SDS staff picks: Predicting final SEC standings, SEC champion in 2021


Saturday Down South 22 July, 2021 - 07:00am 7 views

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There’s no way we get this right, right?

Just twice since the SEC expanded and adopted divisions in 1992 have the media correctly predicted the conference champion in back-to-back years. The last time it happened was 2007 and 2008.

Media correctly predicted Alabama would win the SEC championship in 2020. History suggests we won’t go 2-for-2.

Here is how the SDS staff sees the 2021 SEC football season playing out.

Yes, this will be the year that Nick Saban finally loses to an SEC assistant. Yes, I realize that if I keep saying, eventually, I’ll be right. But why is this the year for Georgia? It’s pretty easy — quarterback play and an offensive coordinator who actually emphasizes stretching the field. When Georgia hasn’t physically imposed its will against teams, it hasn’t been an elite team in years past. That changes this year. Even without George Pickens, the balance should be there. That’s still arguably the deepest backfield in the country.

The defense won’t be vintage Georgia, but it won’t have to be. Tykee Smith and Derion Kendrick will provide some much-needed veteran leadership in the secondary, Adam Anderson will become the pass-rushing force to perfectly complement the dynamic Nakobe Dean, who takes over for the underrated Monty Rice. But give me a Georgia team who has been far closer to taking down Alabama than what the last few years would suggest. Down goes the master. Finally.

I’ll admit it — I’m hesitant to pick Georgia, but if the Bulldogs are going to win the SEC Championship, this is the year. Furthermore, it’s their chance to win the national championship, too. I’m a JT Daniels believer. I’m a believer in Kirby Smart’s defense. The talent level in Athens certainly isn’t lacking. All of the ingredients are there for a national title, but it’ll take getting over the mental hurdle of beating Alabama in Atlanta. It’ll take Kirby Smart getting over the mental hurdle of beating Nick Saban.

The schedule sets up well, too. The East shouldn’t be an issue. Also, the toughest game falls in Week 1 against national title contender Clemson. Obviously, a win over the Tigers would be huge, but even if there’s a loss, UGA can recover. It’s better to lose early with the full SEC schedule in front of them than to lose late. Crossover games against permanent rival Auburn and rotating opponent Arkansas shouldn’t be an issue. It’s going to come down to Clemson, Florida and the SEC Championship Game. I like those chances if I’m Georgia.

SEC champion: Georgia beats LSU in Atlanta. The Bulldogs have the clearest path to the championship game playing in the weaker division and having a ridiculous amount of talent on both sides of the ball. The front seven of UGA’s defense may be the best in the SEC and JT Daniels has a wealth of talent surrounding him to get the most out of Todd Monken’s system in Athens.

Picking Alabama to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game? That’s not really original, is it? Well, I’m not trying to make any bold predictions. I’m trying to be right. And, with all that talent on Alabama’s defense, it’s hard to see anyone beating the Tide this regular season. That comes with a caveat, of course. Alabama’s defense will be great by today’s standards, not by the standards of past Nick Saban teams. That 2011 defense allowed only 8.2 points per game. That’s insane. Alabama’s defense will be one of the best in the country this fall, but if they can hold opponents under 14 points per game, that’ll be more than enough. The game is much different than it was a decade ago, as we all well know. Alabama wins the West and ekes out a narrow win over the Dawgs in Atlanta to lock down a Playoff spot.

I know it’s going to be fashionable to pick somebody else. Maybe A&M out of the West, or even LSU. Georgia is stacked and plays in a significantly weaker division. But at the end of the day, we can talk about new coaches and new coordinators and new schemes and systems. But the Xs and Os always matter less than the Jimmys and Joes. And while UGA, A&M, and the rest of the upper echelon of the SEC have done an excellent job of identifying and developing players, nobody does it like Saban.

A year ago, we were all wondering if the Tide could win with Mac Jones. Quicker than you can say “system QB,” he emerged as a Heisman finalist and led Bama to a national title, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Why would Bryce Young be different? And if he is, the next guy up will probably be fine. Alabama doesn’t rebuild, they just reload. And even if the path for 2021 isn’t quite as smooth as it was for 2020– even if the Tide lose a game or even two– they could still well end up as the last team standing. Again.

This is the year for Kirby Smart and Georgia. Yes, we’ve heard “this is the year” in Athens before … many, many, many times. I just think this time is different.

The Dawgs played outstanding football after getting blown out in the Cocktail Party, handing the quarterback reins over to JT Daniels and looking like a different football team. Eight starters return on offense, including Daniels, and Georgia hit the portal for elite playmaker Arik Gilbert, who will be a matchup problem, regardless of whether he’s a tight end lined up as a receiver or a receiver lined up as a tight end.

Zamir White and James Cook give the run game the usual versatility and bite, and Daniels’ ability to get vertical in the passing game will make this the most multiple offense Georgia has had since 2017, the last time the Dawgs went to the Playoff.

Are there questions on the back end of the defense? Absolutely — any team that loses Richard LeCounte and an All-American like Eric Stokes will have growing pains. But Smart has recruited as well as anyone in the country and the Dawgs added Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick to that group and were able to break in Christopher Smith the hard way a season ago after LeCounte’s injury. The opener vs. Clemson is a measuring stick, but the rest of the schedule is favorable — as the Dawgs dodge Alabama, A&M and LSU from the West. I don’t want to say it is “if not now, when” time for Smart — but this is Georgia’s best chance at winning a national championship since Herschel left. I think they do it.

Praying that Lady Luck smiles on us this year.

UGA is the logical choice, but….Bama has the heart of a Champion and UGA may have to beat them twice.

I agree with our ranking. We should win 3,4 maybe steal a 5th.

I do think Georgia is in a better position to match-up well against Alabama.

