Uncle Mo's post-bowl power index
With all but one college football game remaining for the 2015 season, the postseason has provided some insight into which SEC teams have the most momentum going into next fall. At first glance, it seems the eight teams that won their bowl game would top the list, but coaching changes and player departures sometimes outweigh a bowl victory.
- Alabama: In 2016, it is downright foolish to think the Crimson Tide under Nick Saban will ever go through a rebuilding period. Recruiting dominance and “The Process” virtually guarantee that Alabama will be the team to beat in the SEC regardless of player and coaching departures. Unless Saban goes back to the NFL or shocks the world and calls it quits, Alabama will be ranked highly and a favorite to go back to Atlanta come fall.
- LSU: One of the reasons Les Miles was able to keep his job at LSU was his excellent recruiting over the past five seasons. The Tigers will be stocked with talent heading into 2016, led by RB Leonard Fournette, already a Heisman candidate. Fournette gashed Texas Tech for 212 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries. The Texas Bowl should have bumped the Tigers to 10 wins, but the Week 1 weather-related cancellation of the McNeese State game kept LSU at 9-3 for 2015.
- Tennessee: The Volunteers will enter the 2016 season riding a six-game winning streak and likely favorites to win the SEC East. Coach Butch Jones’ excellent recruiting has created an impressive roster of talent for 2016, led by QB Joshua Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd. UT’s 45-6 thumping of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl should have the conference on notice.
- Ole Miss: Some might expect the Rebels to be higher on the momentum power index following a dominating 48-20 win over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, but the loss of stud juniors WR Laquon Treadwell, LT Laremy Tunsil, and DT Robert Nkemdiche looms large. As long as QB Chad Kelly is taking snaps, however, the rest of the SEC West is going to have trouble trying to outscore Ole Miss.
- Auburn: Three defensive coordinators in three seasons doesn’t exactly scream positive momentum, but the Tigers were moving in the right direction on defense toward the end of the season, especially in a 31-10 win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele should produce a fundamentally sound unit that continues to make progress. Head coach Gus Malzahn should have the talent fit for his scheme in his fourth year at Auburn, as Auburn has done well on the recruiting trail the past few years.
- Georgia: Despite the new coach still working for his old team, Georgia is taking momentum into the 2016 season. First-year coach Kirby Smart has attracted a solid staff of recruiters and teachers who should help Georgia avoid traditional transition year struggles. Smart’s squad already has a good idea of its quarterback (five-star recruit Jacob Eason) and running back (top-tier SEC ball arrier Nick Chubb) for 2016.
- Arkansas: The Razorbacks finished on a high note with a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl, but a lot of 2016 momentum depends on whether standout RB Alex Collins will be back for his senior season. Arkansas already knows it will be without graduating QB Brandon Allen and departing juniors TE Hunter Henry and OL Denver Kirkland.
- Florida: Three straight losses capped off by an embarrassing 41-7 Citrus Bowl blowout has sucked a lot of momentum out of the SEC East champion Gators. On top of that, Florida is losing important playmakers on both sides of the ball to graduation, transfer and the NFL draft. UF does, however, have some momentum on the recruiting trail with the current No. 5 class in the country, and No. 2 in the SEC, according to 247Sports composite rankings.
- Texas A&M: It’s been a rough postseason for the Aggies with the transfers of two quarterbacks (Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray), a Music City Bowl loss to Louisville and the dismissal of offensive coordinator Jake Spatival. TAMU does have some good news with the inbound transfer of former Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight. On the other side of the ball, Texas A&M’s defense should improve under another year of coaching by defensive coordinator John Chavis.
- Kentucky: The Wildcats did not make a bowl game, but they are currently the No. 10 recruiting class in the SEC according to 247Sports. Unlike some of its division rivals, UK has continuity going for it with Mark Stoops set to enter his fourth season in Lexington. New offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will be tasked with tailoring the offense around the skills of Stoops’ recruits.
- Mississippi State: The Bulldogs notched one of the conference’s more impressive bowl victories this season (51-28 over North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl), but it’s hard to know what to expect next season without legendary QB Dak Prescott. Despite a number of rumors, head coach Dan Mullen appears to be staying at MSU for the time being. Those Mullen rumors may be hurting recruiting, as MSU has the No. 11 class in the SEC.
- Missouri: Mizzou declined a bowl invitation after its 5-7 finish. The Tigers will be adapting to a new coaching staff, but there will at least be some continuity with former defensive coordinator Barry Odom getting the promotion to head coach. Mizzou’s recruiting class is in last place among SEC teams.
- South Carolina: New coach Will Muschamp is tasked with leading South Carolina into the post-Steve Spurrier era, and he’s doing it with many assistants from his Florida days (28-21 in four seasons). New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper won’t have one of the all-time great Gamecocks to lean on, as WR Pharoh Cooper has opted to enter the NFL draft after a three-year, 2,000-plus yard career.
- Vanderbilt: Even without major coaching changes, the Commodores are struggling to recruit, with the No. 13 class in the conference. Coach Derek Mason’s team will likely be strong on defense, but VU needs to improve on offense to play for bowl eligibility in 2016.