SDS Roundtable: Who is your pick to win the SEC East and SEC West in 2020?
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: Who is your pick to win the SEC East and SEC West in 2020?
Previous roundtable discussions:
- If you could change 1 thing about college football, what would it be?
- What are you watching right now?
- Who is your favorite SEC football player of all-time?
- What are your 3 favorite postseason moments involving SEC teams?
- Which 4 SEC athletes are on your Mount Rushmore?
- What is your most painful sports memory?
- The greatest team I ever saw …
- Which school’s all-time position group is the best in SEC history?
- Who are your way-too-early picks to make the College Football Playoff?
- If and when the SEC expands, which 2 teams should it add?
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
SEC West winner: Alabama
SEC East winner: Florida
Yeah, I have my orange and blue shaded glasses on, but I really feel this could be the Gators’ year with a veteran quarterback in Kyle Trask and a much better than average dual-threat backup in Emory Jones. The offensive line, unlike last year, could be a strength, and there are weapons around Trask on offense. Florida always puts together a very talented and aggressive defense that will cause chaos for offenses.
Is Dan Mullen just a 10-game winner, or can he win a championship? We’re going to find out in 2020.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
For now, I’ll take Florida and Alabama.
Let’s start with Florida because I’m sure Georgia fans read that and laughed out loud. Here’s what I worry about with Georgia in its attempt to win 4 consecutive matchups with Florida and subsequently, 4 consecutive East titles. This lack of practice/in-person contact is the last thing a team with 9 new starters running a completely different offense needs. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Georgia gets that full allotted time back.
Why? I like the odds of Kyle Trask taking another step alongside an experienced offense run by Dan Mullen. I trust Todd Grantham to find his next stars in the front 7, too. Until I see what Georgia looks like offensively, I can’t blindly assume that a team with so much turnover will be business as usual.
It’s boring to pick Alabama, but given what the Crimson Tide returned, I’m on board with the bounce-back year narrative. Dylan Moses, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood chose to stay another year, as did Steve Sarkisian, who might be the important return of anyone in Tuscaloosa not named “Nick Saban.” After seeing what Sarkisian did with Mac Jones against Top-25 defenses away from home, I believe he’ll roll with whoever starts at quarterback for Alabama. The Crimson Tide have far fewer questions to answer than LSU, who I don’t think will necessarily suffer from a “championship hangover,” but will just not quite be up to Alabama’s level in 2020.
For the 3rd time in 6 years, I think we’ll see an Alabama-Florida showdown in Atlanta. Here’s hoping we still get an SEC Championship in 2020.
Chris Marler, The SDS Podcast co-host
Alabama and Georgia.
Bama returns 4 guys who could have gone in the first 1-2 rounds of the NFL Draft. More important, they return veteran leadership in the middle of that LB core including an alpha at the Mike with Dylan Moses. Mac Jones looked more than capable of running Sark’s offense late last season and averaged over 330 pass ypg against 2 ranked opponents.
UGA returns the best defense in the country and what is probably the best defense in college football in roughly the last decade. I’d be shocked to see multiple teams score 20+ points on UGA this year.
Michael Bratton, News editor
Florida wins the East, Texas A&M wins the West.
Losing spring camp is going to hurt Georgia more than Florida based on the Gators continuity on the offensive side of the ball and at quarterback. I’ve got Florida winning a close one in Jacksonville to win the East.
LSU isn’t going away and Alabama should still be solid but all the losses the Tigers have suffered this offseason will be too difficult for them to repeat while the Crimson Tide have been on a downward trajectory since getting destroyed by Clemson. This is the year Texas A&M turns the corner in the SEC.
Neil Blackmon, Florida columnist
Alabama will beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama returns 7 starters on defense and that group, led by Dylan Moses, will be back to Saban standards. I think they will be more of a power offense with Harris and Sanders, but they’ll be plenty balanced enough to get through a brutal schedule and back to Atlanta.
A month and a half ago I would have picked Georgia. Now I’m looking at Kirby Smart trying to replace 10 starters on offense and installing a new and/or tweaked offensive system with a new quarterback without the benefit of spring football. That hurts. Couple that with the fact that Jamie Newman was just plain mediocre against anyone good he played in the ACC and I don’t think there’s enough time for the Bulldogs to iron out the kinks. The early loss to Alabama will put them behind the 8-ball, too.
That leaves the door open for Dan Mullen. He’ll have a 5th-year senior at quarterback, a future star in Emory Jones waiting in the wings behind him, a veteran offensive line that played good football in November and in the Orange Bowl there and a defense that returns 7 starters from a top 20 unit. That should be enough to squeak out a Cocktail Party win and get the Gators to Atlanta.
Adam Spencer, Newsletter editor
I’m going to go with what I anticipate will be the popular picks and say Florida wins the SEC East and Alabama takes the SEC West. The Gators have an advantage over other SEC East teams like Georgia, Mizzou and Tennessee because they have their starting quarterback (Kyle Trask) coming back. Therefore, whenever the season starts, they can hit the ground running a little faster than those squads that have question marks at QB.
In the West, give me Alabama. I think Bryce Young will be the quarterback before all is said and done, and if he can play a style like Kyler Murray (NOTE: I’m not claiming Young will play at a Heisman level, just that he can be a dual-threat guy with a strong arm), the Crimson Tide have the weapons around him to continue to light up the scoreboard. Getting Dylan Moses back on defense should help out tremendously on that side of the ball, as well. Combined with all the players LSU has to replace, the path is paved for the Tide to get back to Atlanta.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I must say, I’d love to see Bratton’s Texas A&M pick come to fruition. In part because in another Roundtable, I wrote that I wanted to see Texas make the College Football Playoff. Not because I care anything about the Longhorns. I don’t. One way or the other. But Texas making a legit run at the Playoff is exactly what college football needs.
Can you imagine if Texas and Texas A&M enter conference championship weekend in the Playoff hunt?
Alas, I can’t see the Aggies holding up their end of the bargain. Alabama just has too much of everything to even lose 1 game to a West foe. The Tide will win the West.
I’d love to see Florida end Georgia’s reign, but I’m also tired of hearing the Gators talk about how close they are. Kirby Smart has always had a talent advantage, but he’s undefeated against Mullen and has held Dan Mullen’s offenses in check every year, dating to their Alabama-Mississippi State battles. The most Mullen’s Bulldogs scored on Alabama was 24 — in 2017, after Smart left. Mullen’s Gators have yet to top 17 against Smart’s defense.
That’s more than coincidence. Eleven other teams scored 17 or more against Georgia in the past 2 seasons.
However, Florida gets a huge bonus this year, as Georgia faces Alabama … in Tuscaloosa … in Week 3. That’s as close to a guaranteed loss as any game Georgia has played in the past 3 seasons. Florida’s rotational crossover game this year is at Ole Miss. Again, advantage Florida.
If — and it’s a huge if — Florida can beat Georgia in Jacksonville, the East is theirs. The opportunity will rarely be better.