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SEC West Preview 2020: A three (or four) horse race

SEC West Preview 2020: A three (or four) horse race

The SEC’s West division is packed with contenders, again. With returning champ LSU, National heavyweight Alabama, and sneaky Texas A&M, there will be a shootout for the top spot in the SEC West. Mark my words, you will see a champion rise from this trio. 

Other dangerous SEC West programs include the Auburn Tigers, who flexed one of the strongest and most intimidating defenses in all of college football last year and a rocky, but promising Mississippi State led by new coach Mike Leach. Both programs have the potential to upset that top trio if they can deliver on offense.

Ole Miss has been trending this offseason with the recent addition of Lane Kiffin—hoping that his NFL and Class-C Champion juju rubs off on their offense. Meanwhile, Arkansas is looking to put a win on the board this year, if possible. 

It’s no secret that the SEC West is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to college football. With a decade-long history of national contenders, it’s safe to say that you will see a few of these teams at the top of CFB rankings every week this season. But for now, let’s take a look at where we think these 7 will finish in the SEC West. 

 

1. Alabama

There are a few unknowns when it comes to the starting line-up for the Crimson Tide this fall. With Tua Tagovailoa officially entering the NFL draft, the starting spot is up for grabs between Mac Jones, Tagovailoa’s replacement in 2019, Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother, and no.1 QB prospect, Bryce Young. 

Young, an ELITE 11 contender, looks as though he could steal the attention if Saban gives him a shot during the early season. But knowing Saban’s tight-fisted operation, he won’t give any of us an indication as to who will be slinging balls this fall. 

With a preseason ranking of 4 and a defense about as daunting as a real tidal wave, they take the top spot in the SEC West and I’ll be bold enough to claim them a spot in the CFB playoff as well. 

 

2. Texas A&M

Coming off a promising season at 8-5 last year, A&M is looking at the top of the mountain this fall. With Kellen Mond (Jr) at the Helm and Jimbo Fisher calling the shots, the Aggies have a legitimate chance at getting their hands on the West title if they can overcome Alabama and LSU in back-to-back battles in November. 

Mond is only 632 yards away from axing the school’s passing record, previously held by Johnny Menziel, and his 34-game history speaks for itself. 

Consider A&M to be a sleeper team in the SEC and that most definitely will leave some opposing fans sad in the wake of their destruction. 

 

3. LSU

Some might be bummed to see the Bayou Boys down here at number three. But before you get your Mardi Gras beads in a knot, let me explain why. 

The Tigers are losing 9 starters from their 2020 championship crew including Heisman winner Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and sticky-fingered receiver Justin Jefferson. This alone is the largest class to enter the draft this upcoming season. Similarly, their schedule has a few teams that could really derail them, if they don’t come to perform. 

Now just because they are losing some serious talent, doesn’t mean their dead in the water—the Tigers re-negotiated a new contract with Ed Orgeron that will ensure him 6 more seasons and a fat check of $41 million. They also flaunt the no.4 recruiting class this upcoming season with 24 players including no.1 TE, Arik Gilbert

If Orgeron can put the ball in the hands of those who have proven their worth, like Ja’Marr Chase and keep their defense honed in, they could find themselves in a dogfight for the SEC West title. 

 

4. Auburn

What can I say about Auburn? One minute they’re pounding the endzone, and the next they’re down by two scores. One claim I can make is that they will once again be one of the most unpredictable teams in the SEC. 

Where Auburn can really make an impact is with their field commander, Bo Nix. As the first true freshman to start for the Tigers since 1946, Nix has a 62% completion rate while playing in Jordan-Hare stadium. The real challenge is going to be bringing that number up when they venture out of town to compete in their conference. 

Yes, it’s in the cards for them to kick the season off with a bang, but their November has some brutal competition with two weekends against Georgia and Texas A&M. Because of this, they're stealing our spot at number

 

5. Mississippi State

This is going to be an exciting one for Bulldogs if they can pull together an offense. With the recent hire of air-raid offensive specialist, Mike Leach, they could start to give some SEC teams a hard time. After going 6-7 last season, it was time to throw something new at the program, and Leach’s resume speaks for itself when it comes to lethal offenses. 

Under the gun, they’re looking at senior-transfer KJ Costello, who only played 5 games in 2019 for the Standford Cardinals. Costello, who sat under Bryce Love for two seasons, has NFL potential if he masters his consistency and stays healthy through the entirety of the season. 

Complementing his arm is Kylin Hill who was 3rd in the SEC in rushing last season with 10 TDs and 1,300 yards. 

Really, the bulldogs are in need of a defense that can match their potential offense if they want to seriously compete for an SEC title—which lands them here at number

 

6. Ole Miss

If there is one thing I hope Ole Miss learned over the course of the off offseason, it’s that peeing celebrations will cost you games and earn you lots of attention on Twitter. 

Besides the obvious, Ole Miss also brought in coaching nomad Lane Kiffin, who led FAU to a 10-win season and a Class-C championship. With some stability in the coaching office and an SEC-leading rushing quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee, it’s likely that Ole Miss will at least pass up their two-win season from last year—I hope. 

That being said, be sure to tune in on Thanksgiving as Ole Miss and Mississippi State square off for the annual Egg Bowl. The last two years have been filled with wild antics and I think you can expect even more on Turkey Day.

 

7. Arkansas

The Razorbacks went a casual 0-8 last season, taking beatings from some notable and not-so-notable programs. And with a packed schedule including Notre Dame, LSU, Alabama, and Texas A&M, it looks like Arkansas will be rotating over the fire for most of the season. 

The upside is that they brought in Sam Pittman, former Georgia and Arkansas offensive line coach, with the intention of rebuilding and bringing in some nationally recognized talent.  

Similarly, you can expect another impressive season from Rakeem Boyd who showed out with 1000+ yards and 8 TDs last year. If the name rings a bell, it’s because Boyd was dicing up JUCO players in Netflix’s Last Chance U, and he continues to do so in the SEC. 


That’s it for now

But don’t worry, I’m coming to you with the Big Ten Preview next week.

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