What each SEC fan base is most afraid of heading into 2019
As fall camp kicks into full gear, optimism is running high across the SEC. Today, we’re here to crush that. These fan bases will try to tell you that all is well, but deep down there is a nagging thought or nightmare scenario lurking, kind of like Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
So here is the one thing that scares each fan base the most heading into 2019:
There’s not really anything that can scare Alabama fans in the Saban era … at least there wasn’t until a floppy-haired, sunshine-kissed quarterback dropped 44 on them in the National Championship Game. The good news is if Bama does face Trevor Lawrence again, it won’t be until January. Until then, the mere memories of Trevor Lawrence will haunt them.
When you’ve seen rock bottom, you’re not that afraid of falling any farther. The only thing that should scare Arkansas fans heading into the season is that last year wasn’t rock bottom. Chad Morris brought in some talented transfers, including former A&M QB Nick Starkel, along with a solid recruiting class to get things going in the right direction. But another 0-fer in the SEC would be pretty scary.
It’s still a mystery who will start Week 1 against Oregon, but the scariest scenario for Auburn fans is that neither Joey Gatewood nor Bo Nix separates himself and the Tigers spend the whole year going back and forth to find their answer. The only thing worse than spending another year watching Gus Malzahn force a pro-style quarterback to unsuccessfully run his spread system is watching him juggle 2 QBs every game.
The Gators have a ton of momentum, but the one thing that could slow it all down is the offensive line. Only 1 starter returns and if the new starters don’t step up, the new Feleipe Franks might start looking like the old Feleipe Franks. Equal to that on the nightmare scare for the Gators is the annual game against Missouri, which for some reason recently has turned Florida into Wile E. Coyote.
You might think another halftime lead against Alabama would be the scariest thing that could happen to the Bulldogs this year. Or, perhaps, just the sight of an Alabama backup quarterback warming up. But no, the real nightmare for UGA would be letting the Gators close the gap in the SEC East this year. For the past few years, Georgia has built a pretty distinct advantage on the field and in recruiting. But if Dan Mullen can even the rivalry, the Bulldogs might be watching someone else lose in heartbreaking fashion to Alabama in Atlanta for the next few years.
Mark Stoops and the Wildcats are desperate to prove that last year’s 10-win season wasn’t a fluke, but what has to scare UK is the thought of what if last year was their best shot? Is the window for Kentucky football being competitive in the East opening or closing? That will be determined by what the Cats do this year, but until we know the answer, Kentucky fans will have to sweat it out.
Coach O has brought a spark of joy back to the LSU program, but Coach O and Tigers put up exactly that many points against Bama last year. In fact, they’ve gone scoreless against Alabama 2 of the past 3 years. The history of that series says you don’t need too many points to win, but you need more than 0, and the thought of another shutout against Alabama is about as scary as it gets.
The Bulldogs have one of the most interesting QB battles in the SEC to sort out before Week 1. Hopefully they sort it out quick because not much was scarier in the West last season than their offense against ranked teams. Mississippi State put up single digits against Florida, LSU and Kentucky, and got shut out against Alabama. The Bulldogs might play even more ranked teams in 2019, so let’s hope for their sake this nightmare trend doesn’t continue.
The NCAA appeal process is scary enough, but what if Kelly Bryant isn’t all he’s advertised to be or he just doesn’t fit in the system? Or even worse, what if Drew Lock was as good as it gets for this Mizzou offense because if the responsibility to win games starts to fall on this revamped defense, that’s scary.
Ole Miss fans have gone from being deathly afraid of the NCAA to deathly afraid of their own defense. The Rebels had the worst defense in the conference last year, and if the group up front doesn’t take a leap this year under new coordinator Mike MacIntyre, then they might not even need a postseason ban to stay home this bowl season.
For the Gamecocks, nothing is scarier than Jake Bentley’s decision making. The Carolina QB led the SEC in interceptions last season, and while they weren’t all entirely his fault, another season of helplessly watching Bentley play catch with the other team is sure to keep Gamecocks fans up at night.
It’s certainly not a surprise for A&M fans that the scariest thing about this season is their schedule. Road games at Clemson, UGA and LSU with home games against Alabama and Auburn is more of a punishment from the NCAA than anything North Carolina or Miami got. If the Aggies can get through this season with a respectable record, they should be set up well for a big run in 2020. If not, then Jimbo Fisher’s buyout might be the new scariest thing they have to worry about.
The Vols’ 2019 campaign could go in any number of directions, but the worst would be losing to Vanderbilt for the 4th consecutive year. Jeremy Pruitt is all about building momentum for the program, which would be impossible to do with another loss to the Commodores. Vandy had 3 wins in this series from 1974-2011. The Dores haven’t won 4 in a row since the Roarin’ 20s. If history repeats itself almost a century later, it might be a low moment in a decade full of low moments for the Vols. The good news is that there’s probably no other program more excited to turn the page on the 2010s than Tennessee.
Nothing that happened to Vandy’s team last year was scarier than when its opponent had a 3rd down. Vandy let opponents convert 46% of 3rd downs in 2018 … dead last in the SEC by a large margin. Trying to climb up the ladder in the SEC East is tough enough, but when your defense is rolling out the red carpet for offenses on third down, it’s more than enough to give your fan base nightmares.