Predicting every SEC team's final record for 2020
By now, I hope you’ve read every last SEC Crystal Ball. It’s not every day that you get to look into the future, especially in 2020. Hopefully if you haven’t yelled on me at social media about your team losing a game, you can do so after reading this!
Just kidding. Don’t do that. I promise I don’t hate your team, but I’d much rather you tweet me after one of my picks is wrong to let me know how dumb I am. It humbles me.
Predicting records in a year in which we’re going to have quarantine absences and perhaps no real rhythm to a season seems, at best, like a crapshoot. We’re talking about teams as if we know what their roster will look like in late-November or early-December. We don’t.
So all of these Crystal Balls were simply based off the information we have. Having said that, it’s perfectly fair to wonder about a team’s depth late in the season. We can’t project which players will miss time, but we can project which teams would be in the roughest shape assuming that everyone is going to have to deal with a fluid roster unlike any other year.
Keep that in mind as you get upset about these predictions for your team’s record:
Wins: Mizzou, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU, Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas
The shock of the Georgia loss ends up being somewhat of an afterthought for Alabama, which still makes it to an SEC Championship with a Playoff berth up for grabs. It’s easy to forget that the past 4 times they won national titles, the Crimson Tide suffered a regular-season SEC loss. All of those came against divisional foes, which wouldn’t be the case if the season played out with a Georgia loss.
That’s the silver lining for Alabama in this conference-only slate. The odds of the SEC’s division winners having a loss (or 2) have never been greater than they’ve been with this 10-game conference schedule. Alabama might be chasing perfection, but really, there doesn’t need to be a “sky is falling” reaction to a loss in a year like this.
Wins: Mississippi State
Losses: Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Mizzou, Alabama
Baby steps. I realize this is easy for me to say as someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the program. I totally get that. But try to have some context with this season. The bar is incredibly low. But watch out for things like:
- Significant run defense improvement
- Having 1 starting quarterback all 10 games
- Improving by a full touchdown in average margin of defeat (-22.5 per SEC game in 2019)
These are basic things that are important first steps to make in this rebuild. That’s what it is. It might not be trying to go from a Bret Bielema team based on size to a Chad Morris team based on speed, but it is building the program back up to respectability. It’s probably still not fair to use Florida, LSU, Alabama and Georgia as actual barometers. The rest of the conference is fair game. At least it should be.
Wins: Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas A&M
Losses: Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, Alabama
Instead of that bye week turning into a time to crumble, I think we see a much better squad down the stretch after some early growing pains against the likes of Kentucky and Georgia. If Auburn closed the year with a 6-2 mark after an 0-2 start, I tend to believe the Bo Nix buzz would grow immensely.
I’d be higher on Auburn if I believed in Chad Morris. I’d be higher on that offense if it didn’t have such turnover on the line. Is a 6-win season going to change how people feel about Gus Malzahn? No. But is having a winning record against an all-SEC schedule a pretty decent accomplishment? I’d say so.
Wins: Ole Miss, South Carolina, LSU, Mizzou, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee
Losses: Texas A&M
If you’re a Florida fan, this is as good of a regular season as you can ask for. I say that because I don’t think it’s realistic for anyone to go 10-0 in conference play — even Alabama — much less the program that hasn’t won a conference title in 12 years. A 9-1 mark with a Georgia win would, in theory, give the Gators a Playoff shot even with a close loss in the SEC Championship.
Maybe, in this bizarre offseason in which continuity and veteran leadership on both sides has never been more important, Florida finally has the right formula to make that happen. I believe they do, and I haven’t thought that at any point during the post-Urban Meyer era.
Now is Florida’s time.
Wins: Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Mizzou, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Yeah, I think it finally happens for Florida. I think we see the Gators finally end their 3rd-down woes and take advantage of a new-look Georgia offense in the massive showdown in Jacksonville. That’s the Dawgs’ lone blemish.
I believe that the Dawgs will have a legitimate Playoff case at the end of the regular season, regardless of what happens with the quarterback situation. I think this defense is so deep and disciplined that Georgia will be able to stomach some offensive struggles, though obviously not to the degree we saw in 2019.
Wins: Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Mizzou, Vanderbilt, South Carolina
Losses: Mississippi State, Florida, Georgia, Alabama
If 6-4 happens, Kentucky fans should be ecstatic. A winning record in the SEC this year is nothing to scoff at. Again, accomplishing that feat for the second time in 4 decades would be remarkable. And while that might not feel the same as 2018 did because of how out of nowhere that season was to the masses, this year is sort of Mark Stoops’ proof of concept with this ground game and defense.
To have a winning SEC record 2 times in 3 years with a largely different roster would be a remarkable achievement for a program that couldn’t reach that feat for 40-plus years. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Wins: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Mizzou, South Carolina, Auburn, Arkansas, Texas A&M
Losses: Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss
I think the floor in Baton Rouge has absolutely been raised. And while some predicted doom and gloom following the news of Ja’Marr Chase opting out, I was a bit more on the optimistic side. A 3-loss regular season might sound like a letdown to some, but in a year when I don’t think any SEC team gets to the conference title game undefeated because of that 10-game conference schedule, a 7-3 season will still be good for 2nd place in the division.
