The SEC West is the strongest division in college football. Here is my season outlook for each team. (Next week: SEC East).
Alabama: The offense was very good last season, but with Sims, Yeldon and Cooper all gone, it might not be as explosive. As well as Bama recruits, players with Cooper’s ability don’t come around that often. The offense figures to be down a bit.
The defense was one of the country’s best last year and I see no reason why it won’t be right up there again. They could improve the pass rush, especially since they figure to have the lead in most games. They also didn’t force a lot of turnovers like they do in most years.
Bama hasn’t covered in the last two seasons like they have in years past. I will rate them a bit lower than usual until I see some scoring potential out of their offense.
Arkansas: The Hogs lost 4 one-score games last season. A team with a relatively new coach figures to lose some close games. Now with Bielema in his third season and a veteran quarterback, I expect Arkansas to win a higher percentage of those one score games.
The offense should be more efficient this season. The running game should be very much to Bielema’s liking while QB Brandon Allen is also one year better. The defense might be off a little bit. They lose two of the top guys from the front 7. With some good talent surrounding the rest of the squad, the drop off shouldn’t be too dramatic.
Arkansas got much better as the season went on last year. They should be very good right from the start this year. And if Bielema has a chance to run it up, he might just do it.
Auburn: Lots of losses on the offense. That isn’t good, but having Gus Malzahn in control alleviates a lot of the worry. Jeremy Johnson is set at QB, and obviously that will be a big key. He will have a top OL to help. The top 2 receivers are also back. So while the losses could be significant, they could be less impactful than at a lot of other programs.
The defense was a trouble spot last year. A total of seven teams put up over 30 points on them. Will Muschamp, an all-time great D coordinator has been added in that position here. That will certainly help a lot.
LSU: The quarterback play really sunk the team last year. It wasn’t terrible, but LSU does not want mediocrity. They are used to much better. The QB will have a lot to work with both with his skill position teammates and the guys in the trenches. Look for an improved offense.
The defense was stellar last season, something we have come to expect since Miles has been at LSU. The DL could stand some improvement, and it might get it. It will have to. The best three players have departed. It will be very difficult to match last year’s effectiveness.
Mississippi: Ole Miss flirted with a No. 1 ranking for a while, then wound up losing 4 of their last 5 to DI opponents, getting blasted in their last two (Arkansas 30-0 and TCU 42-3) In between was a huge win vs Miss State.
With another fine recruiting class making its way into the lineup, Ole Miss should be able to weather the storm a little better this year. They will have a new QB this season, most likely JUCO star Chad Kelly. The rest of the O should help ease the transition.
The D was terrific, at least until the end of the year. The front 4 will be among the conference and nation’s best. I don’t know if they can continue moving forward, record wise, but they will be very good once again.
Mississippi St.: Last season was one for the ages for Miss State. They made it to No. 1 for a brief period. Dak Prescott is back and is one of the most dynamic players in the country. However, the rest of the cupboard is pretty bare. They will come back to the pack this season.
The offense will feature Prescott, but a lot hinges on the OL. If it comes around, they will have a chance to be pretty good. The D took some serious hits. Only 4 back and the front 7 is left notoriously thin. Mullen has recruited well, but doubtful he has the horses to just plug in here. The D will be much worse.
Texas A&M: After beating Arkansas to go 5-0, I thought A&M was on their way to a big season. They lost their next 3 in a row, including a 59-0 embarrassment to Alabama. They were plagued by inconsistency all season.
The Aggies have a lot of talent coming back and a coach who has had a lot of success over the years. Veteran D coordinator John Chavis joins the program to fix the D, who badly needed it last year. I think this season will be a good one, and it better be for Sumlin’s sake.
Up north: This week in Reno, it’s the Greek Festival at Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church, Aug. 21-23 at 4795 Lakeside Drive. Call 775-825-5365, renogreekfest.com; Sept. 2-7 Best In The West Nugget Rib Cookoff. John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Call 775-356-3300, nuggetribcookoff.com.
Chris Andrews has over 30 years experience as a Nevada bookmaker. Check out his new website at www.againstthenumber.com and www.sharpssports.com. Follow him on [email protected]. Email: [email protected]