2019 SEC College Football Preview

MIKEDROPSPORTS college football coverage

I went through all 838 games of the 2019 college football season, picking winners to project the record of all 130 FBS teams.

Projected Standings

EAST Overall RecordConference Record
Georgia12-08-0
Florida9-35-3
Kentucky8-44-4
Missouri8-44-4
Tennessee 7-53-5
South Carolina6-63-5
Vanderbilt3-90-8
 WESTOverall RecordConference Record
Alabama12-08-0
LSU9-36-2
Texas A&M8-45-3
Auburn7-54-4
Mississippi State7-53-5
Ole Miss4-82-6
Arkansas5-71-7

SEC Championship – Georgia over Alabama

Following their loss in the 2018 National Championship Game and last season’s SEC Championship Game, Georgia gets revenge and beats Alabama to win the SEC title. I project both teams to be unbeaten entering this game, and see both making the CFB Playoffs in 2019. If this did happen, it would be the first time a former Nick Saban assistant-turned-head coach would have beaten the man himself.


Alabama Crimson Tide

1. Schedule note: Alabama has won 8 straight games vs LSU, 6 out of 8 vs Auburn, 6 straight vs Texas A&M, and 12 straight vs Tennessee

2. Players to Watch: Everyone knows the story on Tua Tagovailoa, who threw 43 TD, 6 INT and was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner for about 10 or 11 games. A huge part of the QB’s success was his WRs, and the Tide’s top 3 pass catchers all return – Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle.

Jeudy is considered by many to be the top WR prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. He led the Tide with 1,315 yards (10th in country) and 14 TD (3rd in country) and won the Biletnikoff Award for best WR. Ruggs had 741 yards and 11 TD and Waddle, as a true freshman, caught 45 passes for 848 yards and 7 TDs.

Both Damien Harris (876 yards, 9 TD) and Joshua Jacobs (640 yards, 11 TD) are gone, meaning the backfield belongs to the #2 prospect from the 2017 class, Najee Harris.

Defensively, my goodness. I could name half their lineup – LBs Dylan Moses and Anfernee Jennings, DL Raekwon Davis. As always, the Tide defense is loaded with A-level talent, but I want to focus on CB Trevon Diggs, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs. Trevon had just 1 interception and played only 6 games due to injury. If he is healthy, he will play a much larger role in 2019.

3. Recent Recap: During Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa (2007), the Tide went 7-6. Since then, Alabama has lost a grand total of 15 games. They have won 2 of the last 3 Championships and have participated in all 5 College Football Playoffs. The last 2 times Alabama finished the regular season unbeaten, they lost to Clemson in the Championship.

4. 2019 Preview: Will Alabama run the table in 2019? It works to their advantage that they have as weak of an OOC schedule as they have in years. The LSU game is at home, but Texas A&M and Auburn are both on the road. Do they slip up in one of those? I believe the will tun the table in the regular season, but lose the SEC Championship game. Despite the 1 loss, they will make the CFB Playoffs for a 6th straight year (out of 6 years).

Tua Tagovailoa is my favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He was phenomenal in 2018 but was slowed down by a knee injury during the last couple of games, including sitting out part of the SEC title game. That injury came as Kyler Murray was lighting up the scoreboard for Oklahoma, making it hard to justify keeping Tua as #1. I’ll take Tua over Trevor Lawrence because Clemson’s run game (Travis Etienne) will play a much larger role than Alabama’s.

Arkansas Razorbacks

1. Schedule note: Kentucky is one of two divisional cross-over games for Arkansas. They last played each other in 2012 (Arkansas won 49-7). They have played 7 times total since 1998.

2. Player to Watch: Last season, 3 quarterbacks combined to throw 17 TD and 17 INT. Coach Chad Morris made it a priority to bring in new QBs and got himself two transfers – Ben Hicks from SMU and Nick Starkel from Texas A&M. Hicks has started 37 games in three years at SMU, throwing 71 TD and 34 INT and averaged 3,027 yards per year.

3. Recent Recap: It was a disastrous first season for first year coach Chad Morris, which included blowout losses to Colorado State and North Texas and a winless SEC schedule.

4. Preview: Year 2 projects to be better, but I don’t see the Razorbacks qualifying for a bowl, not with the SEC West being as strong as it is. The OOC schedule is much more manageable (Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State – all at home), so there are wins to be had there there (Arkansas was 1-2 last year in OOC games). I see them going 3-0 OOC and also beating Missouri to get 1 SEC win. New QB Ben Hicks should be a major upgrade and it will translate to a more competitive brand of football and a few more wins, just not in the SEC.