Even with that Ole Miss loss, as deflating as that would be, LSU would probably be in position to go to a New Year’s 6 bowl for the 3rd consecutive year. Keep in mind that before 2018, they hadn’t been to a New Year’s 6/BCS Bowl since the 2011 season. That would still matter.
Wins: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mizzou
Losses: LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia
There’s something that I keep coming back to with MSU in this conference-only schedule. For starters, it’s not a full Mike Leach roster. In Year 1 at Texas Tech, he went 3-5 in Big 12 play. In Year 1 at Washington State, he was 1-8 in Pac-12 play. Leach needs time to recruit to his system. It’s seen as a bit of an excuse for coaches in Year 1 and Year 2, but there’s certainly something to it.
There’s also the fact that we’re talking about an MSU program that has 1 winning season in SEC play in the 21st century. If this, of all seasons, becomes the 2nd time that happens then that would be quite the flex for Leach. I still wouldn’t bank on that. I’ll instead wait on my “fly in the ointment” assessment of a Leach team until Year 2 or Year 3 in Starkville.
Wins: Vanderbilt, Arkansas
Losses: Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi State
I really didn’t expect to settle on 2-8. I didn’t. Mizzou is the team that I’m most scared will make me look dumb by season’s end. If they do go 2-8, I’ll probably bang the drum that the Tigers are the cliché “better than their record suggests.”
But ta 2-8 record is a result of my concern that Eli Drinkwitz has had the deck stacked against him since he arrived. Someone with 1 year as an FBS head coach didn’t get a normal spring by any means, and he won’t even get those cupcake nonconference matchups to get his feet wet. I worry about how that could impact the confidence of a team in transition if it gets off to a 1-5 start.
Wins: Arkansas, Vanderbilt, A&M, LSU
Losses: Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State
What a strange year this would be.
On one hand, it’s a 6th-place finish in the West with another Egg Bowl loss and a whopping 0 home wins. There would be some crushing winnable games that slip away like South Carolina and Kentucky coupled with demoralizing losses to the likes of Auburn and Alabama that are humbling reminders of how long it’ll take to be nationally relevant again. That, on the surface, wouldn’t fire up the masses.
But on the other hand, it’d be nearly a .500 season in the SEC — a mark that Ole Miss hasn’t sniffed since 2015 — with wins against A&M and LSU. Oh, and it’d be a 4-1 road record.
I suppose take the good with the bad and set 2021 expectations high after a quality finish.
Wins: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mizzou
Losses: Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Kentucky
I’m not so rigid on the 3-7 because I believe the Gamecocks have about a 5-5 ceiling. I mean that. There are 3 games (Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky) that could possibly swing in their favor via a key injury to the opposing team or a rash of quarantine players. That’s based on where their depth and talent stacks up.
But as of today, it’s hard to bank on those balls bouncing South Carolina’s way. The schedule is a gauntlet. There’s no getting around it. If the Gamecocks are going to have even a mediocre season, they’re going to have to win some games that they’re not supposed to. It’s as simple as that.
Wins: South Carolina, Mizzou, Arkansas, Vanderbilt
Losses: Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida
I had no intention of penciling Tennessee in for a losing record. I could easily be dead wrong on this. I admit that now.
I don’t think there’s much separation between Kentucky and Tennessee. If the Vols win that game with my projections, they’d both be 5-5 and Tennessee would be 3rd in the East. But I have fewer questions about the Wildcats. That’s why I view that as a major potential swing game that could shape how this season goes in Knoxville.
But in this conference-only slate, yeah, I have legitimate concerns with how Tennessee will handle it. A 2-10 record vs. AP Top 25 foes in the past 3 years doesn’t bode well, nor does the aforementioned struggles against the rivals. I mean, 3-27 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the past decade screams “let’s see it before we believe it” with those 3 matchups.
Wins: Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee
Losses: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn
Go figure that in a lot of ways, this year’s script could still follow the pre-2020 schedule change that many had written up for A&M. A promising start that vaults A&M into the Playoff picture … turns sour in November. I worry about the lack of depth for Kellen Mond to throw to, especially now that Jhamon Ausbon opted out. That hurts A&M down the stretch.
For what it’s worth, a winning record in conference play is nothing to be ashamed of in a year like this. If A&M still racks up some quality wins against the likes of Florida and Tennessee, that won’t be a wash. And if they’re more competitive against elite foes than last year — the bar is low for that — then that could still suggest the Aggies are trending in the right direction.
Losses: Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Mizzou, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia
No, I don’t hate Vandy. Go back to last year when I wrote nice things about the Big 3. I promise, I wrote nice things.
But how in the world can I pencil in Vandy for a victory based on the information we currently know? This offseason is supposed to huge for continuity. Vandy replaced both coordinators and has 4 new quarterbacks, only 1 of whom got spring reps. The 3 starting offensive linemen opting out didn’t help. Shoot, Vandy’s grad transfer kicker Oren Milstein opting out didn’t help, either.
I don’t know if 0-10 would result in Derek Mason getting fired. I argued before that I thought it doesn’t make sense to make any sort of long-term decisions on coaches good or bad. That includes a coach who can’t win a game. The bar for Mason is low, but it’s so low for a reason. Now would be a good time to clear it.