Daily Football Fix: SEC forecast for 2018

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It’s such a cliche these days I hesitate to use it.

Every team has a ceiling. Every team has a floor. That’s a lot of structures.

But they are there whether in the views of fans, media, opponents or basement bloggers.

The great thing about a college football season is that sometimes a team rises too high for the imagined ceiling and busts right through it (see: UCF, 2017). Or it finds a leak in the pipes that causes the floor to collapse (see: Tennessee, 2017).

In the SEC, we think we know, but we can’t know. Still, we present the annual Open House, a look at the ceilings and floors (maybe) for all 14 teams.

* Alabama

Ceiling: Well, you know what it is.

Floor: It’s difficult to imagine Nick Saban losing any more than three games even with half his team gone to the NFL and a revamped coaching staff. The Tide is even immune to catastrophic injuries because of its five-star depth. A 9-3 season would be worse than Dreamland going out of business.

* Arkansas

Ceiling: With a first-year coach changing the culture, eight wins would be a great season for the Razorbacks.

Floor: Last year’s 4-8 season was about as low as this program can go. Especially with four gimmees in the non-conference schedule.

* Auburn

Ceiling: Obviously, the Tigers are good enough to make the College Football Playoff and were a game away from it last year.

Floor: We can’t see that personnel and a coach with a fat new contract extension falling below 8-4.

* Florida

Ceiling: Dan Mullen has a plan, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Still, if the Gators find a quality quarterback, a 10-win season is possible.

Floor: Haven’t we seen the floor twice in the last five years? That would be four wins, but barring another rash of injuries and suspensions, this floor should not be any lower than .500.

* Georgia

Ceiling: The Bulldogs were one play away last season. They can get there again.

Floor: The recruiting has been too impressive (as has Kirby Smart) to imagine anything worse than 8-4.

* Kentucky

Ceiling: The Wildcats keep taking baby steps, which should mean eight wins. There’s no reason to think they can’t get to nine.

Floor: It’s still Kentucky. If things go horribly wrong, you could see 5-7.

* LSU

Ceiling: The personnel is still really special, good enough to win the West and win 10 games.

Floor: There are a lot of people who see the potential for disaster and a coaching change in the Bayou. A 6-6 record should do it.

* Ole Miss

Ceiling: This is a difficult team to figure, but an 8-4 season isn’t out of the question.

Floor: Neither is 4-8.

* Mississippi State

Ceiling: Any time you have a guy like QB Nick Fitzgerald and a pretty soft non-conference slate, you have a chance to get to 10 wins.

Floor: But with a new coach and the beast that is the West, you can also see the potential for 5-7.

* Missouri

Ceiling: It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Tigers continue their momentum from last season and win nine games.

Floor: But don’t bet on it. With a schedule that includes a game at Alabama, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Mizzou revert to form and go 5-7.

* South Carolina

Ceiling: Will Muschamp has a new offense and has a real chance to go 9-3 this season.

Floor: And yet, would 6-6 shock anybody?

* Tennessee

Ceiling: There’s a new sheriff in town and you could see the Vols winning seven games.

Floor: We saw the floor last year and it was 0-8 in SEC games. So four wins, especially with back-to-back games against Auburn and Alabama, is in play.

* Texas A&M

Ceiling: The Aggies aren’t paying Jimbo Fisher all that money for continued mediocrity. There is a scenario where A&M could go 10-2.

Floor: But it may take awhile for Fisher to get his ducks in a row. You can envision 5-7 with their schedule.

* Vanderbilt

Ceiling: Bowl eligibility is the goal and 7-5 is a real possibility.

Floor: So is a clean slate in SEC play (not in a good way) and a 3-9 mark.

 

34 COMMENTS

  1. I completely agree with your ceiling for Florida, Pat. ”10 wins” or more is possible. But it’s all predicated on GOOD Q.B. play (which includes, no name calling, but a Q.B. who doesn’t run around in the backfield and carelessly lob passes downfield, only to be picked off and return for T.D.s). It will include a very good Gator ‘D’, and some R.B.’s who have punishing runs, along with the long, break away T.D. runs, too. And the receivers have to improve, at last!).
    Other than all that, I don’t see any reason why they can’t compete for the East… THIS YEAR. too! GO GATORS! JUST DO IT!!!

  2. 10 wins is possible (most things are possible), but highly improbable. The floor is actually 4-7, with 5-6 or 6-5 being the more likely outcomes. We simply don’t have the roster or talent to overperform. I wish these prognostications would be more forthcoming — our fanbase is demoralized and it’s foolish (and cruel) to raise expectations unnecessarily.

    • I hate to disagree with you G, especially since your view involves more true critical thinking and objective reasoning than most allow for…..what else would you expect from a chemist? Well, I do agree with you about the fan demoralization and especially about the nature of possibility vs probability. But the talent is actually there and in-place, so is the coaching expertise, so is the S&C, and so is the motivation. No, I don’t think this is the breakout season yet…..but I still maintain that 8-4 is probable, and a decent bowl win for a 9-4 season is too. Now, as Willgator sustains, win a couple that we’re not supposed to win (the possibility factor) and all of a sudden we’ve got at least 10 wins.

      Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! (p<.05) Go Gators……

    • I don’t think G meant “cruel” in the traditional context, jackah. Like a lot of Gators, he’s been built up and let down so many times over the last 7 years that he’s gun shy, that’s all. Now he’s among the “wait and see”, “I’ll believe it when I see it” segment of fans.

      I found Pat’s column very though provoking too.

      • Thanks, 6…spot on as always. I’m keeping my expectations in check given the near decade we’ve all endured. 8-4 would be outstanding!

        • You know, I’ve been including the Gators in our meal time prayer for about 5 years now, talk about unanswered prayers…..my wife finally told me to stop being blasphemous and get serious. During the ensuing conversation she said it was just a game, they were just boys, and that there were more important world events to worry about.

          Knowing that I was going to be sleeping on the couch that night anyway, and unable to think of one world event more important than Gator football, I simply replied, “Just what I expected from an FSU troll, Mikey”. God, this stuff is contagious!

          It wasn’t too bad on the couch, except for having to share it with my bloodhound. And my back hurts.

  3. So the way I see it (see below) …… 5 wins is the floor (wins vs Charleston South, Kent, Col St, Vandy, Idaho) and 8 wins is the ceiling (losses to LSU, South Carolina, UGA, FSU).

    The difference between 5-7 and 8-4 are games I see going either way (UT, Miss State, Mizzou). South Carolina may fall in this group.

    The play of the OL and QB will determine this team’s fate. I believe the defense will hold it’s own, I believe the special teams will hold their own, I believe the coaching will do it’s part, I believe the strength and conditioning will do it’s part, and I believe the running backs and receivers/tight ends will do their part and will only go as far as the QB and OL let them go.

    Now if this team catches lightning in a bottle (and you could say this for 2/3 of the SEC teams) and the stars align, there is probably enough talent on the team and coaching staff to get 10 or 11 wins. But NO ONE should think that’s possible as we stand today. 8 wins sounds about right for my wishful thinking.

    Charleston Southern – W
    Kentucky – W
    Colorado State – W
    Tennessee – W or L
    Miss State – W or L
    LSU – L
    Vanderbilt – W
    Georgia – L
    Missouri – W or L
    South Carolina – L
    Idaho – W
    FSU – L

    • Boy, that’s about a fine of a detailed analysis and rationale as I’ve seen in a long time, Rog. I think we actually catch Willie Taggart stepping on his poncho liner this year tho, and actually drop FSU so bad their legs grow together. And UT too, but they’re on about the same rebound schedule as we are, the combination of Fulmer and Pruitt are going to be difficult to contend with, and that’s about as far as my own wishful thinking carries me. I don’t know, you’re a lot closer to that situation in Knoxville than I am. As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of Phil Fulmer (except for when UT plays UF).

    • I hope you’re right about FSU. It’s about time we beat these guys. The Noles haven’t been a great team lately and it’s obvious in hindsight that Jimbo has been checked out for awhile….yet they have made us look silly year in and year out.

      As far as UT, the fan base here is just shell shocked at how bad things have gotten. And now with the abrupt firing of the Chancellor it appears that chaos is still the order of the day. Fulmer has a lot of political capital so he’ll have time to settle things down and it appears that he’s done that. Pruitt…..well so far, he’s no nonsense and all business. He’s a football coach, not a motivational speaker like Butch was.

      So the Vols are probably in good hands going forward. But, the talent level is very low here now and recruiting is much harder at UT than at UF or UGA or Bama. So I sense they’re on the right track but the Vols road back to respectability will be more difficult and lengthy than the Gators. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    • And ain’t it great, leland?

      But that’s like a preconceived notion I once had….it turned out to be something I already thought of. (apologies to the late, great, Jim Varney, aka, Earnest)

  4. Interesting comments from all. We are all just keyboard coaches and writers, so it is fun to forecast. I think the most important element of the Gators getting to 10 wins is if the hurricanes will leave us alone for a season and let us play our full slate of annual cupcakes. Remember Idaho on opening night a couple years ago? After a looong rain delay, we finally had kickoff at about midnight, with a nice long return by the Gators, only to have the lightning show up again, and the game finally canceled. Put the record in a hole from the opening night. At least we will get Idaho again this year, but in November. Of course, there always the chance of snow then! Go Gators.

  5. I think in the first year coach Dan Mullen will see what he has and what he needs to recruit. Only know one thing and that’s we’re better off now than what we have been in the last 7 years. I really think year 3 we are going to be very, very good. So I’m going to watch each game this year hopeing we win them all but not being upset when we lose. Here to enjoying 2018 football season.

