Predicting the offensive MVP for every SEC West team in 2019
Nine SEC teams averaged more than 30 points per game last season.
Alabama paced the group, setting an SEC record for points (684) en route to averaging 45.6 per game. Four more SEC West teams finished in the top 8 in scoring.
Clearly, head coaches dig the touchdown.
With so many teams having so many playmakers, singling out one as an offensive MVP is an impossible task. Fortunately, I like a challenge.
After tackling the SEC East, here’s who I think wins each SEC West team’s offensive MVP in 2019.
Alabama: QB Tua Tagovailoa
It’s an obvious choice, but it’s not a given. Through no fault of his own, I think his numbers regress in 2019. I don’t expect him to throw for 4,000 yards. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he approaches 40 TD passes again.
The reason? Last season. Or, more specifically, how last season ended.
I believe Alabama still is going to roll to a perfect regular season, but I expect Nick Saban to make the beatings more methodical and bruising than breathtaking. I hope I’m wrong. Tagovailoa has the talent and weaponry to make a run at Tim Couch’s single-season passing yards record (4,275) and Drew Lock’s single-season TD record (44). I want to see 4,500 yards and 50 TDs. Those are both attainable in a 15-game season.
Alas, last season ended so miserably, I expect Alabama to return to its Run The Damn Ball ways.
Alabama gained almost 2,000 more yards through the air (4,854) than it did on the ground (2,976) last season. It was beautiful in a Big 12 kind of way, but it wasn’t Nick Saban’s Bama. There will be a course correction in 2019, just like in 2015 and 2011.
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Arkansas: RB Rakeem Boyd
Chad Morris’ QBs get a lot of headlines. Without question, Deshaun Watson deserved all of them and 2 Heismans. But when his system is rolling, Morris’ running backs do more than their share of the work.
SMU transfer QB Ben Hicks obviously knows Morris’ system. I expect he will be able to keep defenses honest enough to enable Boyd to have a 1,000-yard season.
The talent is there: He ran for 100+ yards against Alabama and Vandy, came close against Mississippi State and averaged 8.3 yards per carry against Auburn. What better way to cap his comeback story than by leading this team to a huge comeback season of its own.
Auburn: QB Joey Gatewood
I’ve bought the hype. All of it. The only thing that mattered to me about Gatewood’s A-Day performance was how completely comfortable he looked. That’s all I wanted to see. The arm talent and running ability will show up as long as the mind allows it to. Obviously it was a controlled setting, but so was last year, and this was a 99.7 percent improvement over last spring. He looked like a guy who knows this is his team. More important, Gus Malzahn looked like a coach who knows this is his QB.
LSU: QB Joe Burrow
Burrow is such an obvious choice and I fully expect him to throw for 3,000 yards and 25 TDs in Year 2. Those are just-getting-started totals for Tua Tagovailoa, but statue-building stuff in Baton Rouge. Only 3 LSU QBs have reached 3,000 yards, and only 2 have thrown for 25 TDs.
I believe Burrow becomes the next to join both lists after throwing for 2,894 yards with 16 TDs in 2018.
The question is: Can he be great against Alabama? Three QBs topped 300 yards passing against the Tide in 2018, but Burrow went just 18-for-35 for 189 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. He also took 5 sacks. LSU will need him to play at an MVP level that week.
Mississippi State: QB Keytaon Thompson
This is the biggest wild-card pick in the bunch. Thompson might not win the starting job. The Bulldogs just signed former Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens, right? However, familiarity with Joe Moorhead aside, Stevens threw all of 41 passes at Penn State.
Stevens can run. Penn State designed a “Lion” package to take advantage of his running skills, but he’s never been asked or trusted to be a passing threat. Can he? We shall see.
You know who else can run? Thompson. He averaged 9.4 yards per rush last season. He closed 2017 with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against Ole Miss and Louisville.
Is he wildly erratic as a passer? Yes. Without question, that is the reason Moorhead signed Stevens and Garrett Schrader. But there were plenty who thought grad transfer Keller Chryst was going to walk into Knoxville and take Jarrett Guarantano’s job last year, too. It didn’t happen.
I like Thompson’s moxie.
I think at some point, MSU is going to need Thompson, who has proven he can find the end zone, even if it isn’t always the most scenic route.
Ole Miss: RB Scottie Phillips
Phillips was one of the SEC’s breakout stars and biggest surprises in 2018. Not anymore. He missed out on a 1,000-yard season only because of injuries. He ran for 12 TDs — only 3 SEC RBs had more. His 6.07 yards-per-carry was better than first-round pick Josh Jacobs and almost a full yard better than bruiser Benny Snell.
Hyped freshman Jerrion Ealy might cut into some of his carries, but Phillips did all of his damage last year while getting fewer than 14 touches per game.
Texas A&M: QB Kellen Mond
Jimbo Fisher’s QBs put up numbers. It’s an upset when Fisher’s teams don’t top 3,000 yards passing.
Mond went for 3,107 and 24 TDs in his first year under Fisher. Sure, 4 of the TDs came in the 7 overtimes against LSU, but take those away and you still get a 3,000-20 season.
The guess is those numbers jump closer to 3,500 and 30 in 2019, particularly with the Aggies needing to replace Trayveon Williams’ production.