2021 SEC Rankings: Pre-Spring
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Why To Be Happy: It’s Alabama. There are more where they came from. Even with the massive personnel losses, normal array of four and five-star talents are still around to keep it all going. The Bryce Young era should kick in at quarterback, Brian Robinson is a big-time back who’ll finally get the spotlight, and there’s a whole ton of big-time talent returning to the defensive side – as always.
What To Work On: You don’t get better after losing a Heisman-winning receiver, the best running back in college football, and a quarterback who had the most efficient passing season in the history of of the sport. DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and Mac Jones were great, and a whole slew of other Bama stars are off to the NFL, but …
Bottom Line: The season will be rougher, the SEC will be better, and … Alabama is still Alabama. Even with all the talent losses, this is still obviously a powerhouse. Nothing stops.
– 2021 Alabama Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
2. Texas A&M Aggies
Why To Be Happy: A whole lot of good players return, starting with RBs Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith, TE Jalen Wydermyer, and S Leon O’Neal and CB Myles Jones. The recruiting has upped the overall talent level, but …
What To Work On: Replacing Kellen Mond won’t be easy. In a year with all sorts of craziness and with everything out of sorts, having a veteran QB meant the world to the Aggies in 2020. He could’ve returned for another year, but now he’s off to the next level leaving untested Zach Calzada and Haynes King to fight for the gig.
Bottom Line: The entire O line needs reshuffling, a whole slew of key parts are gone, and it’s going to take a great offseason to get back to 2020 form. It’ll still be a great team, but it’s pushing it to be fringe CFP-good in what should be a better SEC.
– 2021 Texas A&M Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
3. LSU Tigers
Why To Be Happy: Unlike last year, LSU isn’t losing an entire team full of stars to the next level. 2020 was the definition of a rebuilding year, and now the offensive line is loaded with veterans, the underclassmen at the skill spots should be stronger, and Derek Stingley Jr. leads yet another terrific Tiger secondary.
What To Work On: All the returning players have to play better. Everyone can be forgiven for how strange last season was, but the pass defense can’t be among the nation’s worst again and the offense has to be far, far more consistent.
Bottom Line: The Tigers should be a whole lot better. The performances at the end of the season against Florida and Ole Miss showed off the potential for what should be the SEC’s biggest wild card.
– 2021 LSU Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
4. Ole Miss Rebels
Why To Be Happy: WR Elijah Moore is gone from the high-powered offense, but that’s about it. The Rebels were able to roll up and down the field – including, to a point, Alabama – and QB Matt Corral leads another phenomenal group. DE Ryder Anderson left for Indiana, but just about everyone else on defense returns.
What To Work On: Yeah … the defense. It was the second-worst in the country allowing 519 yards per game. It was bad against the run, worse against the pass, and it has to be able to hold serve from time to time in the shootouts.
Bottom Line: Ole Miss is going to be a thorn in everyone’s side. There’s too much returning experience to not be better defensively, the offense will be just as strong, and there will be a whole lot of shootouts.
– 2021 Ole Miss Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
5. Auburn Tigers
Why To Be Happy: New head man Bryan Harsin inherits enough experience to start winning right away. The offensive line that wasn’t all that awful gets everyone back to block for Tank Bigsby and a strong group of backs, and QB Bo Nix returns for his third year as the starter. The defense has enough parts back to be okay.
What To Work On: The receiving corps needs new playmakers, and Nix has to be a whole lot better. He had NFL-caliber receivers in Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove to work with and the passing attack wasn’t anything special. That has to change without the three great targets.
Bottom Line: It’s going to be a true year of transition to the new coaching staff, and it’s not going to be an SEC championship campaign, but the Tigers will be good enough to at least be competitive against just about everyone.
– 2021 Auburn Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
6. Arkansas Razorbacks
Why To Be Happy: The Razorbacks aren’t losing anyone early to the NFL, the offensive line has the potential to be terrific, and the defense is full of excellent veterans to give the program – potentially – it’s best starting 11 on that side of the ball in a long, long time.
What To Work On: Can KJ Jefferson be the main man at quarterback? Feleipe Franks wasn’t Mac Jones or Kyle Trask, but he was a good, solid veteran who helped the transition to the new coaching staff. Jefferson will run more, but the offense has to be able to wing it around with the QBs in place.
Bottom Line: For all the fun and all the excitement, Arkansas still only went 3-7. There’s enough experience to finish in the top four of the SEC West with a big upset here or there, but it’s still a building job under Sam Pittman.
– 2021 Arkansas Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios
7. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Why To Be Happy: Most of the top receiving targets are back, QB Will Rogers should be a whole lot better in 2021, and there are just enough offensive linemen returning to be even stronger up front. The offense didn’t have a regular offseason in 2020 to prepare, and now the machine should be a whole lot sharper. Most of the top tacklers are back on defense, but …
What To Work On: Several good defensive players are gone, and the offense has to be a whole lot better just to be okay. The Bulldogs were dead last in the SEC in yards per completion, turnovers, and rushing. All of that has to change.
Bottom Line: With a few months to prepare and with better timing and more consistency, the Bulldogs should be a whole lot better. If the offense can start doing what it’s supposed to under Mike Leach, it can be dangerous enough to lead to team into the top four in the West.
– 2021 Mississippi State Schedule Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenarios