Predicting order of finish in SEC for 2018


By Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu
Staff writers

This is the week when the assembled SEC media gets an opportunity to be bold and take chances.

Or not.

When the votes are tallied, we pretty much know the two teams at the top of their respective divisions. Alabama and Georgia just played for the national title in January and bolstered their rosters after the NFL picked them over with top-notch recruiting classes.

But after those two, its gets really interesting.

And why should you wait until Thursday to find out who we will pick this week in Atlanta? Here are the ballots of your two intrepid reporters that we will turn in at SEC Media Days:

SEC West


1. Alabama: It hasn’t been a great offseason for the Tide and the coaching staff is an interesting subplot, but it’s still the best team.

2. Texas A&M: I have a feeling that Jimbo Fisher is going to make things interesting in the West.

3. Auburn: The taste of last year’s finish stays with you.

4. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are talented enough to win some Power 5 divisions, just not this one.

5. Ole Miss: The Rebels might have the best offense in the SEC.

6. LSU: You can hear the rumblings of an explosion coming.

7. Arkansas: It’s going to take awhile to build the Razorbacks into a decent club.


1. Alabama: The Tide looked a little vulnerable at times last season. Nick Saban will fix that.

2. Auburn: The Tigers showed last season they have the talent to compete with, and beat, Alabama.

3. Mississippi State: Joe Moorhead should thank Dan Mullen for all the talent he left him.

4. Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher will make the Aggies more entertaining, but they’re not ready to challenge in the tough West.

5. LSU: If the Tigers get off to a slow start, Ed Orgeron will go straight to the hot seat.

6. Ole Miss: The Rebels will score a bunch of points, but give up a whole lot more.

7. Arkansas: It will be a tough first year for Chad Morris, who has many holes to fill.

SEC East


1. Georgia: Dogs might be a unanimous pick, but there are reasons to be concerned on defense.

2. South Carolina: Week 2 is going to say a lot about this team when it hosts Georgia. A loss might take the wind out of the sails.

3. Florida: The Gators have a decent schedule, but probably aren’t ready to win the division.

4. Kentucky: Mark Stoops has slowly built this into a solid program.

5. Missouri: As fast as the Tigers finished, still not sold on them in the long haul.

6. Tennessee: You have to hit the bottom before you can climb back to the top.

7. Vanderbilt: It’s always easy to pick the Commodores here, but there is nothing to excite you about this team.


1. Georgia: With some questions on defense, this is the year to get the ‘Dogs. But no one will in the East.

2. South Carolina: Will Muschamp has done a great job turning USC into a serious contender.

3. Florida: It’s the same old story. The Gators have a big ? at quarterback.

4. Missouri: The hot streak the Tigers got on late last season will continue.

5. Kentucky: The ‘Cats will be tough again, but this is a program that hasn’t found a way to break through.

6. Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt is facing a major rebuilding job that’s going to take time and patience.

7. Vanderbilt: The Commodores will be more competitive, but that doesn’t mean more wins.


  1. TAMU doesn’t come close to 2nd in the West, not this year anyway. 1-2-3 is probably just about right in the East, although I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 & 3 are reversed.

    In other sports news, at least judging by national sports media coverage, and but for this site and a few others similar, I would at this point in time be wondering again if Florida had dropped football.

  2. My prediction is Georgia falls back down to earth now that Richt’s stars are gone and Smart goes on to become Muschamp 2.0. Franks instantly morphs into an All American throwing for over 4000 yards and 30+ TDs, and the Gators take their rightful place in the East.

    • Joe. Georgia’s roster remains second only to Alabama in star rankings in the SEC and way ahead of any team in the East. But they are going to miss Roquan Smith in the middle of their defense this season. And that is a big miss. But their offense is likely to be a lot better.

    • I know you were being rather tongue-in-cheek there, Joe…..but could be anyway. I wouldn’t take a bet on Franks throwing for 4K yards and 30+ TD, but I would take it on the hugely improved part. Either way, he won’t be the same kid.

      I’m not sure Smart proves out to be Muschamp 2.0 — I’m willing to give the devil his due in this case. I actually think he’s a pretty good coach and the fact is, he’s assembled a pretty good roster on paper. Just that, as mveal says, games are played on the field and not in the newspaper. He has now got to prove he’s not a one trick pony, but more importantly, even if he is “great”…….thing is, there’s room in the SEC for a lot of “great” coaches. I give you Bear Bryant, Wally Butts, Bobby Dodd, Shug Jordan, and even Ray Graves……all co-existing at the same time in about the most competitive period of SEC history yet. It’s bound to happen again, and I for one think the stage is set. Dan Mullen’s future greatness depends on nobody else, but the environment in which he achieves it may well be the best the SEC has ever seen — Smart, Pruitt, Saban, Fisher, the little guy at Auburn who’s name I can never spell, even perhaps a mature Muschamp. We’ll see, I guess.

