Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Wally Hall's preseason SEC predictions
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, shakes hands with LSU head coach Ed Orgeron after their NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Alabama won 29-0. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
With less than two weeks until the kickoff of SEC football, here’s a prediction and short analysis on what the final standings will be if all teams finish 10 games.
If they don’t, all bets are off.
One extra prediction: Alabama will win the national championship. Since the College Football Playoff began in 2014, the Crimson Tide have participated in four of the six championship games. LSU won it last year, and for the first time the Tide weren’t in the final four.
Nick Saban didn’t like that.
Alabama: The team most of the country loves to hate has only five defensive starters back, but that’s more than enough for Saban. The strength of this team will be its balance on both sides of the ball.
Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher might not survive anything less than second in the West with 17 starters back. When he was whisked away from Florida State with a $75 million, 10-year contract, the Aggie faithful did not envision 17-9 after two seasons. A&M didn’t catch a break with the new SEC schedule, adding Florida at home and hearing “Rocky Top” all day at Tennessee.
Auburn: It is not true that in the French language Auburn means “hot seat”, but it is true Tiger fans are among the most fickle in the world. The Gus Bus added offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who is very good at being an assistant coach.
LSU: The Tigers lost 15 starters from their national championship team, including Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Most of last year’s team is now in the NFL, and this year’s team is in Baton Rouge dodging the coronavirus.
Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin inherited a decent team, including eight on offense, which is his specialty. Just ask him.
Arkansas: Lofty goal? There’s a new sheriff, staff, attitude and discipline in town. The Razorbacks will win a game, maybe two, and will be considered for a bowl game.
Mississippi State: How does a pirate, Mike Leach, thrive in StarkVegas and the SEC? Tough adjustment for a guy who is 139-90 in his career. He’ll talk his way through it, though.
Florida: Dan Mullen is 21-5 in two seasons. He’s improved each season, and he has the players to move up even more this year. Gator football is back.
Georgia: Kirby Smart’s strength is supposed to be defense, and he will need to be on top of his game with eight defensive starters back but only three on offense. He’ll open the season trying to prove Sam Pittman wasn’t all that important to him.
Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt has the Vols on the rise and returns 17 starters from an 8-5 team. The Vols lost two starting wide receivers, but wide receivers have been plentiful in Knoxville.
Kentucky: The Wildcats added Alabama and Ole Miss to their schedule, which looks like a wash as far as wins. Mark Stoops has done a great job with this basketball powerhouse, and he has 15 starters back.
South Carolina: No doubt Will Muschamp needs wins. He’s 26-25 as the Gamecocks coach, but the great fan base wants and deserves better than 4-8. Muschamp has 13 starters returning. They added Auburn and Ole Miss this season.
Missouri: New Coach Eliah Drinkwitz didn’t inherit much, especially on offense where the Tigers lost seven starters from a 6-6 team.
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason is one of the most well-liked coaches in the SEC, and he has a chance to move ahead of Missouri and South Carolina in the standings if the Commodores can avoid injuries. He has all 11 starters back on defense, but just five on offense. That’s a great start toward getting a contract extension.
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