A bold prediction for each SEC team in 2020
We’re in another long wait until Spring practice, but at the Bold Prediction Department, there is no offseason. No football just means more time to sit around and dream up crazy off-the-wall scenarios. Granted, most of them don’t pan out. But every now and then, our long shots pay off.
Here’s a bold prediction for each SEC team’s 2020 season.
Alabama: Holy Moses
Alabama had horrible injury luck in 2019 and losing Dylan Moses was a big part of that. Of course, he’s back in 2020, but we’re not sure if the rest of the SEC realizes just how big of a gain this was. Moses will be the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, and as for the Tide, surely they won’t have such awful luck 2 years in a row.
Arkansas: 2 SEC wins for the Razorbacks
No, the Razorbacks aren’t going bowling in 2020. They might not even escape the SEC cellar, but they’ll pick up a pair of league wins. That finale in Kansas City against Mizzou looks incredibly promising, and Joey Freshwater’s trip to Fayetteville earlier in the month could well be a 2nd league win (don’t sleep on UT at home as another possibility).
Auburn: Bo Nix gets the Joe Burrow Most Improved QB trophy
It’s not a big upset. Bo Nix had moments when he showed All-SEC and possibly All-American play in 2019. Given the way Auburn finished the year, it’s not crazy to expect that Bo 2.0 (gosh, that feels wrong to write in an Auburn context without referencing Bo Jackson) has the kind of uptick that Burrow 2.0 had over Burrow 1.0 at LSU. No, we’re not saying Auburn wins the title or Nix comes close to Burrow’s numbers, but we are saying Bo breaks the Auburn single-season passing mark (3,277 yards) in 2020.
Florida: Heading back to Atlanta
After a 3-year absence from the SEC Championship Game, the Gators will return to it in 2020. Admittedly, this don’t qualify as entirely bold … as since Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville, the Gators have been slowly eroding the gap between Georgia and the rest of the SEC. Says here that the gap has closed enough that Florida wins the East in 2020.
Georgia: New man shines
Georgia’s offense was a major disappointment of the 2019 season, but look for grad transfer Jamie Newman to change the script. Reading the Florida comments might come off as a slam at UGA. Not at all — while UGA draws Bama and Auburn from the West, Florida gets LSU and Ole Miss. That’s probably the difference in the division. Meanwhile, Georgia’s defense can’t help but take a little bit of a step back, but with Newman at the helm, UGA will be massive improved offensively — enough so that Newman will be the SEC Player of the Year.
Kentucky: 1,000-yard streak continues
SEC schools with 1,000 yard rushers in the past 4 seasons are Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State… and Kentucky. Says here that Kentucky continues that streak for a 5th consecutive year. Admittedly, WR/QB/All-Everything Lynn Bowden is gone, but most of Kentucky’s nasty offensive line returns, and UK will manage another 1,000-yard rushing season, presumably with veteran back A.J. Rose.
LSU: Back to 10 wins
This might not even be all that bold — as Will Ferrell might say, it’s science. Yes, LSU was the best team in college football in 2019. Yes, it took a perfect storm of coaches, a deadly quarterback and underrated skill players to reach that pinnacle. And pretty much the second the ink was dry on the national title stories, all of that stuff started falling apart. No, LSU isn’t slipping to mediocrity. They’ll still be a factor in the national title hunt and will spend all or the majority of the season in the top 10. But the breaks that went LSU’s way in 2019 won’t go that way in 2020. There’s still a 10-win season here — but that’s all.
Mississippi State: Shrader = Chad Kelly
It wasn’t all that long ago that rival Ole Miss had an up-tempo passing attack with talented receivers and a QB who could burn even Alabama. Which is now what Mike Leach is going to install across the State in Starkville. Shrader will be the SEC’s most improved player, and even if State’s defense will be enough of a work in progress to keep it out of the top of the SEC, Shrader could best Dak Prescott’s school record of 3,793 passing yards in 2020.
Missouri: 2nd-half slide continues
New coach Eli Drinkwitz gets a gift of a schedule that will have the Tigers looking strong out of the gate. The first month is 2 cupcakes, a home game against Vandy and a trip to South Carolina. That said, Missouri might start 4-2 or even 5-1, but it’s rough sledding down the back half of the schedule. Despite the coaching changes, Mizzou might well be looking at another 6-6 season.
Ole Miss: Plumlee = Nick Fitzgerald
Given the bad blood between the Mississippi schools (insert obligatory joke about peeing in the end zone at the Egg Bowl here), it’s funny to see a common theme develop. What’s going on in Oxford is that Lane Kiffin’s best hopes are on a run-first quarterback. Plumlee can throw enough to get by, and Lane will craft him into Nick Fitzgerald 2.0 — a QB who threatens to lead the SEC in rushing and makes enough plays with his arm to keep things interesting. Instead of rushing for 1,000 yards and passing for 900, like Plumlee did in 2019, we see 1,300 rushing yards and 2,500 passing yards in 2020.
South Carolina: End of Will
Carolina has been patient, and on an individual level, they’ve shown growth and improvement. But this schedule includes a brutal November (Georgia at home, at LSU, Wofford for a breather, and then at Clemson) that Will Muschamp just can’t survive. Would a 6-6 season keep his job? It’s hard to look at the schedule and see much more than that.
Tennessee: A statement victory
The Vols’ improvement in 2019 sets up a 2020 in which their record probably won’t reflect the continued progress they’ll make. What would reflect their progress is a statement win, and we think UT will find one. No, not Alabama, that’s a little too ambitious for us. Georgia on the road also looks a little outside the realm of likelihood. But either at Oklahoma or in Knoxville against Florida, Jeremy Pruitt gets a big win in 2020.
Texas A&M: Step up or step back for Jimbo
Yes, A&M has been competitive, but 9 wins and 8 wins essentially mirrored what Kevin Sumlin had done. We’re not saying Jimbo’s on the hot seat, but 2020 is the year when A&M has to step up or face the fact that, if not, 2021 could get really interesting. Four years for a coach who inherits a team that hadn’t had a losing season since 2009 is a sufficient time to have the program moving forward or to move aside. Year 3 isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but if A&M doesn’t win 10 games, there’ll be plenty of grumbling a year from now.
Vandy: Another coaching change
Derek Mason has survived so far, but a 4-8 season here (and another fall of empty stadiums) is enough to move even Vanderbilt to make a change. Even getting Ole Miss out of the West won’t help Vandy be competitive in 2020.