The Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship behind the surprising play of Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Heading into next year, the defending National Champions will once again be the class of the SEC. Here is a way too early ranking of the 14 teams in the conference for next season that is sure to be wrong.
Did you really expect anyone else? If you did, well I have some bad news for you. The Crimson Tide will be even better next season whether you like it or not.
The Crimson Tide will get back 7 returning starters on offense which includes Damien Harris and the quarterback duo of Tagovailoa/Jalen Hurts.
Even with their defense losing some very talented players, it will just be the next man up. As evidenced in that National Title game, Alabama is absolutely loaded with 5-star talent. They may only return 4 starters on that side of the ball, but they will be more than fine.
Let the hype start now for Tagovailoa. This kid is one of the most talented QB’s I’ve seen in quite some time. He is going to have a huge year throwing the football, and he will most likely be in the Heisman running. Watch the video below for an in-depth clip of Tua’s talent.
Despite Monday’s devastating loss in the title game, Kirby Smart has the Bulldogs on the right track. Their offense returns seven starters including Jake Fromm, and Georgia’s much improved defense could possibly return five starters if Roquan Smith doesn’t turn pro (which he will).
With the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to ESPN, Smart will have plenty of talent to replace the likes of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Lorenzo Carter.
Names to watch will be D’Andre Swift and Justin Fields. Both could explode onto the scene in a big way as underclassmen.
The Tigers figure to be the last of the truly elite teams from the SEC next season. However, Auburn will have some big questions to answer. They will have to replace 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line, and both of their star running backs left for the draft.
Despite these problems, the Tigers will return Jarrett Stidham at quarterback who will be a very high pick in the 2019 draft. It will be interesting to see if Auburn will start the season ranked in the top 10.
4. Mississippi State
This is the first big surprise of this list, but I think the Bulldogs have earned it. After winning nine games last season, Mississippi State will return eight starters on both sides of the ball which is very impressive.
Talent-wise there is a big gap between the first three teams on this list and every other team, but the Bulldogs have the best chance to challenge Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn due to their returning experience,
How well Nick Fitzgerald will play after his terrible injury in the Egg Bowl will play a big role in the success of Mississippi State next season.
5. South Carolina
From here on out, anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Between teams 5-10 there isn’t a huge amount of separation between these teams, but they are obviously better than teams 11-14.
I’m going with South Carolina here at 5 with the Gamecocks returning Jake Bentley at quarterback. Their big win over Michigan to end the season will provide a nice boost for a team returning most of its starters next season.
LSU gets the nod here because of their talent on defense. However, their offense will struggle with its most important players departing. I still think Ed Orgeron’s team is simply another year away.
The Wildcats could very easily finish as the fourth best team in the conference next season due to multiple talented defensive players skipping this year’s NFL Draft. With Benny Snell back in what will most likely be his last season at UK, the Wildcats also figure to have one of the best players in the entire league.
This ranking may be a bit low, but until UK can finally have a meaningful breakthrough in the SEC and field a consistent passing attack, I just can’t rank them higher right now.
Drew Lock single handily got the Tigers to a bowl game last year and he will be back next season. That alone earns Missouri this spot. Can’t help but to feel this may be a little low for the Tigers, but I just don’t believe in their defense yet.
Next season, #Mizzou returns:
-Drew Lock, nations leader in TDs
-RBs @DamareaCrockett and Larry Rountree
-The bulk of its O-line, including Paul Adams, @KevinP_71 and Treâ€™Vour Simms (line allowed 6th fewest sacks nationally)
-All-SEC TE @albertok1234
-WR @emanuelhall (8 TDs)
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) January 9, 2018
9. Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher’s first season in College Station will be an interesting one, but expectations aren’t too high for the Aggies next year. Just wait until he gets a few recruiting classes in and Texas A&M will soon find itself near the top of this list.
It’s Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville, however next season figures to be a rebuilding year. Look for the Gators and Aggies to finish with similar records.
The Commodores better hope that the return of Kyle Shurmur will help get them back to a bowl game. Besides him, Vanderbilt is still largely devoid of top-tier talent. The Commodores will once again be a fringe bowl team next season.
Your 2017 SEC Passing Leaders:
* all 5 will be back next season pic.twitter.com/KStxEe01mE
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 13, 2018
12. Ole Miss
Ehhhh well Shea Patterson left for Michigan, and I think that’s a huge move in college football. Michigan will be very good because of it. Ole Miss on the other hand will probably struggle with his transfer.
Sheessshhh good luck with this dumpster fire Jeremy Pruitt. His coaching talent will truly be put to the test in this rebuilding effort.
How bad will Arkansas be next season? They are ranked behind Tennessee. That should tell you all you need to know.