Predicting every SEC team's record after Week 1
What did the results from Week 1 change? Not a ton, but we’re firm believers in mulligans here at Saturday Down South. We’ll avail ourselves of one now by predicting the final regular season records of the teams of the SEC after Week 1.
You can tear up all those old outdated predictions, because here’s what we think now:
Coming into season, there was no reason to pick against Alabama winning them all. After seeing them play against Louisville and winning 51-14, that’s the same. This team looks every bit as good as last year, but with an extra burst of explosiveness coming from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. They pass, they run, they defend, they return kicks. Somebody might beat them, but it’s tough to forecast it.
Arkansas’ passing game looked great, admittedly against an FCS team. But there were still problems in the 55-20 win over Eastern Illinois, even in what will be the easiest game they play all year. The Razorbacks rushed for only 2.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, they allowed 230 yards passing and three scores to Eastern Illinois. This should be an entertaining season, but the offenses of the SEC West are too potent for this defense to remain competitive.
No. 9 Auburn’s game with No. 6 Washington was the only top-10 matchup of the weekend and it easily could have been a game that the Tigers dropped. But they handled Washington’s high-level passing game in the 21-16 win in Atlanta, and bodes well for the Tigers in the SEC West. Everyone in the division is pretty much going to throw the ball — and throw it well. Auburn’s running game needs to improve — 45 carries for 147 yards, a paltry 3.3-yard average — but the outlook for Auburn is a little better than it was a week ago.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see LSU’s first game before we re-guess their record since the Tigers play Miami on Sunday night. Unless it’s very impressive, this week around the SEC West was bad news for LSU. Mississippi State was explosive and Auburn was stout. Texas A&M could be better than LSU, but we’ll know more about the Tigers by Sunday night.
It’s not that the Rebels weren’t impressive in a 47-27 win over Texas Tech, because they were. It’s just that the SEC West is so, so good this year and wins are going to be hard to come by. The offense that put up 47 points will score on everybody, but that defense that was good enough in Week 1 won’t be good enough most weeks in the SEC.
Mississippi State: 10-2
Sure, the Bulldogs played Stephen F. Austin and rolled 63-6, but they still passed for almost 400 yards without starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Sure, it was a nobody opponent, but they did nothing to change the impression of State as an SEC West and College Football Playoff dark horse.
Texas A&M: 8-4
Yes, Northwestern State was awful, but that can’t hide how impressive the Aggies were in their 59-7 win on Thursday night to kick off the Jimbo Fisher era. Any time you rush for 500 yards, your offensive line is doing the kind of things that will translate well into conference play. The Aggies won’t be a factor in the West this year, but they might be there sooner than we thought.
Given the competition gap with Charleston Southern, it’s hardly surprising that the Gators looked good in the 53-6 win. Feleipe Franks looked like he had a new lease on life at quarterback, and the running game was competent. Granted, the defense probably won’t hold too many other teams to 3 (yes, 3) passing yards, but the Gators look like a team that could beat everybody in the SEC East not named Georgia.
We didn’t learn much in the 45-0 rout of Austin Peay, but Georgia didn’t show anything to make them anything but the prohibitive favorite in the East and a contender for the CFP. They’re really, really good. We won’t know more until they play somebody else who is really, really good, which could be a little while.
Look, this will be short and sweet. Kentucky’s passing game was awful in the 35-20 win over Central Michigan. Newly installed starter Terry Wilson threw two picks and lost a fumble in the game’s first 28 minutes. He looked incredibly limited, and if he doesn’t show drastic improvement, Kentucky will be lucky to beat Vanderbilt. If they figure out something in the passing game, they could still be a 7-5 team, but they won’t be a factor in the East absent a minor miracle.
The Tigers have plenty of offense — and they showed that in their 51-14 win over Tennessee-Martin — but the question is whether they have enough defense to emerge as the second-best team in the East. South Carolina and Florida might have the inside track on that, but if Mizzou can slow opposing offenses, they could well be the runner-up.
South Carolina: 8-4
Sure, Coastal Carolina was awful in the 49-15 loss, but Carolina actually looked good on offense, passing for 294 yards and running for 263. The depth was also impressive, as five different Gamecocks caught touchdown passes, and both Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams eclipsed 80 yards rushing. The defense looked solid, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. The Gamecocks will be a strong player in the race for second place in the SEC East.
It’s just shocking how far away Tennessee looks from being a good football team. Jeremy Pruitt may well be the man to bring them back, but he’s so far away at this point, and that was obvious in the 40-14 loss to No. 17 West Virginia. Tennessee is a program that is in dire need of an on-field identity, and finding that will be Pruitt’s first job.
Vandy looked a little better than their preseason expectations in a convincing 35-7 win over a decent Middle Tennessee team. That said, we might need a few more weeks to see whether “better” will translate into a bowl-eligible team or just another scrambler trying to not finish last in the SEC East.