One thing I was dead wrong about every SEC team
Believe it or not, I’m far from perfect.
I get predictions wrong all the time. It’s just a matter of which ones I choose to publish.
So yes, I made at least one bad preseason call about each SEC team (and probably a lot more). Some of which were forgivable, some of which probably were not.
You be the judge:
Alabama — The schedule would be loaded
It’s Oct. 17, and none of Alabama’s first seven opponents are ranked in the Associated Press top 25. Texas A&M is the only foe that currently has a winning record. In fact, LSU and Auburn are the Tide’s only top-25 opponents left on the schedule, both of whom already have two losses. I assumed that Florida State would remain in contention for the entire season, but that obviously changed when Deondre Francois went down. That’s all the more reason for Alabama to keep piling on the points.
Arkansas — Austin Allen would make the next step
Who has two thumbs and ranked Allen as his second-best quarterback in the SEC? This guy. I completely whiffed on Allen’s rise. Instead, he regressed. He’s banged up now, but when he was healthy, Allen struggled to get anything rolling with a mostly-new group of pass-catchers. Even if he comes back healthy, the Hogs offense looks lost.
Auburn — Kamryn Pettway would be a force
Speaking of dumb preseason rankings, I had Pettway at No. 3 among SEC running backs in August. He’s been No. 3 on his own team so far. Because of injuries and disciplinary reasons, Pettway hasn’t been much of a factor in 2017. Meanwhile, Kerryon Johnson has taken that next step and quietly shed the notion of a two-headed attack.
Florida — The passing game would be somewhat improved
Newer is always better, right? With Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire in the mix, I assumed that Florida would improve the passing game at least a little bit. Yeah, that hasn’t happened. Heading into Week 8, the Gators rank 102nd in FBS in passing yards per game, and they’re dead last in the SEC with just four passing touchdowns.
Not having Antonio Callaway has been rough, but Florida has had more than enough time to adjust to life without him. Clearly, it isn’t working. The Gators’ passing game might actually be uglier than those uniforms they wore last Saturday.
Georgia — Jacob Eason would lead an improved Georgia offense
Sawwiiiiiiiiiing and a miss. Eason’s injury prevented that from happening in the first month, but Jake Fromm’s emergence prevented that from happening at all in 2017.
The Georgia offense is vastly improved, which is why the team is 7-0 for the first time since 2005. But it’s been with Fromm running the show. Now, many expect Eason to transfer after the 2017 season. It’s amazing how quickly things can change in college football.
Kentucky — They would have an early-season letdown
The Wildcats certainly flirted with this, but to their credit, they’re one of three SEC teams with one or fewer losses. They didn’t lose to Eastern Kentucky or Southern Mississippi. They even won a game they “weren’t supposed to win” at South Carolina (don’t tell Mark Stoops I said that). But in mid-October, Kentucky is a covered Florida receiver away from being unbeaten and one of the surprise stories in college football.
LSU — Derrius Guice would be Leonard Fournette 2.0
It wasn’t long ago that Guice was all over every preseason All-America team alongside Saquon Barkley. Because of health and some issues on the offensive line, Guice won’t be making any All-America teams anytime soon. He ranks No. 13 in the SEC in rushing at the halfway point having racked up 4.3 yards per carry. Guice would need a monster second half to come anywhere near the 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns he racked up in place of an injured Fournette in 2016.
Mississippi State — The defense would still be the Achilles’ heel
I know, I know. MSU got blown out by Auburn and Georgia. The Bulldogs couldn’t stop the run in either of those games. But in MSU’s four other games, it allowed an average of 9.5 points per contest. That includes a matchup with LSU, by the way. Todd Grantham has the defense playing better than expected. At the midway point, MSU still ranks No. 8 in America in total defense. That’s with those ugly games against Auburn and Georgia. It might not be elite, but MSU’s defense is no longer the train wreck it was in 2016.
Missouri — The passing game would be Missouri’s only consistent force
The timing of this might sound a bit odd after Missouri had some huge passing plays against that dominant Georgia defense. But consider this. Missouri faced five Power 5 teams and Drew Lock threw for 260 yards once. Lock also completed 60 percent of his passes in just one of those games. For a team that’s been trailing as much as the Tigers have been, that’s surprising. At the very least, the Tigers looked like they’d be entertaining in 2017. They have been the last two weeks, but as a whole, the passing game has been unpredictable.
Ole Miss — A go-to receiver wouldn’t emerge
I looked like a complete idiot for questioning who Shea Patterson was going to throw the ball to. I knew Ole Miss had some physically-gifted receivers, but I didn’t realize how freakishly talented they were. Three of the SEC’s top 12 receivers are Rebels, including the conference’s leader A.J. Brown. Between he, DaMarkus Lodge and the especially freakish D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss has the nastiest and best group of wideouts in the SEC. It’s a shame they don’t also run the ball and play defense.
South Carolina — We’d see shootouts galore
Kind of like Missouri, I expected South Carolina to find itself in its fair share of high-scoring games this year. Through seven games, the Gamecocks have yet to play in a game in which both teams scored 30 plus points. In fact, the opener against NC State was the only time in which both teams reached at least 23 points.
South Carolina’s defense has been solid in the early going, and Jake Bentley hasn’t blossomed just yet without the injured Deebo Samuel. It doesn’t look like South Carolina games will light up the scoreboard anytime soon.
Tennessee — Butch Jones would quiet the hot seat talk
I thought that if Jones at least stayed in the division race, his job security wouldn’t be such a hot topic of conversation. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. An 0-3 start to SEC play will put almost anyone on the hot seat, much less a coach who had his fair share of doubters. Jones has plenty of leadership reps to do if he wants to lead the Vols out of the SEC East basement in 2017.
Texas A&M — The QB situation would be a mess
I wasn’t a Kellen Mond believer. I admittedly wrote off the idea of him winning the job, and even after Nick Starkel went down against UCLA, I didn’t like what I saw from the true freshman. To Mond’s credit, he proved me and a lot of others wrong. His confidence seems to grow with every week in that offense. He’s developing a better understanding of when to use his legs and when to take a shot downfield. It’s early, but I’ll cop to vastly underestimating Mond’s immediate impact.
Vanderbilt — Ralph Webb would be Vanderbilt’s only offense
Yeah, about that. Webb came into 2017 as the most accomplished SEC running back, but it’s been a season to forget so far. Before he faced that woeful Ole Miss defense last week, he failed to record 60 rushing yards in a single game. Clearly, defenses have been set on making Kyle Shurmur beat them. Fortunately for the Commodores, Shurmur has had by far his best season yet. As for Webb, it looks like he’ll fall short of his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.