      • Yes I was being extremely optomistic. Jury’s still out on Smart though. Georgia’s definitely paper champions for sure, but that doesn’t always translate into success. Hard to gauge how good he actually is at developing the talent he’s accumulating, which you don’t normally see till the 3rd season. We know he can coach defense, but so could Muschamp. I find it hard to give too much credit yet cause he was handed so much talent that all he had to do was hand the ball off every play and still won. Doesn’t take a genius coach to come up with that game plan, which rarely works unless you have 2 seniors (again a rarity) who should’ve been playing on Sundays. I look at the two games that strategy didn’t work, which was Auburn 1 and Bama. I wasn’t impressed at all with his in game adjustments, which is one of the most important aspects of coaching. Who knows what happens in the SEC Championship if Kerryon Johnson isn’t playing injured making Auburn very one dimensional. After watching a true freshman get thrown into the fire and light up his defense for 166 yards passing and 3 TDs in 1 half, that Bama game could’ve been embarrassing had he played the whole time. We know Mullen can develop talent, now we just need him to have a good turnaround season to kick recruiting into high gear and shift the recruiting momentum. If Smart can put together another good season with the massive amount of talent he lost to the NFL, I’ll certainly give him the credit he deserves, cause again we all watched Muschamp do almost the same thing his second season with Meyer’s players, then the wheels fell off. He was recruiting at a pretty high level too with the #3 ranked class that season.

    • I’m not gonna jump on the bandwagon and call Kirby Smart the 2nd coming of Nick Saban but I think calling him Muschamp 2.0 may be a little off-base. UGA will miss some guys who left but there is PLENTY of talent in the cupboard in Athens. The bar has been set in the East and it runs through Athens.

  3. Today is the beginning of the 2018 football season for me with SEC Media Days arriving, and in Hotlanta. All downhill from here to “toe meets leather.” But a lot of predictions and hype before then. My fingers are starting to seriously cross that the light finally goes on for Feleipe Franks and that the talent on the offensive line finally listens to their position coach and figure out how to play as a cohesive and consistent unit. Go Gators.

  4. Is this year much tougher to predict than most other years? Outside of the division winners, and I’m willing to bet a small amount of change that one of them doesn’t make it to Atlanta, the rest is mostly just potential. Auburn will be great. Ark, Vandy, and Tenn should stink. I could put UF anywhere between 2nd and 5th. The Mississippi schools, SC, MO, A&M…I don’t know. Does KY go from being a tough team to beat to a team that grinds out wins? Does LSU completely collapse? Can the great offenses of Ole Miss and MO exhaust opposing defenses into submission? Is a new coach just the thing to take MS State’s talent to where it becomes a consistent threat to Bama and Auburn? And lord knows what Jimbo will bring.

    Gonna be fun. Injuries are going to be key since some of the teams best suited to challenge Bama and GA or thin in some areas. And maybe, just maybe, we will see a major injection of offensive creativity that UF has lacked since its last national championship, enough to throttle the lesser teams on the schedule and to surprise the better ones.

  5. How can anyone doubt the rightful place of Georgia as the top team in the East? After all ole Kirby has built quite a dynasty in his long two years at the helm. And what a dominance over all the other teams in the East, just look at his record against our Gators, 1 – 1, is that long term success or what, is it not dynastic? Not sure if that is a word but it ought to be when referring to Smart at UGA and his two long years of sample size. How can our beloved Gators have any chance going against such dominance. Even though ole Kirby lost a bunch of players to the NFL he still has the best team on paper and has a history of reloading like he did this off season. When have you seen a team with a higher ranked recruiting class lose to one with a lower ranked class? Will have to call Spurrier and ask him about that.
    Guess we will just have to battle muschump for second place since we might as well concede first place to Kirby who is so much better on paper right now.

  6. The Georgia coaches just beat out the Florida coaches for Brunswick, GA, 4-star OL, McClendon, who many thought at one time was a strong Florida lean. The Georgia roster is already 3 deep with quality offensive lineman, while Florida is losing most of their starters on the OL at the end of the year and is lacking in quality depth to replace them. Yet, Georgia gets a player the Florida coaches really wanted. The rich (Georgia) gets richer while the Florida coaches continue to do whatever they are doing out there somewhere on the recruiting front. And it is currently not getting rich. When someone figures out what exactly they are doing and where they are doing it, please let Gator Nation know. Many of us are desperate for some positive news on the recruiting front.

    • Well said, TampaG. There are questions to be asked and stories to be written that would inform GatorNation on whether the program is headed in the right direction. Namely: How are the recruiting efforts of this staff different from the approaches of Muschamp and McElwain? How are high school coaches and players generally receiving the current staff, and how effective are their efforts in getting UF into consideration for top talent?

      The results we all know are possible will not be realized by the receivers running correct routes or Franks identifying a second option, but by out-recruiting Florida State and Miami, and competing with Georgia for recruits.

      I’ve had it with these inane lists, stories about the “spoiled” fan base, and excuses for failed Gator coaches.

      • I don’t think most are making excuses for this coaching staff, but heck, they’ve been on the job for 8 months and haven’t even played a game yet. The Gator football “brand” is very tarnished right now. These recruits were playing kick ball on the 2nd grade school playground the last time our program was relevant. Let’s see how recruiting goes after we start winning a few games and looking like a real program again.

