As hard as it is to believe, we are less than 80 days to the start of the college football season. And as such, in the lead-up to SEC Media Days in late July, we felt like it was a good time to go and give you quick, league-by-league unofficial power rankings.
These are hardly official, as there is still some portal activity going on - and as we all know, a random scandal can pop up at any time (just ask Arizona State last summer). Still, now feels like a good time to reset everything that happened last year, and everything you need to know going into next year.
Last week we started with the Pac-12, and today, we move to the SEC.
Georgia is your reigning national champ. Bama is Bama. But who right behind them could make some noise?
Here is our list - also, odds to win the league are also available, presented by our partners at DraftKings:
1. Georgia (+135): The reigning National Champions only return 10 starters from last year, but it shouldn’t be that much of a concern with how Kirby Smart has recruited recently. The main concern is how much was lost on a defense that was one of the best in the history of college football, with standouts like Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, and Nakobe Dean being key players that are now in the NFL. The defense still has a lot of talent like Kelee Ringo being a standout cornerback among many others that can step up and it should still be a force next season even with a new coordinator as well. Stetson Bennett comes back to quarterback a Georgia offense that also has a lot of new faces but should still be very good and they still have Brock Bowers at tight end as well. The Bulldogs get Oregon in Atlanta to open the year and then have an easier conference schedule with no Alabama, Texas A&M, or LSU. They play Kentucky on the road, Tennessee at home, and then Florida on a neutral field. I expect Georgia to win around 11 games and get to the SEC Championship game.
2. Tennessee (+5000): Josh Heupel did a great job in his first year, and now is set up for a great second year as well. The Vols exploded on the offensive side of the ball and the quarterback who ran it was Hendon Hooker. Hooker and a few receivers come back as well as four starters from the offensive line. The defense needs to take a big step forward for the Vols to take it the next level. They need to improve after allowing 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points per game in SEC play. Tennessee needs more depth to have any shot at competing with Georgia. The Vols get Pitt on the road in the non-conference, and then Alabama and Kentucky at home and then LSU and Georgia at home. I’d expect the Tennessee Volunteers to win around nine games.
3. Kentucky (+6000): Kentucky has had a great revival recently under Mark Stoops, and they could just as easily be the second ranked team in the East instead of Tennessee. Quarterback, Will Levis, will be one of the best signal-callers in the SEC, and the running back stable is going to be very deep. The wide receivers are a question mark and need to be reloaded after Wan’Dale Robinson left for the NFL. The Kentucky offense has a new play-caller in Rich Scangarello, but the offense won’t change much. The defense should remain solid after being the fourth ranked scoring defense in the conference last year. The line and the secondary have holes to fill, but the linebackers should be among the best in the SEC. Kentucky has tough road trips to Florida, Tennessee, and Ole Miss, and then they get Georgia and Louisville at home as well. I like Kentucky to win around nine games and finish behind Tennessee due to the tiebreaker.
4. Florida (+4000): The Gators fell hard last year, after winning the East the previous year, but there is a lot of reason for optimism this year. Florida’s got one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, with Anthony Richardson. He only played in eight games last year, but averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards, and nine touchdowns total. The running back stable and the wide receiving corps should both be very deep and much improved. The offensive line should also be improved but is still questionable. The biggest room for improvement is needed on the defensive line after Florida was ranked in the bottom of the conference against the run and only had 20 sacks against SEC competition. The linebackers and corners should be better as well. Florida opens the season at home against the Pac-12 favorite, Utah, then have home games against Kentucky, LSU, and Georgia, and then Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Florida State on the road. I’d expect Florida to win around eight games, and hopefully Anthony Richardson stays healthy too.
5. South Carolina (+15000): Shane Beamer worked wonders in his first year as head coach of the Gamecocks, and this year he should expect more. Beamer hit the transfer portal hard, with the biggest prize being getting a commitment from quarterback, Spencer Rattler. The receiving corps was also boosted and should be decent this year as well. The running backs should also be good, but the offensive line needs to see improvement. They also need to shore up their defensive line too and improve their rushing defense. The secondary should still be decent as well. The schedule is very tough with road games against Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, and Clemson, and then they get Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee at home. I’d expect the Gamecocks to win around six games, just because the schedule is insanely tough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they win more and shock a few people.
6. Missouri (+30000): Eli Drinkwitz and Missouri face tough issues like a defense that needs help and inconsistency from the quarterback position. The defense allowed 36 points a game and then also more than 200 yards a game on the ground in conference play. They also have a new defensive coordinator in Blake Baker. The quarterback reins will likely go to Brady Cook, but he needs a running back to step up too. The good news is that the wide receivers are a very solid group and should help Cook get used to the offense. The schedule for Missouri is okay from a toughness standpoint. They travel to Kansas State in the non-conference, and then also have road games in the SEC against Florida and Tennessee. They also play Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas at home as well. I’d expect Missouri to win around five games this year, with little room to move up, I think.
7. Vanderbilt (+100000): Clark Lea inherited a huge rebuilding project at his alma mater. The quarterback position is up in the air, but the Commodores get running back Re’Mahn Davis back from injury, which is a plus. The offensive line, however, needs help and will be a major concern in a conference known for its defense. The defense is the biggest weakness and was in the bottom two in the conference for both the pass and the run. Lea was a great defensive coordinator so another year in the system should be huge for improvement, but the talent just isn’t there and the defense has holes all over the place. They play Wake Forest in the non-conference at home, and then Florida and Tennessee at home in conference play. They also get Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky on the road. I think Vanderbilt wins around three games, but hopefully looks respectable throughout the season.
