Two-loss Alabama? Undefeated Georgia? Best- and worst-case scenarios for every SEC football team
SEC football games are often decided by a single play, a bounce of the ball or which team scores last. The margin between winning and losing each week can be wafer thin, and the outcome of a few close games can make the difference between a good season and a lousy one.
That's why it's so hard to predict records for each team in the SEC. That's why the USA TODAY Sports Network called upon its experts who cover the league to provide a projection for the best- and worst-case scenarios for each school and to predict the final record.
Here is how they see it playing out:
Best case: 12-0. Alabama has arguably the two best players in the country on offense and defense in Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. Add in a veteran-filled defense, and the Crimson Tide has the ability to go undefeated in the regular season.
Worst case: 10-2. Alabama’s offensive line must step up, and the new receivers need to produce at a high level. If not, the Crimson Tide could lose a couple games.
Prediction: 11-1. Even for an Alabama team this talented, a tough road schedule could stand in the way of an undefeated regular season.
– Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News
Best case: 9-3. Arkansas can improve upon last year’s 8-4 regular season. With one of the nation’s hardest schedules, three losses would be a big win in Sam Pittman’s third year.
Worst case: 7-5. A daunting non-conference schedule and an SEC West that’s wide open outside of the top two teams could mean trouble. Two losses more than last season is possible and would be a disappointment.
Prediction: 8-4. Arkansas has the experience to hold its own against a tough schedule and will match last season’s record.
– Christina Long, Southwest Times Record
Best case: 9-3. Like most of Auburn's great teams, this one was overlooked before the season. Georgia and Alabama are automatic road losses, but Tank Bigsby and potent defense bring old-school appeal.
Worst case: 4-8. Mid-season quarterback uncertainty has consequences. Two consecutive losing seasons cost Bryan Harsin his job.
Prediction: 7-5. The Tigers are more talented than they're given credit for, but this is still an Auburn schedule.
– Bennett Durando, Montgomery Advertiser
Best case: 8-4. The Gators ride early momentum of beating Utah and Kentucky at The Swamp. Anthony Richardson emerges as a dual-threat star at quarterback and Florida finishes with a win over FSU.
Worst case: 5-7. Florida’s offense, bereft of playmakers, struggles in its first season under Billy Napier. Loses to Utah and Kentucky in back-to-back weeks set the tone for a rebuilding year and no bowl trip for the first time since the end of the 2017 season.
Prediction: 8-4. The Gators will get off to a good start, but a loss to rival Georgia in Jacksonville will end any SEC title hopes.
– Kevin Brockway, Gainesville Sun
Best case: 12-0. Georgia could be a two-touchdown favorite in every regular-season game against a schedule with just two ranked opponents. Stetson Bennett has as deep a tight end group to throw to as any around.
Worst case: 9-3. Losing five first-round picks off the defense is a big talent drain on one side of the ball. There could be pressure on the offense to pick up the slack and score more.
Prediction: 11-1. Kirby Smart has recruited well and there’s plenty of NFL talent still around.
– Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald
Best case: 11-1. It’s hard to see Kentucky closing the gap on Georgia, which has won 12 straight in the series. But there’s a scenario where UK beats everybody else — if playmakers emerge , the offensive line makes developmental strides and the secondary gets shored up to solidify a defense that should be strong in the front seven.
Worst case: 7-5. Suppose none of that stuff happens. And imagine running back Chris Rodriguez, whose disciplinary status is undetermined, doesn’t play at all this season. Kentucky is better than most of its schedule, but there are enough question marks for potential pessimism.
Prediction: 9-3. Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same season since 1971, and it’s hard to pick the Wildcats to sweep that duo. A game at Ole Miss is dangerous. Mark Stoops and Co. have started to earn the benefit of the doubt after two 10-win seasons in four years.
– Brett Dawson, Courier-Journal
Best case: 10-2. LSU has a very similar season to Michigan State's last year. The pass rush dominates and Kayshon Boutte becomes the best receiver in college.
Worst case: 6-6. The Tigers show flashes, but all of the new pieces never fit together. The offensive line struggles, and there are multiple injuries to the secondary.
Prediction: 8-4. LSU loses a few games it shouldn't but also pull off a couple of big upsets.
– Koki Riley, The Daily Advertiser
Best case: 10-2. This would mean Mississippi State handled all its toss-up games and only lost to Georgia and Alabama. Will Rogers would very likely find himself in the Heisman conversation in this scenario.
Worst case: 3-9. Mississippi State has a brutal stretch in the heart of SEC play. If the Bulldogs drop a nonconference game like they did last season, things could snowball on them.
Prediction: 7-5. Mississippi State should handle home games, sans Georgia, and steal a road SEC win.
– Stefan Krajisnik, Clarion Ledger
Best case: 8-4. If a few teams regress and the defense continues to get better, the Tigers might be in business. If they improve on the road, this could be a solid team.
Worst case: 4-8. Missouri could lose every SEC game besides Vanderbilt if the defense falters again. If the quarterback situation deteriorates, it could get ugly.
Prediction: 6-6. Eli Drinkwitz has brought in some solid talent, but the payoff feels like it's a year away.
– Matt Stahl, Columbia Missouri Tribune
Best case: 10-2. Recapturing last year's magic won't be easy, but with a strong run game and an infusion of transfer talent, the Rebels have the goods. Getting to 10 wins again will involve winning at least two road games against LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
Worst case: 6-6. The non-conference slate is too easy for the Rebels to miss out on bowl season. But with a backloaded schedule against a brutal SEC West, chemistry issues or late-season injuries could mean a major step back.
Prediction: 8-4. The offense is still good, the defense takes a tiny step back and the Rebels carry enough goodwill from the first half of the season to finish in the top half of the SEC West.
– Nick Suss, Clarion Ledger
Best case: 9-3. Spencer Rattler is everything Gamecocks fans hope he will be and leads a drastically-improved offense to several SEC upsets. A consistent defense makes the team legitimate contenders in the conference.
Worst case: 4-8. Rattler doesn’t live up to the hype and still shows the turnover issues he had at Oklahoma. Injuries also continue to impact the Gamecocks, so they struggle through the second half of the season.
Prediction: 7-5. The Gamecocks have all the pieces of a winning team, and the program shows promise despite growing pains.
– Emily Adams, The Greenville News
Best case: 10-2. Count losses to Alabama and Georgia. But the next-hardest game might be at LSU or Pitt or at home against Florida or Kentucky, which are all winnable.
Worst case: 7-5. Key players return but so do the same questions, especially on defense. So a repeat of last year’s record is plausible.
Prediction: 8-4. There are about five toss-up games, and a 3-2 record in those yields this mark.
– Adam Sparks, Knoxville News Sentinel
Best case: 12-0. If quarterback questions are answered, this roster has what it takes to win. Strong line play on each side of the ball could take the Aggies far.
Worst case: 8-4. Beating Alabama two times in a row is hard, and the rest of the SEC West can pose trip-ups, as the Aggies know. The Aggies should handle business against lower-quality teams.
Prediction: 10-2. Quarterback questions will hold back a talented roster in a deep SEC.
– Maxwell Donaldson, USAT Sports Network
Best case: 4-8. Vanderbilt wins all three of its games against non-Power 5 opponents and one against a Power 5 team, either Wake Forest or an SEC team.
Worst case: 2-10. Vanderbilt beats FCS Elon and one other team, but isn’t competitive against any Power 5 opponents.
Prediction: 3-9. Vanderbilt can hold its own against Group of 5 teams, but Power 5 wins are still out of reach.
– Aria Gerson, The Tennessean