  7. i do not get why anyone would rate south Carolina ahead of the gators. I realize last years team quit and allowed two touchdowns that won the game for south Carolina, but against an average effort those plays would have been two yard gains at most. So I have us second in the SEC east. don’t care about the rest of the teams. We get to find out a little more about Kirby smart, he does have a good qb so his team should be tough, but they wont get 2 shots at Auburn to sneak in a national championship tournament they didn’t really belong in, and with their best qb (instead of jalen hurts) Alabama beats them by 20 in the SEC championship game. I expect Tennessee to be a lot better, but like gator qb Franks, you have to prove it on the field, not in the newspaper. Missouri only wins when everyone else is really lousy, so they are overrated in this article as well, unless its another weak year for the SEC east, who knows, the East has been pretty bad recently. I hope LSU does better so they can keep that lousy coach they have, but Robbie and Pat are probably right and LSU will bottom out. If the new Mississippi St Coach is any good LSU should look at him.

  8. I always doubt Georgia. Even when they have more talent they take a crap in the yard. How is it that Mississippi St. has so much talent when only one of their classes had a better ranking than Florida in the last four cycles? Since 2015, Florida’s class ranking was 14.5 and Miss State’s ranking was 24.25 according to the 247 sports composite. Maybe Mullen should be thanking McElwain with that line of thinking. It would be safe to project that a coach that had a class ranking of 24th moving into a school with a class ranking of 14th should win the National Championship in year one. Well, that’s what I took from the article.

  9. Georgia will be no more than a 8 win team. They are highly overrated this year. They lost 31 seniors and only return 10 starters total. They will be young at a lot of positions particularly on offense, their going to miss Chubb & Michel big time. There is no way they lose that many players and still be elite, they aren’t Bama. They’ll be good, but, not great. They’ll finish 3rd in the East behind Florida & South Carolina. Give me break with all of the UGA hype

  10. Said before the 2016 season that Clemson would win it all, then said before last season Bama would win it all, and Bama will most likely win it all again this year too. UGA is beatable this year if you have a good defense, but if you’re going to beat the Poodle Palace, it better be this year, because they’re going to be the dominant team to take over the SEC in 2019 and 2020. They’re going to loaded top to bottom.

    UF will finish top 12, as will fsu, but I also think fsu is going to be going through their “Muschamp phase” the next few years with Taggart at the helm. Ohio State and UGA will finish top 5.

  11. Agree with most of your predictions. Exception would be Franks finally blossoming into reliable QB and with fairly easy schedule Florida wins 9 and jumps South Carolina into second. No way they beat Georgia this year.

  12. I like Tavorris’ thinking.
    And still, UGA beat Florida last year, and lost to UF the year before. Neither team is the “Beast of the East”, yet.
    Florida has a chance to be good. Possibly great this year, if they’re as hungry as they say they are.

    • dave. Georgia returns 13 starters from last year’s national championship team and adds a bunch of 4 and 5 star redshirts and true freshmen recruits to their roster. Georgia is a very talented and deep football team again this year. Florida returns 17 starters from a 4-7 team and will have a new and much better coaching staff coaching them up. The Gators clearly will be a much better football team, and they may be a very good team if Franks or one of the other QBs excels above expectation and past performance during the season. Fingers crossed. But Georgia, talent on the roster wise, is easily the preseason favorite to win the East and play for the SEC title. Let’s hope the Gators shock the country this year.

  13. If Kirby can really coach with all that new 5 star talent, UGa may take over the SEC from Nick at Alabama very soon. Florida looks to be 2-3 years away from seriously competing for the SEC title–too many question marks.

  14. MidCoastGator. No one is taking over Nick and Alabama any time soon. They are by far the most talented and deepest team in the SEC again this year. And they will be that for several years to come. But I expect Georgia under Smart and Texas A&M under Fisher will become challengers annually to Bama and Saban, mainly because both Smart and Fisher at top notch recruiters and have staffs that are that as well. But not either one is the pregame and during game coach that Nick Saban is or will ever be.

  15. I don’t see A&M finishing 2nd….that honor will go to Auburn. In fact, I’d say Miss State may finish ahead of A&M…at least this year.

    I’m probably overly optimistic but I see the Gators finishing 2nd in the East and Kentucky/South Carolina fighting over 3rd place.

  16. Have a question !! Bama won it all last year without winning their conference, heck they didn’t even play in the conference championship game. Does anyone ever remember a team winning a national championship without winning their conference?? Anyway, with our defense , our offense isn’t going to have to score a whole lot to win games. And our schedule is actually in our favor too.. I say Gators go 10-2 this year with a nice bowl game.. go Gators 🐊

  17. Maybe I am an optimist but I really think Florida will have a very special year! It will be next year when the gators will struggle
    If they do not have an exceptional recruiting class for 2019.


  18. Thanks Dave, was unaware of that!! I agree, I believe we are going to have an awesome year, which in turn will spill over to recruits wanting to come to Fl again. They are just laying back now to see if coach Dan can bring some excitement and wins back to Gator nation