5. Auburn Tigers
Be Excited About … the infrastructure of another good-looking team. The lines are strong, the linebacking corps is great, and the offense got through the growing pains of a true freshman quarterback. Bo Nix has been through the wars now, and he has a great group around him to crank up the passing attack.
Be Concerned About … Nix throwing down the field more. Having a receiver as good as Seth Williams should make things easier, but he has to prove he can consistently hit his deep shots. The Tigers averaged fewer than 12 yards per completion and Nix only connected on 58% of his passes.
The Season Will Be Successful If … the Tigers push for another big year with a win over Alabama or LSU. They might not have quite enough to win the West – having to go to Georgia and Bama doesn’t help – but they get LSU in Jordan-Hare. Last year’s version only lost to teams that won 11 games or more – LSU, Georgia, Florida and Minnesota. At least win all of the winnable games.
4. Florida Gators
Be Excited About … a defense that’s going to be dead-serious good. It finished ninth in the nation and second in the SEC behind Georgia, and now it comes back just as good if not stronger across the board. A steady pass rush has to emerge, but this group will carry the team when needed.
Be Concerned About … the running game that has be a bit stronger overall. The offensive line is going to be just okay – at least compared to the rest of the team’s key parts – and the ground attack that was the second-worst in the SEC has to do more than 130 yards per game.
The Season Will Be Successful If … Florida is playing for the SEC Championship. Dan Mullen has been fantastic at turning the program back around, and it’s been close to being special, but now it’s time for that next step up by getting past Georgia and taking the East for the first time since 2016.
3. LSU Tigers
Be Excited About … LSU still being really, really, really good. Great programs replace awesome players with more awesome players, and while there’s going to be a drop-off in some areas – the Joe Burrow thing isn’t happening again – but the receiving corps is still special, the secondary is still a killer, and the team is still strong enough to make a push for another SEC title.
Be Concerned About … Joe Burrow, K’Lavon Chaisson, Justin Jefferson, Patrick Queen, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Grant Delpit, and the 14 Tigers who were drafted by the NFL. Yeah, LSU will still be really, really good, but you don’t lose that many pro talents without having a few issues. Oh yeah, and losing passing game coordinator Joe Brady (Carolina Panthers) and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (Baylor) isn’t fun, either.
The Season Will Be Successful If … LSU goes back to the SEC Championship. Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma lose tons of talent year after year, and year after year they’re all back in the conference title mix. 2019 might have been an all-timer, but now it’s about staying power.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
Be Excited About … a defense that’s going to be the best in the SEC, and probably the country – again. The nation’s No. 1 D of 2019 comes back with more than enough talent to be every bit as good, and now it should have more help from an offense that should be more dangerous.
Be Concerned About … an offense that has to prove it can consistently score more. It didn’t have to put up 55 a game with a brick wall of a defense doing the heavy lifting – the Dawgs allowed 17 points or fewer in the 12 wins, and more in the two losses – but a team this good and this talented should put up more than 27 points on a regular basis. Georgia did that just twice in the final 11 games.
The Season Will Be Successful If … Georgia wins the SEC Championship and goes to the College Football Playoff. Check that – the season will be a success if Georgia goes to the College Football Playoff, no matter how it gets there. It’s time for the program to win the national title again, but getting into the four-team fun would make the season great no matter what.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Be Excited About … oh-dear-heavens talent and depth, even for Alabama. The running backs are way too deep, the receiving corps is still among the best in the country despite losing Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, and the O line is fantastic. The defensive front seven is going to be dominant, but …
Be Concerned About … a secondary that’s the one area that’s not all that deep or experienced. Boo hoo, but the defensive backs could be a problem if injuries strike. Coming up with a high-end starting quarterback shouldn’t be hard with Bryce Young and Mac Jones, but there’s still a drop from nine games of Tua Tagovailoa.
The Season Will Be Successful If … Bama gets back to the national championship. Not getting to the College Football Playoff for a second straight season would feel disastrous, and getting there and not getting to the title game would sting. Get into the top two for the fifth time in six seasons, and there’s no reasonable complaint – even if the expectations for Bama are never reasonable.