Auburn Tigers

1. Schedule note: Auburn opens the season with Oregon in a rematch of the 2010 BCS Championship game, when Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to victory over Chip Kelly’s Ducks.

2. Players to Watch: DL Derrick Brown will have his work cut out for him facing the top 3 QB prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft – Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, and Tua Tagovailoa.

Offensively, who will replace QB Jarrett Sitdham? He will be replaced by one of three freshman – Bo Nix (true), Joey Gatewood, or Cord Sandberg (latter two redshirt). Whoever takes over will be in a position to put up points based on the Tigers offense.

3. Recent Recap: After an opening season win against eventual PAC-12 Champions Washington, 2018 was a dud for Auburn. Tigers finished 7-5 in the regular season but beat Purdue 63-14 in the Music City Bowl. Since losing the 2013 National Championship Game to Florida State, the Tigers have won 8, 7, 8, 10, 8 games. Good enough to justify not firing Gus Malzahn, but not good enough to get into a Playoffs conversation.

4. Preview: I am very down on Auburn and do not have high hopes for 2019. I though the world of outgoing QB Jarrett Stidham. I thought, with Malzahn coaching him, he could have Heisman hopes. He was fine, but was far from special. As a result, I’m not sure whoever replaces him will have that much more success. I think Oregon beats Auburn week 1 – I’ll take the coach on much stabler ground and the proven, reliable quarterback for Oregon. Malzahn’s teams always pull at least one rabbit out of a hat, so I see them beating LSU.

Florida Gators

1. Schedule note: Gators open the season against Miami, facing their in-state foe for the first time since 2013. In 2008, led by Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer, the Gators beat both top tier Florida teams – Miami (26-3) and Florida State (45-15).

2. Players to Watch: CB CJ Henderson had 38 tackles with two sacks, seven passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Felipe Franks will begin the year as the starting QB, but how long will he last? Emory Jones is going to be in the mix. Franks threw 24 TD, 6 INT last year. Jones was the 5th ranked dual threat QB in the 2018 class and could find his way onto the field as a potential gadget player.

3. Recent Recap: The Jim McElwain era ended in horror with a 4-7 season in 2017. Dan Mullen left Mississippi State to return to Florida where he previously served as Offensive Coordinator on Urban Meyer’s staff, coaching Tim Tebow. He came in and went 10-3 in year one, ending with a win over Michigan in the Peach Bowl.

4. Preview: Gators will carry that momentum into 2019. I see them finishing with the same 9-3 regular season record as a year ago, with losses at LSU, Georgia and a slip up at Missouri. Tigers have actually won the last two vs Florida by an average of 41-16.

Georgia Bulldogs

1. Schedule note: Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, they have yet to face Georgia. The two will meet for the first time since the 2009 Independence Bowl.

2. Player to Watch: Georgia is the current RB U, having sent Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel (all of whom were on same UGA roster at one point) into the NFL. D’Andre Swift is no doubt the next Georgia RB to start for an NFL team as soon as 2020. Swift ran for 1,064 yards, but did so while splitting carries with Elijah Holyfield (who also ran for 1,000+ yards). After only 163 carries, Swift should see closer to the 250 range, multiply that by his 6.4 yards per carry average and you have a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Those two RBs combined for 17 TD.

3. Recent Recap: I adamantly believed Georgia did not belong in the Playoffs last season. The team was absolutely good enough and maybe even better than some that did make it (like Notre Dame), but it’s hard to justify a team that lost twice making it over an unbeaten Irish team. Since Kirby Smart took over, Georgia has won 8, 13, and 11 games. They have finished in the top 6 in recruiting each year, including the #1 class in 2018.

4. Preview: Each of the last two Georgia seasons ended in major disappointment. First the 2018 National Championship game loss vs Alabama. And then, last year’s Sugar Bowl thud vs Texas, which came after another loss to Alabama in the SEC title game. I have Georgia getting back to the Playoffs this season and not only that, but beating Alabama in the SEC title game.

Outside of the annual Florida game in Jacksonville, the schedule favors the Bulldogs with Notre Dame and Texas A&M, their two toughest games outside of Florida being played in Athens. They also go to Auburn, but I’m down on the Tigers. The highest chance of a loss, to me, is the Florida game, followed by Notre Dame. Both teams will be out to prove they belong, I just believe Georgia belongs more and will prove what the world thought of last year’s playoff selection.

Kentucky Wildcats

1. Schedule note: Since 1985, Kentucky has beaten both Tennessee and Florida just twice, respectively.

2. Player to Watch: With RB Benny Snell gone, more responsibility will fall on QB Terry Wilson. Wilson threw 11 TD, 8 INT and ran for 547 yards and 4 TD.

