Our long wait is almost over as the 2019 football season is nearly here. As usual the Southeastern Conference looks like the premiere league in the nation from top to bottom. However one big question remains, can anyone catch Georgia? Let’s answer that question and rank the teams as we give you our 2019 SEC East Predictions.
2019 SEC East Predictions
The Heavy Favorite
Georgia- Kirby Smart‘s club starts the season in a familiar place, picked to win the SEC East. However they head into 2019 with a clear answer of who their quarterback is going to be. Justin Fields moved onto to Columbus and is the likely starter for Ohio State. That means Jake Fromm is the man under center. He looks to improve on his 2,800 yards passing and 27 touchdowns.
Behind Fromm is junior running back D’Andre Swift. Despite splitting time with Elijah Holyfield, Swift still ran for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Behind Swift is Zamir White, a freshman who was poised for a big season before tearing an ACL.
On the other side of the ball the Bulldogs have questions at cornerback and up front. However the return of strong safety J.R. Reed for his senior helps anchor the secondary. In addition they are hoping for a bounce back season for defensive tackle Tyler Clark. Overall the Bulldogs have a pretty easy schedule and are the clear favorites.
Bowl Prediction- National Semi-final
Florida- Dan Mullen‘s squad finished 2018 on a five game winning streak and blowout of Michigan in the Peach Bowl. A big reason for that was the development of quarterback Feleipe Franks. In his first season running Mullen’s offense Franks threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
The Gators are loaded at wide receiver with Van Jefferson and Kadarius Toney poised for huge seasons. Lamical Perine returns in the backfield and should improve on his 826 yards from a year ago. However if there is one concern it is up front where Florida has to replace four starters.
On the other side of the ball keeping defensive coordinator Todd Grantham may have been the biggest recruiting victory of all. Grantham turned down the Cincinnati Bengals‘ offer for the same position. He returns a unit with seven starters and and a wealth of talented reserves. They include one of the best cornerback groups in the nation in C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson.
In addition to the annual game with Georgia they travel to LSU and play Miami in Orlando to begin the season. They will close the gap but won’t catch the Bulldogs this year.
Bowl Prediction- Orange Bowl
A Season In Limbo
Missouri- Drew Lock has moved onto the NFL and former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant takes over in Columbia. How quickly he adjusts to their system will tell the tale of the season. However having Albert Okwuegbunam, Johnathon Johnson and Jalen Knox to throw to certainly helps. Add in 1,200 yard rusher Larry Roundtree and you have a very impressive offense.
On the other side of the ball Barry Odom is looking for improvement in the defense in 2019. Behind defensive lineman Jordan Elliott, a transfer from Texas and linebacker Cale Garrett the Tigers want to get more pressure on the ball. If they can it makes life easier for an experienced secondary.
With one of the easiest schedules in the SEC Missouri is a popular dark horse team in 2019. However they are currently on probation and are banned from a bowl game.
Bowl Prediction- None- are on probation, though they are appealing.
Can They Do It Again?
Kentucky- Last season’s surprise squad looks to do the same in 2019. Almost everyone outside of the players and coaching staff feel Mark Stoops‘ squad will fall back to earth this year. However they are going to use the perceived disrespect as a motivator.
Terry Wilson returns under center looking to improve his 1,889 yards passing and 11 touchdowns. He played much of last season injured so remaining healthy is a key. The Cats landed a transfer in Troy’s Sawyer Smith who can step in if needed. The school’s all-time leading rusher Benny Snell is now with Pittsburgh. However Stoops has four talented players led by A.J. Rose ready to step up. Lynn Bowden is an All-SEC caliber receiver though a second target for Wilson needs to come forward.
Number seven overall draft pick Josh Allen is gone from one of the best defenses in the league last year. In addition the entire starting secondary graduated. Linebackers Kash Daniel and Jamar “Boogie” Watson lead the defensive returnees.
While the Cats have an early stretch of tough games playing Florida at home then travelling to Mississippi State and South Carolina the schedule is pretty favorable. Win one or two of those games and you are looking at a possible eight win season.
Bowl Prediction- Belk Bowl
Getting Back On Track
Tennessee- Under second year coach Jeremy Pruitt the Volunteers look to return to the post season. Jim Chaney moved from Georgia to Tennessee to be the offensive coordinator. That will help Jarrett Guarantano improve on his 1,900 yards passing and 12 touchdowns. The top four receivers return from last season headed by Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings.
On the other side of the ball the Vols must replace their entire defensive line with their 150 tackles and nine sacks. Behind Darrell Taylor and Daniel Bituli the linebackers are strong. Even stronger is the secondary led by sophomore Bryce Thompson, who earned freshman All-American honors last season.
With road games at Alabama, Florida and Missouri the Vols schedule is pretty difficult. However there are enough winnable games for UT to make it to the post season for the first time since 2016.
Bowl Prediction- Music City Bowl
About That Schedule
South Carolina- The Gamecocks look to improve on last year’s 7-6 record in Will Muschamp‘s fourth year. Jake Bentley is back for his senior year, however an interesting stat is he is only 1-10 against ranked opponents. He does have a couple of talented targets in Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. The two combined for 100 receptions in 2018. Adding in Rico Dowdle gives you a very strong offense.
On paper the defense looks to be the best it has been since Muschamp took over. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw teams up front with D.J. Wonnum, who missed most of last year with an ankle injury. Throw in two really good cornerbacks in Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu and you have the makings of a tough defense.
So why aren’t the Gamecocks ranked higher? The answer is the most difficult schedule in the SEC and one of the toughest in the nation. They open with North Carolina in Charlotte and travel to Georgia and Texas A&M. In addition they host both Alabama and Clemson.
Bowl Prediction- Liberty Bowl
Trying To Continue Their Success
Vanderbilt- Over the last three seasons the Commodores have been to two bowl games. However Derek Mason has to replace Kyle Shurmur. Currently three player are in contention. They are Ball State transfer Riley Neal, redshirt junior Deuce Wallace or resdshirt freshman Allan Walters. Whomever gets the job will be complimented by arguably the best skill players in years at Vandy. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for over 1,200 yards in 2018. Kalija Lipscomb and his 87 catches returns at wide receiver. Furthermore throw in one of the league’s best tight ends in Jared Pinkney and the Commodores should be able to score a ton of points.
However on the flip side can they stop the other team. A season ago Vandy ranked near the bottom in run and total defense and third down conversions. Linebacker Dimitri Moore leads the group returning only four starters. Wisconsin transfer Dontye Carriere-Williams should help in the secondary.
Much like the Gamecocks Vanderbilt faces a pretty tough schedule. The first three are Georgia at home, at Purdue and hosting LSU. This coupled with a tough SEC slate is enough to keep the Commodores home this year.
Bowl Prediction- None
Now that we’ve gone through each team in the SEC East and made bowl projections, let’s pick the final standings.
- Georgia 12-0 8-0 SEC
- Florida 10-2 6-2 SEC
- Missouri 8-4 5-3 SEC
- Kentucky 8-4 4-4 SEC
- Tennessee 7-5 3-5 SEC
- South Carolina 6-6 3-5 SEC
- Vanderbilt 5-7 2-6 SEC
Agree or disagree with the picks leave a comment below or respond on Twitter. Thanks for checking out the 2019 SEC East Predictions here at Last Word On College Football. For more content check out our SEC Round Table. Next time we look at the west.