The pre-spring version of the CFN 2021 rankings with a first look at all the SEC teams.
2021 SEC Rankings: Pre-Spring
1. Georgia Bulldogs
Why To Be Happy: There’s a nice group of players returning to set the foundation for what should be a stronger year. Start with JT Daniels settling the quarterback situation, continue with RB James Cook and OT Jamaree Salyer to go along with all the high-end receivers and defensive talents returning, and most the players are there to get to the College Football Playoff.
What To Work On: The offense has to be better in the bigger games. The defense was strong all season and will be again, but the O wasn’t consistent enough, especially against Alabama, Florida, and at least on the ground, against Cincinnati.
Bottom Line: Win the SEC East, Georgia. Considering all of the big replacements being made at Alabama, there’s no reason to shoot for anything less than a conference championship.
– 2021 Georgia Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
2. Florida Gators
Why To Be Happy: The Gators might be losing a ton of the key 2020 parts, but several very, very nice prospects are coming in to ease the pain. Clemson RB Demarkcus Bowman was a huge recruit, as were Auburn DT Daquan Newkirk and LSU TE Arik Gilbert. Emory Jones adds more mobility to the quarterback position, and enough starters return on defense to be okay. However …
What To Work On: No, really, Kyle Pitts was Heisman-caliber good numbers-wise. Yes, part of the reason the Gators flopped against Oklahoma was the lack of the star receiver talent, and now TE Kyle Pitts and WRs Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes are gone.
Bottom Line: The Gators are going to reload in a hurry and could be even more dangerous if the receivers rise up right away. However, going into spring football they look like they might be a step or two behind Georgia.
– 2021 Florida Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
3. Missouri Tigers
Why To Be Happy: There were losses in the transfer portal, but the Tigers got plenty of wins. They might have lost star LB Nick Bolton to the NFL, but they picked up a very, very good safety-sized playmaker in Blaze Allredge from Rice. Plug him into the lineup, and with the return of tackles Kobie Whiteside and Markell Utsey for their senior-plus seasons, and now …
What To Work On: The defense has to be a whole lot stronger than it was at the end of the season. Solid at times, it couldn’t handle the bigger boys on the slate and then it all melted down over the last three games.
Bottom Line: RB Larry Rountree is gone, but almost everyone else is back on O, almost everyone is back on D, and head coach Eliah Drinkwitz had a year to get things in place. Mizzou is about to make a jump.
– 2021 Missouri Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
4. Kentucky Wildcats
Why To Be Happy: QB Terry Wilson might be transferring out, but the offense might be more dynamic with either Joey Gatewood or Beau Allen under center. With leading receiver Josh Ali coming back the passing game should be solid, and …
What To Work On: Kentucky loses enough good players to matter. P Max Duffy, LB Jamin Davis and CB Kelvin Joseph are just a few who’ll be missed, the O and D lines need a slew of replacements, and …
Bottom Line: Kentucky will still be Kentucky. It’ll have its style on both sides that will work just enough to be a bother. There will be just enough missing to be a contender, but no one will grind harder or better.
– 2021 Kentucky Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Why To Be Happy: Not everyone entered the transfer portal. The Vols were able to bring in Virginia Tech’s talented QB Hendon Hooker and … uhhhhh … Hooker is good. Getting Cade Mays back for the offensive line is terrific, and the defensive front returns enough veterans to be a potential plus.
What To Work On: The offense has got to start moving the ball better. It was a disaster on third downs and everything fell flat except against the weak and the sad. Also, the defense has got to start coming up with third down stops.
Bottom Line: Okay … so almost everyone is apparently entering the transfer portal, but that should change and possibly reverse now that things have settled a bit after hiring Josh Heupel. If nothing else, the offense is about to be a whole lot more fun. No matter what you think about the hire, Tennessee has a direction.
– 2021 Tennessee Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
Why To Be Happy: The program is going to get time to grow and get the young parts working, starting with RB Kevin Harris and – most likely – QB Luke Doty behind an O line that might not be all that bad. The new coaching staff has been active on the transfer portal with a whole slew of reinforcements coming in.
What To Work On: Find a passing game right away. Harris is going to be options 1, 2 and 3, but being more dangerous down the field is a must for an offense that sputtered and coughed throughout the second half of the season. The offense needs a higher-octane identity.
Bottom Line: You wanted Will Muschamp gone. Done, now the rebuild begins under Shane Beamer. There’s going to be a “no one believes in us” factor with the Gamecocks for 2021 – the pressure is off. The starting 22 should be okay with a little more help.
– 2021 South Carolina Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Why To Be Happy: Yeah, a slew of Commodores are in the transfer portal, but most of the key ones didn’t play big roles in 2020 after being a bigger part of the 2019 team. Vandy went young, suffered through the problems, and now returns experienced in a few areas to hope for a quick improvement.
What To Work On: Scoring. The Commodores scored 21 points or fewer in eight of their nine games and 17 or fewer in seven of those. Go back to 2019 and the program has scores 17 or fewer in 13 of their last 17 games.
Bottom Line: New head coach Clark Lea has a massive task ahead of him with a total overhaul of a program that went 2-18 against FBS teams over the last two seasons.
– 2021 Vanderbilt Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios