SEC Debate: Who will improve win total most in 2015?
Not only did the SEC boast a record-setting 12 bowl eligible teams in 2014, but all 12 teams closed the season with at least seven wins. The conference might not have a representative competing for its eighth national title in nine years, but it was as strong as it’s ever been from top to bottom.
In looking ahead to 2015, all 14 teams in the conference have reason to believe they’ll be even better than they were in 2014. But which team will show the most improvement on the field?
We asked our SDS staffers which team they thought would improve its win total the most from 2014-15. Take a look at what they had to say:
WHICH SEC TEAM WILL IMPROVE ITS WIN TOTAL THE MOST FROM 2014 TO 2015?
Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Tennessee
The Vols are one of the few teams gaining more than they lose. Tennessee will return most of its starting lineup and looks to sign yet another top 5 recruiting class. The Vols have a much less difficult schedule in 2015 and an improved roster with gained experience. Joshua Dobbs should continue his progression after leading the team to a 4-1 record as a starter. Jalen Hurd proved that he’s gotten better with each game, coming off one of his best performances of the season in the team’s bowl victory. With the addition of redshirt junior Dontavius Blair and incoming freshman Jack Jones, as well as gained experience, Tennessee’s struggling line should see a vast improvement in 2015.
Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): Auburn
Yes, the Tigers lose several players on offense, but as long as Jeremy Johnson is as good as advertised, they have plenty of athletes to surround him that’ll make that offense click. And with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, I’m confident the Tigers’ defense will see an immediate boost in their talent/production in 2015. If Auburn’s defense improves, I could see Auburn reaching double-digit wins next season.
Brett Weisband (@BWeisbandSDS): LSU
While it’s not easy easy to make a big leap in the SEC, especially going from mediocre to top of the table, but LSU has the talent to do it, quarterback issues aside. In looking at the Tigers schedule for next year, it’s easy to imagine them picking up two more regular season wins. LSU’s out-of-conference slate is pretty soft, with Syracuse as its only Power Five opponent, so pencil in four wins. LSU should be a favorite in both inter-division games (Florida and at South Carolina), and while they face both Mississippi schools on the road, I don’t expect either school to be quite as good as it was this season. LSU also gets Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A&M at home. A two-win improvement seems very reasonable looking at LSU’s schedule, and if it wins its bowl game, going from eight to 11 wins should be enough to notch the biggest improvement in the conference.
Christopher Smith (@CSmithSDS): Tennessee
This is a grueling question. Kentucky (five wins) and Vanderbilt (three wins) are the only SEC teams that won fewer than seven games this season, and I don’t think either of them are improving by three wins. So whichever team improves the most next season is likely to win at least 10 games in 2015. The Vols and LSU seem like the most likely candidates. The Tigers face more land mines in the SEC West, but Tennessee has to play Oklahoma and then Alabama in the annual crossover game. Still, LSU must find a quarterback, replace a crucial coordinator and account for more early defensive losses while winning 11 games in a still-treacherous West. I can see UT jumping up to a nine-win regular season plus a bowl victory.
Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Auburn
The Tigers finished the 2014 season with just eight wins in a failed attempt to defend their conference title, but I could see Auburn winning as many as 11 games in 2015. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson should step in and immediately prove himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC West, even if Dak Prescott returns to a Mississippi State team losing a ton of veterans from this year’s squad. Johnson will be accompanied on offense by playmaking wideout D’haquille Williams, emerging tailback Roc Thomas and a number of four- and five-star athletes capable of maintaining the explosiveness of Gus Malzahn’s offense. Will Muschamp won’t elevate Auburn’s defense to a top 10 unit overnight, but we can expect to see immediate improvements on that side of the ball. LSU and both Mississippi schools could be vulnerable next year, and Texas A&M is still incredibly young on offense. The Tigers will face yet another grueling schedule, but they could have the returning talent and proven coaching to return to glory in 2015.