Very Early 2018 SEC West Predictions
With the calendar turning to June players are returning to school to begin summer workouts. That means the 2018 season is getting closer by the day. Last time we looked at how the SEC East would play out which you can read here. Today it’s the other side of the league with the Very Early 2018 SEC West Predictions.
The Odds On Favorite
1. Alabama- The Crimson Tide went 13-1 en route to their fifth National Championship under Nick Saban back in January. They begin this season as the pick to win it all again.
However there are some question marks most notably at quarterback. Jalen Hurts is 26-2 as the man under center in Tuscaloosa but struggled in the title game.
Enter Tua Tagovailoa who rallied the Tide to the championship against Georgia. There are many who think Tagovailoa will be the starter come the September 1st opener against Louisville. What happens with Hurts is anyone’s guess, move to another position or even a transfer.
While the receivers are a big question mark for Alabama as four of the top five are gone from last season, the backfield is a strong suit. The group is led by senior Damien Harris who ran for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. Sophomore Najee Harris seems poised for a breakout year.
Alabama has many questions on defense especially in the secondary. However Saban is able to reload every season and will once again win the west and play in the College Football Playoff.
Possible Title Contenders
2. Auburn- With their instate rival winning it all, it’s easy to forget the Tigers won the SEC West in 2017. Kerryon Johnson has moved onto the NFL but quarterback Jarrett Stidham remains. In his first season on the plains Stidham threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Kam Martin and Devan Barrett take over for Johnson in the backfield. The Tigers are loaded at receiver headed by Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton. Throw in a tough defense and Gus Malzhan’s squad should improve on the 10-4 record from last season.
3. Mississippi State- Dan Mullen left after nine years to return to Florida as head coach. Enter former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 last season and appear to be loaded on offense.
4. Texas A&M- The Aggies gave Jimbo Fisher 85 million dollars to lure him away from Florida State to replace Kevin Sumlin. For that kind of money expectations are going to be high, maybe just not this year.
Fisher inherits a high powered offense led by quarterback Nick Starkel. He struggled last season but should flourish under the new system.
New defensive coordinator Mike Elko has a great returning nucleus to work with. That group could be even better if Clifford Chattman and Donovan Wilson return to form in the secondary after missing 2017.
While their is great optimism in College Station the schedule is brutal. Two of the first four games are home against Clemson and at Alabama. In addition the Aggies go to South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn in successive weeks. That alone may keep them from improving on last year’s 7-6 record.
5. LSU- It’s strange picking the Tigers this low however they have many question marks. As it seems every year the biggest is “who is the starting quarterback.” Myles Brennan takes over under center for 2018. In limited time last season Brennan only attempted 24 passes. Should Brennan falter redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse could take the job away.
One major thing LSU did in the off-season is keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. In fact the Tigers may have to win a few games with their defense. However that may be difficult because the Tigers’ schedule is brutal.
In addition to playing the SEC West LSU opens with Miami and plays both Georgia and Florida. That alone may keep the Tigers from improving on last year’s 9-4 mark. A fact which could lead to Orgeron’s seat getting really hot.
As we continue with the Very Early 2018 SEC West Predictions it is time to look at the two clubs which look to be at the bottom of the standings.
Teams With Work To Do
6. Ole Miss- Winning three of their last four was enough to earn Matt Luke the promotion to full time head coach.
Shea Patterson has moved onto Michigan but Jordan Ta’amu returns at quarterback. Ta’amu completed 66 percent of his throws last season and has many of his top targets back. Heading that list is A.J. Brown who caught 75 passes and scored 11 times. D.K. Metcalf and DeMarkus Lodge return as well.
The defensive side of the ball remains a huge question mark. Wesley McGriff’s unit ranked 115th in yards allowed last season. In addition they gave up 35 points per game and five yards per rush.
The Rebels’ schedule is pretty favorable so an improvement on last year’s 6-6 mark is possible. However they are banned from a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions.
7. Arkansas- The Razorbacks have a new head coach in Chad Morris. The former SMU coach inherits a squad which went 4-8 last season under Bret Bielema.
Morris is bringing his up-tempo style to Fayetteville which should be a big hit. Cole Kelley appears to be the front runner at quarterback. The sophomore threw for 1,038 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in 2017. His biggest targets are tight ends Austin Cantrell and Jeremy Patton.
New defensive coordinator John Chavis inherits a unit which allowed 36 points a game. Junior college defensive end Dorian Gerald is expected to make an immediate impact.
Morris is a great hire for Arkansas and it shouldn’t take him long to get them back near the top of the West.
Thank you for checking out the Very Early 2018 SEC West Predictions here at Last Word On College Football. Do you agree with your teams’ prediction? Leave a comment below or tweet me at Kevin McGuffey.