Looking back at the Smart vs. Saban games Ga always had a significant weakness to be exploited. Receivers didn’t quite match up. QB couldn’t stretch the field well enough to make a comeback at the end. Any team who could slow the run game and put up a lot of points had a major advantage.

There is still two questions to be answered, Left Tackle and how about the secondary? I think both positions will work out and especially by the time of the SECCG.

I think who wins the SEC is truly up in the air at this point.

Tim! You forgot to mention the biggest weakness that UGA has faced in the past; Saban paid the refs! Don’t you read the Negan diatribes?

UGA fans don’t read Negan. Just the other fan bases.

That’s a switch. Unanimous pick for the East, contested picks for the West. Usually the other way around.

Florida isn’t giving anyone chills this year, so no one in the East is challenging UGA, also one writer picked LSU to win the West

So no one in the East gets love and 4 out of 6 are going with the Bullpups to take it all. And that means Kirby will possibly have to play Clemson or Bama twice to win a Natty. Not saying it can’t or won’t happen but think about that. If he can do that the Athenians will definitely deserve to feel the confetti fall down and bring Hershel onto the podium in January.

He said it was a switch from the usual case. Which it is.

I have LSU second in the West, followed by the Aggies, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, and MSU.

I honestly can’t pick how I think the top 3 in the West will shake out, but with everything going on at LSU, and mainly the coaching changes, I don’t see them finishing better than third.

I think Daniels is a good QB, not sure I can say he is difference maker based on the level of competition he has seen. Cincy was the best team he faced last year and he only put up 24 pts. Mizzou has a good upcoming QB but TN beat them so I don’t put too much stock them being on the upper level. Its pretty obvious the Clemson game will be very telling on how Georgia’s season will go. A loss to Clemson and a loss in conference play sinks their season even if they beat Bama in the SEC championship. I expect Bama, Clemson, and Ohio state to take care of their business in the regular season.

I agree with Bcreek – I pick Carolina around 6th. I could easily see us last or maybe 5th. I hope for better but just don’t see it yet. But hope springs eternal for us Carolina fans.

And can’t argue too much with the other picks, but I’ll go out on a limb here. I’m picking Mizzou 2nd in the East. And not just because I live in STL and am buying the Drink hype (or influenced by my Mizzou buds). I think he is recruiting well and will build a solid program at Mizzou.

And I don’t see how anyone but GA and Bama win their respective divisions. And for the title? Oh man, I’m back and forth, back and forth – but I’ll pick Bama because I just have the mentality “don’t pick against Saban or you’ll be sorry.”

I just hope GA opens the season with a win!

I see Beamer bringing some energy and that will translate in recruiting. I’ve always enjoyed watched SCAR play especially against UF and UGA.

I refuse to get my hopes up. Cautious optimism is my ceiling at this point. The SEC West will be very interesting to watch this year as it might be more open than it typically is.

I can’t take another last place finish.

If hogs can get some deceit QB play, your coach is gonna beat some big boys in ’21. He’s solid.

Why in the world would you pick LSU to go to Atlanta???

Bit of a stretch right now… BAMA still in charge in West. Ole Miss- no defense; AyamM- offense?; L S U- talent yes, new staff-?

D is going to surprise you

I just don’t see how they can go from how bad they were last year to beating Bama and A&M in the West, let alone Florida and other SEC games. I’m not saying that Bama will be as good as last year, but we shouldn’t drop off that much! As long as we get passed A&M, I think Bama is a lock for the west.

As good a prediction as any… If they actually meant anything UGA’s last NC wouldn’t have been in 1980.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, this preseason hype train article is only about the SEC Championship…if they actually meant anything UGA’s last wouldn’t have been 2017, save the 1980 slight for the next preseason Natty predictions, wouldn’t want you to use up your favorite material to early.

Another preseason and another UGA lovefest. But this time it’s different. Yeah right. Couple things, UGA does not have the deepest backfield in the SEC and their Zen master, movie star QB is not as good as hyped. Just watched a replay of the Cincy bowl game, not the whole game but some of the 3rd quarter. Saw underthrows to open receivers, INTs and taking lots of sacks. I know Cincy has a great D with a bunch of 5 star players but still. Once the renaissance man faces top SEC defenses the hype train come to a halt

So we’re gonna judge this year’s performance by last year’s bowl game? Think about that real hard, cojones . . .

Then per that logic UF finishes last or next to last in the SECE

“Zen master, movie star QB … Once the renaissance man”

Why the belittling, mockery and hate for a young man playing college football? I see lots of commentary and assessments about EJ from UGA fans but it never gets personal; it’s always about his skillset, or lack of, and his play on the field. But in the big scheme of things UGA fans wish EJ well and respect him for having the wherewithal to play college football at the highest level.

Georgia had some opt-outs on the O-line, Ben Cleveland comes to mind. I don’t think that will be an issue during SEC play.

Like every other pre-season prediction, this means absolutely zero.

Nearly everyone is predicting Harsin to crash and burn I see. I think they’re nearly all wrong…but we’ll find out in the fall.

I don’t see UGA beating Clemson in week 1. A new secondary against a potent offense and a reshuffled O-line against one of the best defensive fronts in college football. But … if the O-line can give J-TD a clean pocket throughout the game then maybe UGA walks away with a win.

Barring injury UGA will develop, progress and gel throughout the season into an elite team. By season’s end UGA will be a much improved team; we still haven’t seen Monken’s complete offense package. However, the same will happen at Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss with Alabama having the highest ceiling among those three.

Alabama vs UGA in a toss-up for the SECCG. If Ole Miss or LSU trips up Alabama then a slight edge for UGA vs either of those two.

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The Longhorn Republic dives in on conference realignment and hoops recruiting

Burnt Orange Nation 22 July, 2021 - 08:30am

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