Dye-Gest: Looking at the SEC West Race

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye gives his take on the 2016 football season's competition in the SEC West.

Watching all of the football teams in the SEC West the past few years, and particularly last year, seeing what is coming back as far as overall talent is concerned, I can understand why people are projecting LSU to have a great year. LSU has a lot of its key players back, including a terrific running back in Leonard Fournette..

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Also in the division, we know that Alabama has a lot of great players, too, with a lot of depth and is one of the favorites to win the league championship.

I really see the other five teams in the SEC West kind of bunched up. If LSU or Alabama put quarterbacks on the field who do a good job of playing smart football with outstanding ball security, those teams will be difficult to beat.

I was really impressed with Trevor Knight’s play in Texas A&M’s spring game. The transfer from Oklahoma looks like he will be the starting quarterback this year for the Aggies. He also looks like he could give Texas A&M a big boost for 2016 because the Aggies are going to be able to surround him with enough talent to be a potentially strong offensive team.

Auburn will take on the Aggies the first month of the season so that could be a real challenging game for the Tigers.

On the subject of quarterbacks, there is no question in my mind that Chad Kelly of Ole Miss is the best one in the league this year. If the Rebels are going to make a strong push in the SEC West, he will be leading the way. A key for the Rebels is will they be good enough running the football to win close ball games and beat the top teams in the league? That remains to be seen.

I think Mississippi State is going to be one of those teams that if you aren’t ready to play them they are going to beat you. I don’t see anybody on the horizon in Starkville that is going provide magic for them so the Bulldogs are likely going to miss their record-setting quarterback, Dak Prescott.

In addition to playing at Mississippi State and Ole Miss in October, Auburn will take on another divisional opponent that month when Arkansas visits. Arkansas is a bit difficult to get a read on because the Razorbacks lost a veteran quarterback and other key players on offense. There are more starters back on defense than offense, but they were inconsistent at stopping folks last year.

At Auburn it looks like to me the Tigers have the pieces in place to be improved if the quarterback play is better. That is a big question heading into the preseason. This team is short on experience at wide receiver, but I think there is enough talent there to be successful. I also think the offensive line talent on Gus Malzahn’s team is comparable to the OL talent at other teams around the conference.

Defensively, I think Auburn’s personnel compares favorably with the top teams in the SEC West and East. One thing for sure is that the Tigers will be tested defensively in the opening game when Clemson comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. I think a lot of Auburn people are excited about the opportunity their team will have in that game. I know I am.

I was impressed with what Coach Malzahn had to say at SEC Media Days about the importance of making plays late in games, and how that is often the difference between winning and losing in this league.

With so few proven quarterbacks in the SEC going into the season the teams that have guys step up and perform well at that position will have opportunities to do a lot of winning. Auburn is one of those teams that doesn’t have a QB who has proven he can consistently do that, but that everybody else in the SEC West, except Ole Miss, is in the same boat. It should be interesting.

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