3. Recent Recap: Kentucky finally had their big breakout season in 2018. After consecutive 7-6 seasons, which included the end of UK’s 5 year bowl drought in 2016, Wildcats finished last year 10-3. They accomplished two major milestones in the process – most important they beat Florida, snapping a 31 game losing streak. They also beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, for their first bowl victory since 2008.

4. Preview: After a 10-win season, the Wildcats will unfortunately feel some regression with RB Benny Snell and LB Josh Allen off to the NFL. But Mark Stoops has this program on stable ground and they have winnable home games like Tennessee and Missouri. Those games could be the difference between 6-8 wins – I have them winning both and getting to 8-4 as a result.

LSU Tigers

1. Schedule note: LSU takes on Texas in week 2, their first meeting since the 2003 Cotton Bowl. In 17 all-time meetings. there have been 9 shutouts and Texas leads 9-7-1.

2. Players to watch: Safety Grant Delpit had 74 tackles, 9.5 tackle for a loss, five sacks, nine passes batted and five interceptions

3. Recent Recap: LSU ended last year on a high note, winning the Fiesta Bowl against UCF, ending the Knights’ 23 game winning streak. It was their first 10-win season since 2013.

4. Preview: For the first time in a long time, LSU does not have questions at the quarterback position. Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State last summer and did an excellent job for the Tigers, throwing just 5 INTs and 16 passing TDs plus 7 rush TDs. They lost the heart and soul of their defense – Devin White, but luckily for them the defense was young last year and battle-tested. I have them losing to Alabama (for a 9th straight year) and to Texas on the road week 2, along with Auburn at home. They will beat Texas A&M and Florida at home

Mississippi State Bulldogs

1. Schedule note: Mississippi State has lost 11 in a row vs Alabama, dating back to 2008.

2. Players to Watch: QB Tommy Stevens was a late transfer coming from Penn State. Long time Penn State backup knows coach Joe Moorehead’s system (Moorehead was previously Penn St Offensive Coordinator). Stevens’ ability to run allows to maintain that element that outgoing QB Nick Fitzgerald executed so well.

LB Willie Gay should emerge as a star on the Bulldogs defense. A defense that lost a handful of players to graduation and the NFL. Gay had 5 sacks last season, a number that should rise considerably.

3. Recent Recap: Bulldogs had the #1 defense in the country in 2018. They averaged 4.13 yards per play and gave up just 15 TDs all year. They held 10/13 opponents under 20 points (Kentucky 28, Alabama 24, Iowa 27). Offensively, they had 4 games where they were held to single digit points (Kentucky, Florida, LSU, Alabama)

4. Preview: Bulldogs’ 2018 defense produced three first round picks so regression is likely in order. QB Nick Fitzgerald played in 44 games for the Bulldogs, and there’s no doubt his loss will hurt too. The five projected losses are to the top 4 teams (Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn) plus at Tennessee. The biggest win comes at home vs Kentucky.

Ole Miss Rebels

1. Schedule note: Ole Miss is one of two teams to beat Alabama in consecutive seasons (2014-2015) since Nick Saban took over (LSU 2010-2011).

2. Player to Watch: Ole Miss lost a lot from their 2018 offense, but RB Scottie Phillips remains. Phillips had 1,033 yards from scrimmage and 14 total TDs.

3. Recent Recap: Ole Miss hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2015. Since, they have won 5, 6, and 5 games but were ineligible for a bowl game in 2017 due to NCAA violations. They have only won 6 SEC games over that time frame.

4. Preview: Head Coach Matt Luke did an admirable job filling in for Ole Miss in 2017 on an interim basis, after Hugh Freeze was let go due to NCAA violations. But they went 5-7 despite having a QB that threw for almost 4000 yards (Jordan Ta’amu 3,918 yards) and 2 WRs that were high NFL Draft picks (AJ Brown and DK Metcalf) plus their second leading WR (DeMarkus Lodge) graduated.

With that, I can’t see Ole Miss taking a step forward, only backwards. Rebels will be lucky to win 4 games and Matt Luke will likely be let go following another losing season. I have them beating Vanderbilt and Arkansas, both at home, in SEC play.

Missouri Tigers

1. Schedule note: Missouri hosts West Virginia week 2 in the second half of a home-and-home series that saw Mountaineers win 26-11 in Morgantown in 2016.

2. Players to watch: TE Albert Okwuegbunam has scored 17 TDs in 18 career games. He is considered the top TE in the 2020 NFL Draft.

And of course, QB Kelly Bryant takes over for outgoing Drew Lock. Bryant led Clemson to the Playoffs in 2017 and transferred in the middle of the 2018 season.

3. Recent Recap: Led by former alum Barry Odom, Missouri is 15-10 the last two seasons, losing in the bowl game both times.

