well as a brand new defensive line. Following the transfer of QB Emory Jones to Arizona State, the Gators will be turning to Sophomore QB Anthony Richardson this season. Richardson appeared in seven games last season, but was very shaky in those appearances, passing for 529 yards, 6 TDs, and 5 INTs. There are a couple of bright spots for the Gators this season. The running back position will see some big improvement with Sun Belt Freshman of the Year last year Montrell Johnson who accumulated 838 yards and 12 TDs in his first season. Defensively, the Gators are going to see a healthy mix of new and veteran players, but the player to watch is SS Trey Dean III. He is always involved in every single play and is a focal point for this Florida defense, where he had 88 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 INT last season. There are a lot of question marks around the team this season, and only time will tell if these new pieces will gel well together or if the Gators will sink.
Georgia (14-1 overall, 10-5 ATS, 6-9 O/U)
The National champions are back. On the offensive end of the ball, you will recognize several familiar faces from last year. Stetson Bennett proved all of the haters wrong last season, not only leading the Bulldogs to a national championship but also putting up very solid stats last season (86.7 QBR – 3rd in NCAA, 2,862 yards, 29 TDs, and 7 INTs). The Bulldogs are also returning three of the top four targets for Bennett last season, including preseason 1st team All-American TE Brock Bowers (882 yards and 13 TDs). Defensively, this is a brand new team with only two starters from that very talented defense from last season returning this season. Nolan Smith and Christopher Smith will need to bring that leadership from the champion willing defense to give Georgia a shot at a title again this year. The Bulldogs have been consistently one of the best in the country with recruits, but now we just will see if Kirby Smart can take the talent from those recruits and returning starters to produce another championship.
Kentucky (10-3 overall, 8-4-1 ATS, 8-5 O/U)
If you are a big storyline person or a big preseason hype person, Kentucky is the team to watch. Specifically, QB Will Levis is getting a ton of media attention and hype. Many NFL draft scouts have him as the first QB taken in the draft next season, and some have even gone as far as having him as a #1 pick. Levis will have some new targets this season, with four star WR Dane Key (who also was a track star at his high school, so there’s some assumption that his speed will be advantageous on the field) and Tayvion Robinson from Virginia Tech (559 yards and 5 TDs in 2021). Defensively, the Wildcats are bringing back all three of their linebackers from last season in Jacquez Jones (82 tackles), Deandre Square (81 tackles) and Jordan Wright (30 tackles). Expect a big season out of Jacquez Jones, as he has had over 70 tackles the past three seasons, and I expect him to be at least a second-team All-SEC this season. Kentucky had a very respectable season last year, and they have some serious hype for various players this season. The question remains, can they live up to the hype?
LSU (6-7 overall, 5-7-1 ATS, 6-7 O/U)
Following the release of Ed Ogeron from the Tigers program, LSU swung for the fences and got rewarded with former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to lead the program this season. Kelly has no easy task, as he now has to decide on who will play behind center to start the year. Myles Brennan, who was injured for the entire 2021 season, appears to have a slight lead over Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels. However, Kelly has spoken publicly about this QB battle stating that both have played well, and it is a difficult decision. The Tigers do have a star on their team returning for his junior year in WR Kayshon Boutte. The preseason 2nd team All-American has a lot of hype coming into the season, and many have him projected as a first round wide receiver in next year’s draft. Last year, Boutte led the Tigers in both receiving yards (509) and TDS (9). The secondary is going to look brand new for LSU, as the four of the projected five starting secondary players transferred to LSU (CB Mekhi Garner – Louisiana, SS Joe Foucha – Arkansas, CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse – Oklahoma State, NB Greg Brooks Jr. – Arkansas). With all of the new that is entering the Tigers program, it may take time for the squad to come together, but if they can gel well like how LSU has in the past, this could be a surprise team in the SEC.
