Projecting which four teams will make the College Football Playoff at this point in the year is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Remember after last year’s spring practices when everyone knew that Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida State and Tennessee would have at least one Playoff representative between them? LSU drew some post-spring love, and Ole Miss seemed like one of the most talented teams on paper.

What makes college football so much fun is its unpredictability. In any given Saturday, an upset is possible. And with so little room for error, one false step can doom a squad’s season.

Still, with spring practices behind us, it’s time to look ahead at the upcoming season. We’ve got a pretty clear picture of what each team looks like heading into the summer, and history can help us fill in the rest.

For instance, Alabama has played in five national championships under Nick Saban, including the past two. We enter each season discussing the flaws that the Crimson Tide must overcome, yet Saban has the unique ability to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths. Until it’s proven otherwise, Alabama will always be given the benefit of the doubt.

Alabama lost an incredible amount of NFL talent on defense but its offense should be one of the conference’s best. The Crimson Tide still have more talent than nearly anyone in the country, and it’s not hard to explain why they should be projected to make it back to the Playoff.

Now that we’ve talked about the large Crimson elephant in the room, let’s move along to more debatable matters.

The SEC East again should be a tightly-contested division. While it might not be completely obvious yet, it’s very likely that Georgia enters 2017 as the media favorite to make the trip to Atlanta at season’s end. Not only do the Bulldogs have one of the most talented backfields in college football, but all of that youth that gained significant experience last season should be much improved this fall.

Outside of Georgia, there are a handful of teams who could make a push. Florida and Tennessee will look different than last season, but both have pieces to work with. South Carolina should be on everyone’s radar and could pull some upsets, and Kentucky has an underrated defense and a talented running back in Benjamin Snell.

Over in the West, Auburn and LSU look like to two primary threats to the Crimson Tide. If Jarrett Stidham is the savior at quarterback that the Tigers have been looking for, there is no glaring weakness on Gus Malzahn’s squad. In Derrius Guice, LSU has maybe the only player in America who is capable of replacing Leonard Fournette and not missing a beat.

It’s a hard life for the other teams in the SEC West. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas A&M could all have squads capable of winning 9-10 games in other conferences, but they could all finish around the 7-5 mark. That’s tough.

Remember though, college football is as unpredictable a sport as any, and projections are really nothing more than an educated, thought-out guess. We will enjoy this ride just as much as you do.

Twelve SEC teams played in a bowl game last season. How many will make it back? Where will they go?

Here are our way-too-early, post-spring SEC bowl projections for 2017.

2017 SEC Bowl Projections (11 invites)

  • College Football Playoff Semifinal (Sugar Bowl): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State
  • College Football Playoff Semifinal (Rose Bowl): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Southern Cal
  • New Year’s Six Orange Bowl: Auburn vs. Virginia Tech
  • New Year’s Six Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State
  • Outback Bowl: LSU vs. Wisconsin
  • TaxSlayer Bowl: South Carolina vs. Louisville
  • Citrus Bowl: Florida vs. Miami
  • Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Indiana
  • Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas  
  • Belk Bowl: Tennessee vs. North Carolina
  • Birmingham Bowl: Mississippi State vs. USF
  • V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. TCU

Didn’t make the cut: Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Missouri