Which SEC teams are in danger of winning 3 fewer games in 2019 than they did in 2018?
Eight SEC teams won more games in 2018 than they did in 2017.
Six didn’t. Last February, in an annual exercise, I predicted the 3 teams most likely to win 3 fewer games in 2018 than 2017 were Georgia, LSU and Auburn. Georgia and Auburn both slipped — by 2 fewer wins apiece. So close.
The good news, relatively speaking, is that no SEC team saw its victory total drop by 3 in 2018. Arkansas and South Carolina also won 2 fewer games. Mississippi State and Ole Miss had 1 fewer “W.”
Who is danger of winning 3 fewer games in 2019 than it did in 2018? Let’s take a look, knowing that the key piece to this puzzle is you have to have enough room to regress. Therefore, Arkansas, you’re off the hook.
2018 record: 10-3
Why Kentucky could finish with 7 wins: The Wildcats were the SEC’s best story in 2018. They posted their first winning season in the league since 1977 and reached 10 wins for the first time since then, too.
They also won 3 games by 7 points or fewer and just lost two of the greatest players in program history. Certainly Benny Snell and Josh Allen were the greatest Wildcats at their position. Six others are headed to the NFL Combine, too.
It’s hardly unthinkable to imagine a 7-5 regular season and a bowl loss, or, in other words … a third 7-6 season in 4 years.
2018 record: 8-5
Why Missouri could finish with 5 wins: Could is the operative word. I’m not overly optimistic about this prediction, but I don’t think many other teams are as vulnerable as Mizzou is. Nobody knows how they’re going to react to a bowl ban. With nothing to play for, a mini-slump during the season could turn into a landslide.
I believe the Tigers are a 7-5 type team in 2019, but I also think they won’t be as good as they were in 2018. Kelly Bryant is a perfectly fine college quarterback, but he’s not Drew Lock. Mizzou fans will tell you this team was 2 plays from a 10-win season. The Tigers also were 2 plays from being 6-6, and I don’t think you can expect a third consecutive victory over Florida.
2018 record: 14-1
Why Alabama could finish with 11 wins: As if “only” winning 11 games is a fireable offense, right?
Alabama hasn’t lost 2 regular-season games since the puzzling 2010 season. Predicting the Tide to go 10-2 in 2019 against this schedule might be a tad too optimistic even for the most Auburn of Auburn fans.
But 11-1 is hardly out of the question. The Tide were 11-1 just 2 years ago, but got into the Playoff regardless and won the national championship.
It all sounds plausible on paper, but where would even 1 regular-season loss come from in 2019? A Week 7 trip to Texas A&M seems like the most logical place to start, but it’s hard to imagine Alabama not being No. 1, 5-0 and favored double digits going into that game.
Usual suspects LSU and Mississippi State both likely will produce usual results.
Closing at Auburn is always a scary proposition.
If Alabama loses one of those games, there’s a chance it doesn’t reach the SEC Championship Game. Or it does and loses to (likely) Georgia. In either situation, how motivated would that Tide team — with Tua Tagovailoa and those elite WRs all starting to think about the NFL Draft — be to play in a meaningless bowl game?
That’s about the only scenario that Alabama finishes with “only” 11 wins.