SEC preview

Steve Merril | Sep 2, 2017 | ARCHIVE


2017 SEC Preview

SEC East


Florida Gators (2016: 9-4 SU, 5-7-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference: +800

Season win total: 8.5

Why to bet the Gators: There is a lot of hope and optimism surrounding the Florida offense which sees nine starters back. Feleipe Franks was impressive during the offseason and for most of the season he should have Antonio Callaway who is an underrated receiver. The schedule lines up nicely with LSU and Florida State both coming to the Swamp.

Why not to bet the Gators: Callaway may be suspended for the opener against Michigan due to some offseason issues. While Randy Shannon is a solid defensive coordinator, there are still only three starters back and a lot of inexperience on the stop unit.  The offense needs to improve after averaging 24 points per game or less in three of the past four seasons.

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

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Georgia Bulldogs (2016: 8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Odds to win the conference
: +700

Season win total: 8.5

Why to bet the Bulldogs: Georgia's defense has pretty much everyone back from a unit that ranked 16th overall in total yards allowed. Jacob Eason threw for 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year as quarterback. He's got Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield keeping teams honest and improving their NFL Draft stock. The offensive line is going to help those guys big time.

Why not to bet the Bulldogs: The WR group other then Terry Godwin and Javon Wims is rather unimpressive. Rodrigo Blankenship struggled from long range as kicker for the Bulldogs and wasn't very good at kickoffs either. They have tough trips to Notre Dame, Auburn and Georgia Tech.

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

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Kentucky Wildcats (2016: 7-6 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+10000

Season win total: 7

Why to bet the Wildcats: Kentucky may have gained a little bit of a winner's mentality after last year's dash to make a bowl. They beat Louisville at their place and return 16 starters overall. Freshman All-American Benny Snell ran for over 1,000 yards in 2016 and should be able to alleviate some pressure on Stephen Johnson under center. Several weapons also are on the team at wide receiver.

Why not to bet the Wildcats: The defense is strong in the back end, but up front they need to improve from the 110th ranked rush defense. Teams will continue to pound the ball and play time possession against the UK offense. Florida, Tennessee and Louisville all come to Lexington, but the Wildcats need to show they can defend their home field against better schools.

Season win total pick: Over 7

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Missouri Tigers (2016: 4-8 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+20000

Season win total: 6.5

Why to bet the Tigers: The offense experienced a lot of improvement as they averaged over 30 points per game last year. Drew Lock took to Josh Heupel's offense with a 23/10 TD/INT ratio. J'Mon Moore came on strong near the end of the season with almost 30 catches over the last three contests. Four straight home games to open up this season will help build confidence. They play Missouri State, Idaho, Purdue and UConn out of conference.

Why not to bet the Tigers: Yikes, the defense was pretty bad last year allowing nearly 500 yards per game. Only three starters are back and one of those is in the front seven. There will be some growing pains in the secondary with both Aarion Penton and John Gibson III graduating. Tucker McCann was pretty bad at kicker as a freshman. Finishing out the year with Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas is tough.

Season win total pick: Under 6.5

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South Carolina Gamecocks (2016: 6-7 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+9000

Season win total: 5.5

Why to bet the Gamecocks: Jake Bentley is probably the best quarterback returning in the SEC East. He had just four interceptions in 190 attempts in 2016. Deebo Samuel is worth building around out wide. The offensive line is pretty much intact so there's no excuse for any slow start from the offense. Skai Moore is coming back from an injury after missing last season.

Why not to bet the Gamecocks: They couldn't get to the quarterback last year and will find it difficult to do so again in 2017. Elliott Fry, the school's all-time leading scorer is gone so they'll have to find a new kicker to replace him. The non-conference schedule has some dangerous games with NC State, Clemson and Louisiana Tech.

Season win total pick: Over 5.5

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Tennessee Volunteers (2016: 9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+2000

Season win total: 7.5

Why to bet the Volunteers: Early reviews of Quinten Dormady have been good this offseason. He has big shoes to fill now that Josh Dobbs has moved on. Jauan Jennings is a good #1 receiver and will have to be with a lack of depth behind him. There aren't as many expectations in 2017 after the team fell well short last year of what the public expected.

Why not to bet the Volunteers: Depth is an issue at some key positions. As mentioned above, the wide receivers aren't great behind Jennings. The running backs behind Ty Kelly need some work as well. Defensively, they have to replace Derek Barnett who went to the Eagles. Injuries kept a lot of the first-team defense off the field during spring practice.

Season win total pick: Under 7.5

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Vanderbilt Commodores (2016: 6-7 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+22500

Season win total: 6

Why to bet the Commodores: Ralph Webb doesn't get enough credit for how good of a running back he is after rushing for 13 touchdowns. If Kyle Shurmur figures things out, he has Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott and C.J. Duncan at wideout. The offensive line should be solid with three starters returning. Derek Mason finally got this team to a bowl game last year so there should be some confidence.

Why not to bet the Commodores: Zach Cunningham isn't leaping over offensive lines anymore as he took his talent to the NFL. Shurmur threw nine touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. He obviously needs to pick it up if the offense hopes to use their weapons. Alabama and Georgia both come to Nashville, but the Commodores don't exactly have a strong home field advantage.