Mississippi State (7-6 overall, 7-6 ATS, 6-7 O/U)
Some teams in college football are known for beating teams on the ground (ie. Army, Navy, etc.). Not in a Mike Leach led offense where the best rusher ran for 485 yards. Will Rogers returns to the Bulldogs for his junior year and is looking to build off a very solid sophomore year (4,739 yards – 3rd in NCAA, 38 TDs and 9 INTs). Although Rogers will be without his go-to receiver Makai Polk, who was drafted by the Ravens in this year’s draft, he returns two receivers in Jaden Walley (628 yards, 6 TDs) and Austin Williams (617 yards, 4 TDs). They also will have a talented freshman and four-star in-state recruit in WR Antonio Harmon, who is expected to make an impact early on his Freshman season. The Bulldogs will have a very underrated linebacker corps with seniors Jett Johnson (86 tackles), Nathaniel Watson (83 tackles, 5 sacks) and Tyrus Wheat (46 tackles, 7 sacks). In a very competitive SEC, having a veteran led linebacker corps could be incredibly advantageous for the Bulldogs. Although I do not see this squad being in the SEC championship nor beating Alabama or Georgia, I do believe the Bulldogs will make it to a solid bowl game and finish better than their 7-6 record last season.
Missouri (6-7 overall, 4-9 ATS, 7-6 O/U)
When thinking of the SEC, the one school that most believe is a school that is pushed around is Missouri. Looking into their squad this season, you can see why. The Tigers are only returning 3 starters on offense this season with only one of them being a skill player. However, their offense is going to be looked at quite a bit this season because of one player: Freshman WR Luther Burden. Burden was the #1 WR in ESPN’s Top 300 for 2022 and the #5 prospect overall. The Tigers new QB, Sophomore Brady Cook, will definitely have a go-to receiver this season. Cook saw a little bit of action last season as a back up, where he passed for 345 yards and 2 TDs. Defensively, the Tigers will be returning 3 of their 5 secondary starters from last season. Jaylon Carlies is a CB to watch, as last season he was in the top 20 in the nation in interceptions, where he hauled in 4, and also was credited for 67 tackles. The Tigers will have 6 of the 11 starters from last returning, a complete opposite from the offense. With three of their four non-conference games going against non-FBS teams, the question remains if the Tigers will be pushed around in the SEC or find a way to turn their season around.
Ole Miss (10-3 overall, 7-5-1 ATS, 3-10 O/U)
Following a season that the Rebels surprised everyone, they are looking to run back another successful season. With the departure of Matt Corrall, Ole Miss is looking for just as much productivity out of USC transfer Jaxson Dart. Dart gained the starting role at USC following Kedon Slovis being benched. As a starter, Dart showed some promise, completing 62% of his passes, throwing for 1,353 yards, 9 TDs and 5 INTs. I expect a lot of connections between him and UCF transfer WR Jaylon Robinson (322 yards, 2 TDs in 2021, 979 yards, 6 TDs in 2020). WR Jonathan Mingo and Dannis Jackson are looking to fill the void of Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders from last year, but both have experienced time on the field last season. Defensively, the Rebels will be solid at the safety position with the returns of Otis Reece (91 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and AJ Finley (90 tackles, 3 INTs). The remainder of the secondary are all predominantly backups, so Finley and Reece will need to guide these inexperienced players and play their best ball this year in order for the Rebels to succeed. Ole Miss put themselves on the map once again last year, and the target will be on their backs again this season.
South Carolina (7-6 overall, 6-6-1 ATS, 6-7 O/U)
South Carolina made some noise this offseason in the transfer portal, and it was absolutely needed. The Gamecocks last season had 4 QBs see playing time, with the best QB throwing for less than 1,000 yards and the best receiver hauling in 679 yards. They are hoping to have swung for the fences with the transfer portal acquisition of former Oklahoma players Spencer Rattler and TE Austin Stogner. Rattler, who was benched midway through the season for Caleb Williams, will have his favorite target Stogner this season, along with both starting WRs for the Gamecocks last season in Seniors Josh Vann and Dakereon Joyner. Rattler was looked at by many fans poorly for his demeanor and attitude towards teammates, but he did show some promise his Freshman season in 2020 where he completed 68% of his passes and threw for 3,031 yards, 28 TDs, and 7 INTs. Defensively, the eyes are going to be on junior DB Cam Smith, who had a very solid sophomore campaign with 3 INTs and 41 tackles. Defenses will gameplan around him, and he will make a big impact this season. The Gamecocks need a spark this season, but only time will tell if the risk they are taking on Rattler and Stogner will be worth it in the end.
