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Sean's 2016 SEC Conference Preview
By: Sean Higgs     Date: Aug 1, 2016
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Higgs is ready to take on the big, bad SEC in today's College Football Conference Preview. Sean is going to build your bankroll everyday, so be sure to check back for more College and NFL previews as August progresses.

SEC EAST

1 - TENNESSEE - This is it for the Vols. It has been a long climb, but the talent is there to win the SEC. 17 starters back. 9 on an explosive offense. If Dobbs can really get his throws down, we might see something special in Knoxville. New DC Bob Shoop has 8 starters and experience back for his aggressive schemes. I will be all in on the Vols when they face Virginia Tech Sept 10. That is a circle the date game for their coming out party. They have shown with a pair of bowl wins that they are ready to take a big step forward.

2 - GEORGIA - Kirby Smart takes over in Athens. He has a talented group as Mark Richt left a nice roster. 14 returning starters back should pave the way to a 10 win season. Nick Chubb could muster some Heisman hype and help the QB open things up. Defense was a big strength last year and the secondary should be strong again. But losing 5 starters from the front 7 will not make things easy.

3 - FLORIDA - Jim McElwain is an offensive guy, and it will take a little more time to build the offense up. But this is still a Top 25 program. The defense is still a strength. With only 3 true SEC road games, they should be able to approach 10 wins again if the QB play improves.

4 - MISSOURI - New HC is Barry Odom who was the DC last year. He knows the players and the defense which returns 8 starters. Last year was tough on and off the field for MizzU. The offense will be the main reason for the wins and losses this season. It was nearly non-existent last year. But I think a breath of fresh air with a new staff should inject some life into the Tigers.

5 - KENTUCKY - Nearly had Kentucky at 4 and some might be surprised to some to see the Wildcats this high. But I like Stoops in this spot. The guy has 9 returning starters on offense. With a new OC coming over, I expect to see some more explosiveness on offense. I think these guys get to a bowl this year.

6 - VANDERBILT - The 'Dores return 15 starters and HC Derk Mason is probably hoping to make a bowl. The defense will be tasked with trying to force some TOs so the offense can get a short field to play with. When you score 15ppg you need all the help you can get. Vandy has improved under Mason and I think they top their 4 wins from last season.

7 - SOUTH CAROLINA - I can't believe I have this team in the basement. But with just 9 starters back (4 off 5 def), new HC Will Muschamp has some work to do. We saw him run the Gator offense into a concrete filled pool. The coach has told everyone, multiple times, this was a 3-9 team last year. I guess he is preparing the Gamecock faithful for an extremely painful season. The kitchen shelves are barren here. There isn't the talent of 3 straight 11 win teams for Muschamp to play with. It will be a rebuilding season for sure. 4 wins maybe.

SEC WEST

1 - ALABAMA - Are we really going anywhere else? Coming off a 14-1 season with 11 total starters back. Inexperience at QB? Heard that one before right. Well 3 of the last 4 National Champs came into the season like that. Tide alone are working in their 3rd straight new starting QB. The schedule is tough in my eyes. USC for an opener isn't a cake walk. They have to go on the road to face Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU. They have another top recruiting class so they just reload their NFL talent-laden roster. But until someone unseats them, they sit at the top here.

2 - LSU - The Mad Hatter looked like he was out the door. But here he is with 18 returning starters back, 8 on offenses, and 9 more on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously Leonard Fournette will get all the pub rushing out of the backfield. But this roster has talent throughout. If they get some improved QB play then it will come down to knocking Alabama at home who they have lost 5 straight to.

3 - OLE MISS - Let's see what Hugh Freeze does here with arguably the best QB in conference with senior Chad Kelly. Just 10 returning starters, but this is a tough bunch. They have gone 11-5 the last 2 years in SEC play including a pair of wins over Alabama. If the OL does its job, Rebels should have an easy enough time scoring. Defense lost a beast in Nkemdiche, but still has talent at all levels. We will know early if this Mississippi team is taking a big step forward as they open against Florida State and have Alabama at home 12 days later.

4 - ARKANSAS - Think Bielema gets the Razorbacks up in the standings here. They have 9 starters back on defense which should help things along. Schedule shows home games vs Bama, Ole Miss and LSU. These guys can win 8-9 games or 5. Breaking in new QBs is never easy. But the coach always gets strong OL play which opens up his run game. That should ease the burden for the new signal caller. They played a lot of close games last year. Maybe they flip some Ls into Ws. Or worse case, the wheels come off and they get all Ls.

5 - TEXAS A&M - Here come a couple coaches on the hot seat. Kevin Sumlin needs something big this year. 8-5 last year with an easier schedule. They have a talent at the skill positions. The defense should be the strength of the club. 13 total starters back. These guys could be 1-5 by mid October in a worse case scenerio.

6- AUBURN - Gus Malzahn hasn't been here that long, but going 15-14 since getting to the National Game isn't going to keep the boosters happy. 6 starters back on both sides of the ball and they face a huge task right out of the gate against Clemson. If they get strong QB play, they can surprise.

7 - MISSISSIPPI STATE - Safe to say Dan Mullen's bunch won't be winning 9 games this year. They lost their QB and I can't see them getting that kind of production from a new starter. The schedule is favorable though as they get most of their winnable games at home. They avoid the top dogs out of the East Division also. They should make a bowl again, but with just 11 returning starters, I don't expect the Bulldogs to be competing with the elite this season.


 
 
 
 
 
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