As the September 5 opening day for SEC football teams approaches, the prognosticators are out in full strength and it seems that none of them can agree on what the outcome of the conference will be when the conference schedule is completed on November 28. I guess that this is a normal thing since the conference is a very difficult grouping to predict. I don’t assume that I am as smart as the national prophets, but I always like to take a look at the season and make a few comments. I don’t have much room, but here goes.
I see a number of polls and writers are predicting that my Auburn Tigers will win the SEC. That sounds great to me but it “ain’t gonna be easy” and I’m sorry to say that I just don’t see it happening. Yes it could, and I surely hope it does, but that’s asking a lot from a team that lost its starting quarterback, its two best runners, and its most productive receiver. I know that Will Muschamp is now in charge of the defense, and that will make it much better, but Auburn never seems to do well when they are expected to. They have good players but everything must fall into place.
Alabama is the squad that normally gets the pre-season nod in the SEC West, but they have some problems as well. There is no definitive starting QB in Tuscaloosa and that is problematic. They have a top-notch defense, but losing a solid runner in T.J. Yeldon and a super receiver in Amari Cooper will certainly hinder the offense. And the SEC road schedule is not easy, with trips to Georgia, Texas A&M, and Auburn.
Things seem to be set up perfectly for A&M, especially schedule-wise. Their draw from the East is great with Vandy and South Carolina and their road schedule is not bad either. They get both Auburn and Alabama at home.
Any of the group of LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Mississippi State could win the West title, but none are popular picks. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if one of them came out on top, but it would be an upset.
In the SEC East there are also varied opinions of who the top team is. I hear Georgia more than any other, but the words “Tennessee” and “Missouri” creep into some conversations. As a whole, the East doesn’t seem to have the firepower that the West does.
As with many other schools in the conference, Georgia is searching for a starting quarterback. Who knows who it will be, but whomever the Dogs’ QB is, he will be handing off to a quality runner in Nick Chubb. Georgia’s other strengths seem to be their offensive line and an improved defense. Their schedule is interesting as they get a weaker South Carolina, Missouri, and Alabama at home, but must go to Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn.
Tennessee is definitely on the rise, but they may still be a year or two away. You can never tell however, as they have some quality folks. Missouri is one of the few SEC schools with a proven quarterback in Matty Mauk, who has proven he can win in the SEC. The Tigers have been a big surprise since they entered the SEC and represented the East in the last two SEC title contests. Don’t go to sleep on them!
No one else in the East is given much hope. South Carolina and Florida seem to be much weaker than in past seasons and most folks don’t feel that they can compete for the title in 2015. That leaves Kentucky and Vanderbilt and any SEC fan knows that they aren’t gonna win much of anything.
So get ready for Sept. 5. The best games that day will be Auburn/Louisville, Alabama/Wisconsin, and South Carolina/North Carolina. We’ll know a little more about Auburn and Alabama after that date.
Nope, I’m not picking a winner for the SEC. You know who I hope wins, but you may have a different choice. Just remember one important thing, “It’s just a game!”
Enjoy the 2015 season!
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.