1. Alabama (-125): Alabama just reloads year after year and this year is no different. They are probably going to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country, and will be led by their quarterback, Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman trophy winner. Nick Saban has reloaded the running back room and the wide receivers as well after losing both Jameson Williams and John Metchie III. The line was inconsistent last year, and they lost Evan Neal as well, so the biggest question on the roster is how the offensive line looks throughout the season. The defensive side of the ball has talent all over the place with the biggest star being Will Anderson Jr. off the edge. The line has talent all over and so does the linebacking corps. The biggest talent pool might be the secondary, with the addition of Eli Ricks, and then Jordan Battle at safety too. Alabama has a showdown with Texas in the non-conference in Austin, and then Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU on the road in the SEC. They play Texas A&M and Auburn at home as well. I think Alabama wins at least 11 games but could win more and will win the SEC Championship and represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff.
2. Texas A&M (+1600): Jimbo Fisher made a statement on the recruiting trail when the Aggies ended up with the #1 recruiting class in the country, and now they need to execute it on the field. The quarterback position will be fine with either Haynes King or Max Johnson. They also added some good depth at receiver which will be key this year as well. The Aggies are also fine at the running back position and will also be decent on the offensive line as well. The defensive line reloaded, but lost some production, which will be a key question. The secondary will be the best part of the defense, and among the best units in the country. The schedule is decent with the Aggies getting Miami at home in the non-conference and then Arkansas in Dallas, and then, Ole Miss and Florida at home in conference. They also get Alabama on the road as well. I like the Aggies to win around 11 games, but just won’t finish ahead of Alabama.
3. Arkansas (+6000): Sam Pittman has done a phenomenal job turning around Arkansas recently. This year the stage is set for Arkansas to improve even more. KJ Jefferson will be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, and he’ll have a very solid offensive line and a very good set of running backs in the backfield as well. The biggest concern on offense is if there’ll be any receivers that’ll step up after Treylon Burks is gone. The defense needs help after only having four total starters back. Pittman and defensive coordinator, Barry Odom, have added a lot of transfers, but the questions remain there. The Razorbacks have a tough non-conference schedule with both Cincinnati at home and then BYU on the road. They play all their high-profile SEC games at home like Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and LSU. I think Arkansas wins around nine games and Pittman is looked at as coach of the year in the conference.
4. LSU (+7000): This was a toss-up between Ole Miss and LSU, but I picked LSU in this spot. The biggest thing to watch with LSU is how Brian Kelly does after making the shocking move from Notre Dame down to Baton Rouge. Overall, the Tigers only have six starters returning in total, but they have no shortage of talent all over the place. The defensive line will be the biggest strength on defense, and maybe the whole team. The secondary needs to take a major step forward, after being one of the worst in the SEC last season too. On the offensive side, the quarterback position will most likely go to either Jayden Daniels or Myles Brennan. The running backs will be decent with John Emery leading the way. The wide receiving corps will also be among the best in the country with Kayshon Boutte back as well. The schedule is decent, with Florida State on a neutral sit in the non-conference to open the year, then Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Alabama at home in conference. They also have Florida, Arkansas, and Texas A&M on the road too. I like the Tigers to rebound a bit this year and win around eight games this year.
5. Ole Miss (+5000): Lane Kiffin led the Rebels to a breakthrough year last year with a Sugar Bowl berth, but they lost a lot of production from that team too, mainly quarterback, Matt Corral. Kiffin restocked a ton of the offense through the transfer portal, with the standouts being quarterback, Jaxson Dart from USC and then running back, Zach Evans from TCU. The Rebels should also be very solid up front on their offensive line. The defense improved a ton last year, but they now have a new coordinator, Chris Partridge, and lost a few players as well. The portal worked out well for the Rebels on defense as well, so they should be decent on defense, but maybe not as good as last year. They go to Georgia Tech in the non-conference, while also playing LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas in the SEC on the road. They get Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi State at home as well. I like the Rebels to win around eight games this year, and Lane Kiffin to keep the ship steady down in Oxford.
6. Mississippi State (+10000): Mike Leach’s team returns 17 starters, which is the most of any team in the SEC West. Will Rogers returns to quarterback an offense that averaged almost 380 yards a game through the air. The running backs are set with Jo’quavius Marks and Dillon Johnson returning as well, which will be a decent backfield compliment. The Bulldogs are deep at receiver, but unproven still. The offensive line is a concern and needs to be shored up in a conference known for defense too. The defense needs to improve, but there’s hope there because eight starters return, and they have a very talented linebacking corps. They need to get better especially against the pass. The Bulldogs have a brutal schedule. They face Memphis at home and then Arizona on the road in the non-conference. In conference, they have LSU, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss on the road and then they have Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Georgia at home. Improvement is a good goal for the Bulldogs to have, but the schedule is just very brutal. I like the Bulldogs to win around six games, but the talent is there to win more.
7, Auburn (+15000): It’s been a rough off-season for Auburn that started with a losing streak to end the 2021 season, then there’s been a ton of roster turnover, and it culminated in a ton of drama surrounding coach Bryan Harsin. The offense needs to improve, and the first step of that starts with Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter at running back, which is easily the offense’s strength. The quarterback position remains in flux, with it most likely being Zach Calzada or T.J. Finley. There are questions at receiver, with playmakers needing step up for a new quarterback. The offensive line needs to step up because it was inconsistent at best, and it has four starters returning. The defense has a new coordinator in Jeff Shmedding and needs to replace a few pieces across the unit. The defense should still be solid, especially with Derick Hall back upfront. The Tigers have a very hard schedule with Penn State at home in the non-conference and then LSU Arkansas, and Texas A&M at home in conference. They also play Georgia, Ole Miss, and Alabama on the road. I like the Tigers to only win around four games, and the questions around Bryan Harsin will continue.
For an early look at the Best/Worst Heisman bets of 2022 click here
And for full SEC odds via DraftKings, click here
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