Tennessee (7-6 overall, 5-8 ATS, 10-3 O/U)
As you can see, if you bet the over in every game that the Volunteers played in 2021, you came away very profitable. Tennessee had a FBS-best 10-3 record covering the over last season, and it doesn’t appear that the Volunteers will be changing that again next season. QB Hendon Hooker returns for his final season after a very under-the-radar 2021 season where he threw for 2,945 yards, 31 TDs, and only 3 INTs. The Volunteers will also be returning two of their offensive stars last season in RB Jabari Small (792 yards, 9 TDs) and WR Cedric Tillman (1,081 yards, 12 TDs). The Volunteers also added USC transfer Bru McCoy to round out an already impressive offense. It must be noted though, that a big reason for Tennessee being solid on covering the over is not only because of their offense but also their defense giving up 31.5 points per game. However, they are going to have one of the most underrated linebackers in college football in Senior LB Jeremy Banks. Last season, Banks came away with 128 tackles (7th most in CFB) and 5.5 sacks. They also are returning CB Trevon Flowers had a very solid junior campaign where he had 82 tackles and 2 interceptions. The Volunteers are my dark horse team in the SEC this season, and I think they are going to turn some heads.
Texas A&M (8-4 overall, 7-5 ATS, 5-7 O/U)
Jimbo Fischer was making moves this offseason, taking the title of the best recruiting class of 2021. The Aggies brought in nine five-star players, several expecting to make an immediate impact this season. Following the departure of Zach Calzada, Haynes King returns from injury to take the reins as QB for the Aggies this season. He will have a whole spew of receivers this season, but no one has a bigger spotline on him than 5-star WR Evan Stewart. Stewart has reportedly been turning heads in practice, and will likely see a lot of playing time in year 1. Unfortunately for the Aggies, the only receiver from last year with only 20 catches returning was WR Ainias Smith. However, he was recently arrested for a DWI, and it is unknown what punishment will come his way for that. King will have to work with different WRs than Calzada did last season. Defensively, there are two true freshman that will make a big impact for the Aggies this season. DT Walter Nolen (#1 overall recruit in ESPN Top 300) and DE Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy (#3 overall recruit in ESPN Top 300) are expected to play a big role in the A&M defense this season. Although the Aggies may have a year where they will struggle and need to have the college transition, they will absolutely be in title talks next season barring they can keep everyone together.
Vanderbilt (2-10 overall, 6-6 ATS, 5-7 O/U)
To say that Vanderbilt was bad last season is truly an understatement. The Commodores scored 16.9 points per game last season (8th worst in college football), and they gave up 37.0 points per game (12th worst in college football). Starting QB Ken Seals is looking to bounce back from a 2021 season where he passed for a mere 1,181 yards, 5 TDs and 8 INTs. Seals will be fortunate to have one of his favorite targets last season in WR Will Shepard (577 yards, 4 TDs). That connection will likely be the focal point of the Commodores offense this season. Although there was not a lot of positivity for Vanderbilt’s defense last season, they are returning one of their best defensive players in Senior LB Anfernee Orji. Orji last season tallied up 77 tackles last season and will look to be the leader of the defense this season. The Commodores will also improve in the secondary with the addition of UCONN DB Jeremy Lucien (23 tackles, 2 INTs). Vanderbilt was one of the worst teams in the SEC last season, and, unless a miracle happens, it would appear that the Commodores will take home that title again this season.
It’s very obvious that year in and year out, the SEC produces some of the best NFL talent there is. There is no doubt that several first round picks in next year’s NFL draft will come out of this conference. It is also not a hot take to say that some of the best games, rivalries, and atmospheres will be with teams in the conference. CBS will have some of the best SEC games Saturdays at 2:00 CT. It will be worth the watch, and there will be some highlight reels every single weekend. Everyone expects at least one team out of the conference to compete in the CFP, but a second team very well could compete in it as well. The expectations are high for the SEC this season, and I can almost guarantee that the teams will meet these expectations.