    • You know, I don’t know either, Scott. But I will say this: Something positive is indeed going on with USC, even tho I can’t put my finger quite on it and it’s sort of subjective. Rog (above) has them beating us this year….he’s usually pretty objective in his analyses….but maybe I’m not the only one who “senses” something. (I hope Rog is wrong when it comes down to the USC-Florida game, but other than that I don’t really care much)

      Tell you this much, Muschamp bombed at Florida, but I think he’s more or less growing into a pretty decent SEC coach so far. Go Gators…..

      • Unless I missed something as well, USC had the 106th ranked offense last season, which was one spot above the Gators, with an experienced QB who was supposed to be great after a better than average true freshman season. Muschamp once again signed a very defensive heavy recruiting class like he always did at UF and is now on his 2nd offensive coordinator in as many seasons. He’s the exact same coach he was at UF, the only difference being 8-9 win seasons are amazing at USC and they get you fired here. I’m not sure he’s growing into a decent coach. I think it’s more a fact of being at a program with lower expectations and not having the spotlight on him magnifying the fact that his offense is still as terrible as it always was.

        • Yeah–point, counterpoint, Joe. Like I said, I really can’t put my finger on it anyway, so maybe it’s just indigestion from something I ate. That said, USC is an awful lot like Florida about 35 years ago. I mean, they can get a full 6-pack every now and then, but they just don’t have the little plastic thingy that holds it all together. Yet. I’ll cede to your points tho, good ones that they are. I was more just trying to validate my thoughts at that…..like the man says, “Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield”.

    • 6….. I hope I’m wrong too. And of the four losses I project, this is the one I’m least firm about. Bentley has shown stretches of being a very good QB and could be a good un one day. So much there depends on whether or not Coach Muschamp ever decides to let his team play offense. When he does get serious about offense, his teams will be tough because the man can sure coach defense. I hope it’s not this year.

      • “good un” tickled me Rog……my late Dad used to say it that way all the time. Hailed from Avon Park, and a more rabid, life long Florida Gator you never met.

  6. I wouldn’t chalk up wins against anyone except the paid scrubs and Vanderbilt. It’s not like Florida showed they were clearly better than any other team on their schedule this past season. Even the wins against Kentucky and Tennessee were hard fought contests. I also think that, while Florida has a chance to be better this season, so does everyone else with the exception of Georgia. I doubt Georgia will be as good this year.
    As for UF being better, the question is why? Other than new coaches, the personnel will be relatively the same, and, due to McElwain’s poor recruiting, may be worse. The QB position looks even worse than last year, when there was hope that Franks could play and Del Rio was heady veteran, along with the guy most thought would start, Zaire. The offensive line? Does anyone actually believe that they will be anything but a disaster? RBs? They were last in the SEC with Scarlett. Now they’ve going to be good because he has returned? WRs? We hear, every year, how great they are in practice. Tales of Toney, Massey, Cleveland etc….now Jefferson and Grimes. Yet, in their public display, the Spring game, they did absolutely nothing. The defense? Other than the corners, is there anyone that’s a good player? The defensive line? Is anyone, including Jefferson, someone to worry about. The LBs suck. Reese is average, at best. He only looks good to Gator fans because he isn’t awful like the rest. Vosean Joseph, who silly folks got excited about because of a hit on a QB, is a walking textbook on how to miss tackles. Rayshard Jackson passing him by doesn’t mean he’s good. Can Chauncey Gardner-Johnson cover anyone?
    Maybe a newcomer, redshirt, or others that have done nothing so far can change this grim appraisal. But, if not, the personnel at Florida isn’t going to scare anyone. As seen with Michael Tyson, you can beat someone before the whistle blows if you just look intimidating. Florida, today, doesn’t scare anyone, even Kentucky.

    • They’ll be better because of better coaching.

      No, they won’t scare anyone. But they’ll be better coached than many teams and certainly better coached than last year. Nobody’s expecting year one miracles, just improvement. We’ll see that.

      • I know TebowCurse is supposed to be an FSU troll–and he probably is–but he sure knows an awful lot about Florida football and the Gator roster, doesn’t he? Just that so much he knows if wrong (to quote a late President).

        OK, I’ve got it, mystery solved. He’s Nuss! I mean, I’ve never seen them on here at the same time, have you? That’s gotta be it.

        • 6 ……. I think you’re on to something!

          Come to think of it, Nuss did kind of look like the kind of guy who still lives in his mom’s basement 🙂

    • Mikey did you seriously write a novel trying to convince everyone that the Gators won’t be better under a new regime? I guess since the Noles only won 7 games last season, should’ve actually only been 6 but we all know what happened there, then that means they suck as well and won’t improve with a new coaching staff either right? I mean your ridiculous assumptions have to work both ways, otherwise you look like a bigger fool than everyone already knows you to be by contradicting yourself. You continuing to harp on this theory speaks volumes on how little you know about football.

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