4. Preview: Missouri is in a weird spot because they are presently ineligible for the 2019 postseason but are appealing their probation and the bowl ban may or may not be lifted sometime during the season. Despite the potential distractions, I have Missouri going 8-4, with their biggest win coming against Florida and losses to South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

South Carolina Gamecocks

1. Schedule note: Gamecocks are one of two teams to face both Alabama and Clemson this season (Texas A&M being the other). South Carolina won their last meeting against Alabama, back in 2010. They have lost 5 (mostly noncompetitive games) in a row to Clemson, last winning in 2013.

2. Players to watch: QB Jake Bentley has started 33 games in his career and hopes to go out on a high note. He has thrown 54 TD and needs to 8 to break the all-time school record – Bentley is currently third. Steve Taneyhill threw 61 from 1992-1995) and more recently Connor Shaw threw 56 from 2010-2013).

3. Recent Recap: Since 2000, South Carolina has averaged 7 wins per season and that includes a stretch from 2011-2013 where they went 11-2 each season.

4. Preview: Could Will Muschamp be on the hot seat? I think so. He has been a head coach for 7 years (between Florida and South Carolina) and in 5 of those seasons his team won 6-7 games. He has been the poster boy for average football. South Carolina should be aiming much higher than average. I see the Gamecocks following their pattern and finishing 6-6 in 2019 and having a big decision to make following the season.

Tennessee Volunteers

1. Schedule note: Vols host BYU week 2, in the first ever meetings between the two schools.

2. Player to Watch: Jarrett Guarantano does one thing very well at QB – he protects the football. He threw 3 interceptions on 246 pass attempts. He was also protective of the football, completing 62% of his passes but averaging just 7.8 yards per attempt.

3. Recent Recap: The curse of Lane Kiffin? Kiffin was just 7-6 in his one season in Tennessee in 2009. Since that year, Tennessee’s three head coaches have averaged 6 wins over that time.

4. Preview: Vols WILL make a bowl game for the first time since 2016. It’s time. New coach Jeremy Pruitt did a fine job last season, with what he had to work with, and I believe Jared Guarantano is ready to take the next step. The pivotal swing games to ensure Tennessee gets to six wins will be BYU, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, all at home. I have the Vols winning all three to get to 7 wins. If they go 1-2 vs those three, they will need to pull off a major victory to get to bowl eligibility.

Texas A&M

1. Schedule note: Aggies face 3 of 4 MIKEDROPSPORTS Playoff teams in 2019 (Clemson, Alabama, Georgia).

2. Players to watch: Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has great experience with quarterbacks, including former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Kellen Mond seems to be Fisher’s next big project. Mond threw for 3,107 yards, 24 TD, 9 INT, and ran for 474 yards and 7 TD. I could see the rushing numbers increasing slightly, especially with RB Trayveon Williams gone. The key for Mond as a passer is protecting the football and avoiding turnovers.

3. Recent Recap: Kevin Sumlin averaged 8.5 wins from 2012-2017. Always good, and other than his first year in 2012, never great. Aggies lost their fewest games (4) since 2013 and won a bowl game for the first time since 2014.

4. Preview: Aggies could play a major role in the Playoffs picture. In addition to Georgia, Alabama, Clemson they play LSU and Auburn. Their looking at 7-5 worst case scenario or best case would be 8-10 wins, which would require a major signature victory.

Their best shot at a signature win is against Alabama on 10/12. They go to Georgia and to Clemson, but I just don’t see it. Home-field advantage is the only edge I give them against Alabama, and that still won’t be enough. I also have them losing to LSU on the road giving them 8 wins, which in most circumstances is a solid season, but would be pretty hollow given the four projected losses.

Vanderbilt

1. Schedule note: Vanderbilt lost 28 of 29 games to Tennessee between 1983-2011, but have won 5 of 7 games since 2012.

2. Player to watch: RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn is SEC’s leading returning rusher (1,244 yards). He averaged an outstanding 7.9 yards per carry last year.

3. Recent Recap: Derek Mason has yet to produce a winning record at Vanderbilt, despite two bowl appearance in five years. Both times, the Commodores finished 6-6 and lost the bowl. 2013 was their last winning record.

4. Preview: Vanderbilt is fortunate to play a weaker OOC schedule this season. I have them sweeping their three opponents – Northern Illinois (although far from a pushover), UNLV and East Tennessee State. And that’s it. Winless in SEC play for the second time in Mason’s tenure. Their best chances for wins are at Ole Miss (though, they are probably saying the same thing) and home games vs Missouri and Kentucky.


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About Mike Schneid 540 Articles
Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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