As with every year, the best conference in football once again comes with new storylines to follow, new up and coming underclassmen ready to make their marks on SEC football, and another unpredictable year coming. Alabama brings back Heisman favourite Tua Tagovailoa and superstar skill players Najee Harris and Jerry Jeudy, while Georgia brings bucketloads of 5-star recruits with them to the fight. Those two teams are the favourites for the SEC, but that doesn’t mean everybody else is out. This year should be another fun year of SEC football, and here are 5 bold predictions for the year ahead.
1 – South Carolina will be the biggest flop of the conference under a brutal schedule
The Gamecocks, led by senior quarterback Jake Bentley, appear primed to make a run this year in the minds of many. But one of the toughest schedules in the country is ahead of them, and I wouldn’t think so fast of putting the Gamecocks as a sleeper team in the SEC. Clemson, Alabama, Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and mid-major power Appalachian State are all on the Gamecocks schedule this year, very very tough for any team to handle, and they will be one of the biggest flops of the conference with that schedule.
2 – Tennessee will be the biggest surprise of the conference
Alabama and Georgia look primed to be the two best units in the SEC once again, but after a 5-7 campaign in 2018, the Tennessee Volunteers have potential to surprise a lot of people in the conference. Jeremy Pruitt’s first season at the helm showed a lot of potential, and behind QB Jarrad Guarantano and blue chip LT prospect Trey Smith (if he is cleared to return to football), the Vols offense could be one of the best ones in the SEC in 2019. Their last few signing classes have been insane, and a couple of years off of being at rock bottom, Tennessee looks primed to surprise a few people with a talented squad that is ready to bring explosive football back to Neyland Stadium.
3 – Najee Harris, not Tua, is the key playmaker on an explosive Alabama offense
Tua Tagovailoa is one of the more overrated players in CFB. There, I said it. He stars against the high school programs Alabama schedules midseason, then against the Clemsons and Oklahomas of the world, comes up a bit short and struggles against better competition. He is still an elite player, but he struggles against better competition, and that is where Najee Harris comes in. A former blue chip prospect coming out of high school, Najee might yet be the most talented of the RBs to come out of Alabama in recent years, and after getting 783 rushing yards on an exceptional 6.7 ypc in a backfield with Josh Jacobs AND Damien Harris, Najee looks ready to take on an even bigger role this year and help be a gamebreaking talent for Nick Saban on his surge to another national championship.
4 – After the successes of 2018, Kentucky bottoms out and doesn’t reach 7 wins
Kentucky is a basketball program through and through, but their 2018 college football season was no joke. Mark Stoops’ squad finished the year at 10-3 and #12 in the AP Poll, led by electrifying running back Benny Snell (4th round pick by PIT) and incredibly productive edge rusher Josh Allen (17.5 sacks on the year, 7th overall pick to JAX). But both of them are gone and are now playing pro ball, and after carrying their respective units in 2018, expect Kentucky to take a bit of a fall back in 2019. Kentucky has the easiest projected schedule in the SEC except for Alabama (the Crimson Tide always have easy schedules though), but without their two studs, the Wildcats won’t be the same.
5 – RB Kylin Hill from Mississippi State is the surprise Heisman contender from the SEC
Mississippi State underachieved last year with a poor offense, a great defense with THREE first round picks on that side of the ball, and a first year head coach. Their offense will likely be led by signal caller Keytaon Thompson in 2019, so Joe Moorhead will likely lean on junior running back Kylin Hill to help out the new quarterback. Hill got 734 rushing yards last year on 6.3 ypc, but Hill is an explosive prospect with lots of potential and great vision, who could surprise a few if Coach Moorhead uses him well. He could be the surprise Heisman contender from the SEC in 2019.