Predicting which SEC teams will win 3 more games in 2020 than in 2019
Five SEC teams won at least 1 more game in 2019 than they did in 2018.
LSU led the way — adding 5 wins to its 2018 victory total. Tennessee added 3. Auburn, Florida and Georgia each won 1 more game than in 2018.
Last year in this space, I predicted Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas would win 3 more games in 2019 than they did in 2018. Tennessee cooperated. Georgia improved and clearly I misspelled “LSU.”
What’s in store for 2020?
These are the 3 teams with the best chance to win 3 more games than they did in 2019. Remember, a critical piece of this annual puzzle is they have to have enough room to improve by 3.
2019 record: 11-2
Why the Tide could win 14 games: Nobody does revenge tours quite like Nick Saban, and he has 2 tour dates already circled: at LSU and against Auburn. Ole Miss in 2014 and 2015 is the last SEC team to beat Saban in consecutive years.
LSU and Auburn are not joining that list in 2020.
I’ll be more surprised if Alabama loses 2 regular-season games than if the Tide run the table into the Playoff.
2019 record: 8-5
Why the Aggies could win 11 games: The schedule, so unkind in 2019, is about as friendly as possible in 2020. Last year the Aggies lost 5 games to teams ranked inside the top 8, including 4 games to teams ranked in the top 4. Alabama might be the only top 10 team A&M faces in 2020.
Ten regular-season wins — with road losses at Alabama and Auburn — has to be the floor in Year 3 with Jimbo Fisher/Kellen Mond. Completely revamped LSU visits. Clemson and Georgia disappear. The East crossover doesn’t get easier than South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
2019 record: 2-10
Why the Razorbacks could win 5 games: Call me stubborn. Or worse. But the Hogs will have an actual offensive identity in 2020, a dark-horse candidate to win the SEC rushing title and a proven SEC QB capable of winning games when all else fails.
There is zero margin for error, however.
Nevada beat Purdue last year and went to a bowl game with a redshirt freshman QB who returns.
And I’d feel much, much better about this if the Hogs didn’t have to travel to Notre Dame in Week 2, which essentially is a guaranteed loss.
Very likely, the Hogs’ quest for 5 wins will come down to the final 3 games — 2 against SEC coaches also in their 1st year: Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin and Mizzou’s Eli Drinkwitz. They might need to win all 3.
They’ll be better … but 3 wins better?
As you scan the league, you’re quickly reminded about how imbalanced these schedules are and how bad luck — a rotational cross-over game against a league heavyweight, for instance — can influence the season’s projections.
These 2 just barely missed the cut:
South Carolina (4-8 in 2018): The Gamecocks should be better in 2020. Will Muschamp’s future very likely depends on making a bowl game. But it’s difficult to find 7 wins — 3 more than 2018 — on a schedule that includes LSU, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Clemson.
It’s possible the Gamecocks win 6 regular-season games and follow up with a bowl victory, but that almost certainly would require a 4-0 start with wins over Kentucky and Missouri.
Ole Miss (4-8): I’m trying to temper expectations. Ole Miss and Mississippi State might be the most fun teams to watch in 2020. But the Rebels have had offensive playmakers for years.
They won 4 games last year. Seven wins doesn’t seem that far away, especially with Lane Kiffin in command. But the Rebels open against Baylor. They get Florida in a rotational crossover. That’s bad luck.
Their path is similar to South Carolina’s: Get 6 wins in the regular season and win the bowl game.
That scenario is possible. And it certainly will be more enjoyable and entertaining for everybody if the Lane Train gets rolling quickly.