Dooley: Just what is the ceiling, floor for each SEC team?

Florida coach Jim McElwain hasn't settled on a starting quarterback. He hasn't even pared down the three-man competition. McElwain said Wednesday that fourth-year junior Luke Del Rio, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and graduate transfer Malik Zaire will play this season, maybe even in next week' season opener against No. 11 Michigan. [The Associated Press]

Here’s the thing about ceilings and floors — sometimes you can see them both in one game.

The first Saturday of college football is behind us — Week Zero for the mathematically-challenged — and we watched South Florida find its floor and then raise the roof in a 42-22 win.

Finally this weekend, we’ll have some SEC games, although it seems weird not to have South Carolina playing somebody on Thursday night.

As we enter another joy ride of a season, we think we know just how high each team can get and how low it may fall.

How high is the ceiling?

How low is the floor?

Remember that this is based on the current program and schedule, not necessarily that program’s coach. I’m guessing that Mark Stoops and Nick Saban would have different ceilings if they switched jobs.

Anyway, here’s the SEC, literally from top to bottom:


Ceiling: Well, you know. It says a lot about a program when you could lose a national title game by one second and that not be the ceiling. Anything short of another national title for the Tide will be a disappointment for its wild and crazy fan base.

Floor: Lose to Auburn. We could stop right there. But when we are talking about the lowest possible place Alabama could end up at the end of the season, I think it’s 9-3 and headed to the Citrus Bowl. When that’s the worst you can do, you’re in good shape.


Ceiling: How about play some better second halves, Hogs? That might produce a 10-win season, which is as good as it could get for Bret Bielema this year.

Floor: Under .500 and bowl-less is a real possibility, but it would take a lot to go wrong considering the schedule (three automatic wins) and Bielema’s ability to get his team to play hard occasionally.


Ceiling: Well, Jarrett Stidham has pretty much secured his statue without playing a game on the plains. We’ve seen this team with this coach make the playoffs before so that’s the high-water mark. Oh, and beat Alabama.

Floor: OK, let’s say Stidham can’t handle SEC defenses and Clemson puts a whupping on the Tigers in Week Two. Hey, the Birmingham Bowl is a short trip.


Ceiling: This much we know — Jim McElwain knows how to win the East. He probably doesn’t have a good enough roster to make the playoffs, but good enough to win the SEC title game? That’s the question.

Floor: If it turns out he doesn’t have a quarterback again and injuries hit a fragile defensive back seven, there is a path to 7-5 or 6-6 because of a tough schedule.


Ceiling: Winning the East would be a novel idea for the Bulldogs. I think that would satisfy the ring-starved Bulldog faithful.

Floor: We don’t know if Kirby Smart is a good head coach yet. We will know a little more when he returns from South Bend. A loss there and it could get 6-6 ugly.


Ceiling: If the Wildcats can quit losing games they seem to have won and can get away from the injury bug that has bitten hard in camp, they can win the East. I’m not kidding.

Floor: The ’Cats have gotten used to going bowling but there are no guarantees. Sitting home would not sit well.


Ceiling: Oh my, can you imagine this College Football Playoff pressers with Ed Orgeron? If Matt Canada’s new offense is anything more than a mirage, it certainly could happen.

Floor: The offense is still predictable. Orgeron rips off his shirt. Joe Alleva gets fired for negotiating a schedule with five SEC road games. Even then, I can’t see worse than 8-4. Too much talent.


Ceiling: There is enough talent in Oxford to win more games than the Rebels lose. And the four non-cons could be the ticket to not having a losing record. But I can’t see anything better than 7-5.

Floor: If the NCAA hammer comes down during the season and all hope is lost, it could be really ugly. But the schedule means it won’t get worse than 4-8. I don’t think.


Ceiling: I have no idea what to think of this team, but when I go through the schedule with a glass half full I can’t see any better than 6-6 and getting to a bowl.

Floor: As good as Nick Fitzgerald might be, the Maroons are counting on a lot of junior college players and that has 4-8 written all over it.


Ceiling: When the toughest non-conference game is Purdue, you really should be bowling. The Tigers could surprise some people and win seven.

Floor: Again, because of the easy schedule away from the conference and because they are in the East, it’s difficult to see a floor lower than 4-8.


Ceiling: Love the offense, not sold on the defense. Will Muschamp may be getting ready to go through his most uncomfortable season as a result, but it’s not crazy to think the Gamecocks could go 5-3 in the division and sneak into Atlanta. Or is it?

Floor: Jake Bentley vs. good defenses? Not so good. And having N.C. State and Clemson as bookends on the schedule is not good. I’m not sure I see more than three wins if things go bad.


Ceiling: Champions of Life. Really, isn’t that all that matters? With the tough injuries in camp and Alabama and LSU on the schedule, I can’t see a scenario where the Vols go to Atlanta. Enjoy the Belk Bowl.

Floor: Lose to Georgia Tech for starters and then go 2-6 in the conference and you have a likely 4-8 mark and a new coach on the way.


Ceiling: The Aggies have the same ceiling every year in that we can see a path to the SEC title game. The problem is that Kevin Sumlin keeps forgetting to gas up the car.

Floor: With games at UCLA, Florida and LSU, you can see how the Aggies could break through the 8-5 floor and limp into a bad bowl game.


Ceiling: Derek Mason is doing a really good job and you feel like he is going to have a hand in the race in the East. I can see 7-5.

Floor: The Commodores have some sneaky non-conference games and also host Alabama. Can you feel an old-school 4-8 coming on?

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. If Florida suffers through ”yet another injury prone” season, well…
    I can’t even imagine one coach, like Coach Mac, having ”that much bad luck” with injuries., etc…(see: Jeff Driskel injury, Will Grier, etc…). So, I will NOT even imagine the possibility!
    In fact, ”the law of probability” says U.F won’t have ”another year of bad luck with Q.B.s”. Thankfully, it’s some other team’s turn to fight the ”injury bug”!
    Go Gators! Stay healthy! And Chomp-on!!!

  2. tend to think the floor is optimistic on one or two teams. not sure who, but if i had to bet, Ole Miss. they could really tank hard if only a couple things don’t go their way. somebody will have an awful year in the conference, and predicting 3-4 wins for everybody seems a bit optimistic.

  3. Jeez….what a piece of a rag to judge the competition like you did. It’s the worst judge of talent and the most biased I have seen this year in all of sports media. Ever heard of Peter Principle? This guy reached it a long time ago, obviously. Guess he won’t be on TV. No talent!