Season win total pick: Under 6

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SEC WEST

Alabama Crimson Tide (2016: 14-1 SU, 10-5 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
-160

Season win total: 10.5

Why to bet the Crimson Tide: An angry Tide team coming off a national championship game loss should be a motivated team this year. Jalen Hurts is showing improvement and he has Tua Tagovailoa right behind him. The ground game will be strong with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough who punish their opponents. Calvin Ridley had 72 receptions last season and is back this year.

Why not to bet the Crimson Tide: There's not a lot to hate about the 2017 Crimson Tide. The defense returns only six starters, but still has proven talent on every level. Replacing O.J. Howard will be tough because he was a game changer at tight end. Florida State will provide a challenge in the season opener with a tough road game at Auburn closing things out.

Season win total pick: Over 10.5

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Arkansas Razorbacks (2016: 7-6 SU, 5-8 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+6500

Season win total: 6.5

Why to bet the Razorbacks: Austin Allen put up some good numbers in this offense and could be one of the better signal callers in the SEC West. Devwah Whaley should be able to find holes with four of five offensive linemen back for the Hogs. Jared Cornelius is both a good wide receiver and punt returner helping with field position.

Why not to bet the Razorbacks: Rawleigh Williams retired this offseason meaning Whaley will have to carry more of the load. Williams had over 1,300 yards on the ground so it's a big hole to fill. The defense allowed over 30 points per game and is getting younger with one player back from the front seven. Road trips to LSU and Alabama will hurt in the conference standings.

Season win total pick: Over 6.5

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Auburn Tigers (2016: 8-5 SU, 9-4 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+500

Season win total: 8.5

Why to bet the Tigers: The quarterback merry-go-round should stop with the addition of Jarrett Stidham. The signal caller comes over from Baylor and will have to adjust to a new style of offense. Kamryn Pettway is a load to bring down in the backfield. Daniel Carlson is one of the best kickers in the country and will help in close games.

Why not to bet the Tigers: Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat right now as the team put talent in place for him to win. They lost Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Rudy Ford so it may take some time for the defense to gel. Unfortunately, the punting could be an issue with Ian Shannon being a question mark. They play at LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M in a row in mid-October to November.

Season win total pick: Under 8.5

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LSU Tigers (2016: 8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+550

Season win total: 9

Why to bet the Tigers: Derrius Guice may make people forget about Leonard Fournette. Guice ran for almost 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016. The offensive line has three starters back, so Guice should find some holes. Matt Canada will put new wrinkles in the offense and make things spicier. On defense, it looks like Arden Key is ahead of schedule and should be ready early in the season.

Why not to bet the Tigers: Once again, a strong LSU running back may see a stacked box consistently. Danny Etling doesn't scare anyone and his best receivers from 2016 are gone. The team will have to replace eight starters on defense with Tre'Davious White gone from the secondary. The kicker is a freshman which is a worry in big conference games.

Season win total pick: Under 9

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Mississippi Rebels (2016: 5-7 SU, 4-8 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
NL

Season win total: 5.5

Why to bet the Rebels: Shea Patterson is producing a ton of headlines this offseason and giving Rebels fans hope. Many think A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf will be one of the best trios in the league at wide receiver. Marquis Haynes has 24.5 career sacks and should play well with his NFL Draft status looming. Gary Wunderlich was a semi finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Why not to bet the Rebels: There are plenty of headlines already building off the field with the team and the season hasn't even started yet. Will that bleed onto the field if the team is consistently answering questions about it? The team's top two running backs missed the season last year and will be asked to do a lot in 2017. Road trips to California, Alabama and Auburn in a row will not help with team confidence.

Season win total pick: Over 5.5

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Mississippi St. Bulldogs (2016: 6-7 SU, 5-8 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+7500

Season win total: 5.5

Why to bet the Bulldogs: Nick Fitzgerald is a double threat with 21 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns. The schedule lines up nicely with five of their final seven games at home. Todd Grantham takes over the defense and he's the right guy to work with a group that is rather young and inexperienced.

Why not to bet the Bulldogs: Grantham becomes the fourth defensive coordinator over the last four years. Three starters are gone from the offensive line while the team's skill positions also seem lean. Donald Gray had five touchdowns last year, but now he's going to have to be the number one wide receiver. Playing in the SEC West will be tough for these kids.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

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Texas A&M Aggies (2016: 8-5 SU, 4-9 ATS)

Odds to win the conference:
+4000

Season win total: 7

Why to bet the Aggies: While there are some questions at quarterback, there are some known commodities in Christian Kirk, Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford. The middle of the offensive line is really strong with three starters returning. Armani Watts is one of the best safeties in the conference. After a road trip to UCLA, the Aggies don't have another true road game for over a month.

Why not to bet the Aggies: Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat and he's dragging out his quarterback decision. Jake Hubenak is holding off Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond in that race. While there aren't a ton of true road games, they are at UCLA, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU which will not be easy. The defense will have to play better if they hope to win any of those games.

Season win total pick: Under 7

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