We are close approaching the time when we will be asked to make an educated (presumably) guess at how the upcoming college football season will play out. First up will be the Southeastern Conference preseason rankings, which will be made at the annual SEC Media Days event next week.
We’ll go ahead and eliminate the drama and let you know that our prediction will be for Alabama to win a fourth consecutive SEC championship.
It is important to remember that just as all teams are not created equal, neither are all schedules. Tennessee has to play Alabama and LSU as its opponents from the SEC Western Division, while South Carolina will play Texas A&M and Arkansas. In the West, Arkansas has South Carolina and Missouri, while LSU will be on the road against both Florida and Tennessee in crossover games.
It’s not just the opponents, but also where those opponents fall on the schedule. Back-to-back tough road games, such as Auburn going to LSU and Arkansas in consecutive weeks, raises an eyebrow.
We can’t help but notice South Carolina, even though the Gamecocks are not on the Tide’s schedule. However, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Tennessee all play South Carolina the week before playing Alabama. LSU and Ole Miss have open dates before playing the Crimson Tide (and Bama has its open date before LSU). Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Auburn all have non-conference opponents the week before taking on the Tide.
We look at coaches and quarterbacks, past achievements vs. expectations, key losses in personnel from last season, and key returning players.
There is no way to presage the unfortunate injuries that will come to teams, but it is an obvious advantage to those with the most quality depth.
And when all is computed, we almost always arrive at Alabama as best in the SEC. Thus it is this season season.
After four days of listening to SEC coaches and players say almost nothing and (often more importantly) talking to our sportswriter colleagues from around the region and nation, we may change our minds, but as for now here’s how we see it for 2017. (Predicted SEC record in parenthesis.)
Texas A&M (5-3)
Mississippi State (2-6)
Ole Miss (1-7)
South Carolina (2-6)
(Alabama to win SEC Championship Game)