#1 – Will Alabama Lose?

Death, Taxes, etc.

Alabama enters 2021 as the number 1 ranked team according to most polls, which should come as no surprise. After one of the most electrifying offensive seasons in college football history, the Tide look to repeat as Champions, though some things look different. Well, quite a few things look different.

Steve Sarkisian, the offensive coordinator for the Tide last season, has left to take up the head coaching vacancy at Texas. Replacing him in Nick Saban’s Coaching Rehab Clinic will be former Penn State and Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. The Tide will also be replacing Mac Jones (with five star recruit Bryce Young), Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle, Heisman winner De’Vonta Smith, as well as a few offensive lineman.

The question isn’t so much “will Alabama be good?” because we already know they will under Saban. They’ve recruited so many blue chip prospects that they’ll likely be good even for several years post-Saban (sorry, other SEC fans). However, with so much change, and two tough road games in Gainesville and College Station, the question is really whether they’ll run the table in the SEC again.

I’m going out on a limb and guessing they run the table. O’Brien had his shortcomings as a roster builder in the NFL, but I always thought he was a good offensive mind. We saw Bryce Young in limited time last year, but it’s hard not to buy the hype. I’m mostly interested to see if the Tide can get the defense back to fully dominating, and what the pass catching core will look like after the departure of 4(!!) first round picks over the last two years plus a running back.

A&M and Florida will put up tough tests, but I’m buying the stock in Bryce Young and think Alabama is going undefeated into an SEC Championship Game.

#2 – Is This Georgia’s Best Shot?

No question about it, Georgia fans are feeling a little frustrated. Not long removed from being within grasp of a Championship, the Kirby Smart led Bulldogs continue to be a great program that simply cannot get over the hump. That hump? mostly Alabama. Last year the Bulldogs struggled a bit before finding footing under the stewardship of transfer QB J.T. Daniels, having lost to both the Tide and Florida. Georgia looked like a whole different team offensively after Daniels took over, which has led to quite a bit of optimism for the Bulldogs in 2021.

Georgia starts the season off with Clemson, a game that could help jump start a run for the National Championship. If Georgia can get by Clemson, they settle into a nice groove with the likes of UAB, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas over the next four games, and a winnable schedule overall besides the rivalry matchup with Florida.

This may be Georgia’s best shot at a National Championship. J.T. Daniels is the second most talented QB Kirby Smart has had in his tenure (though its unknown if he plans to roll him out for a fake punt attempt this year). If the Bulldogs can get George Pickens back healthy from a torn ACL this spring, the offensive should be one of the best in the country, though for once the question looms on the defensive side of the football.

Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell both left for the NFL while Tyrique Stevenson surprisingly transferred to Miami. The Bulldogs will have quite the question mark in that opening game of how good the defensive backs on the roster are. The good news? Georgia should have a very impressive defensive line led by returning tackle Jordan Davis. If that group can get to opposing QB’s quickly, it’ll allow those defensive backs some time to mature early in the season. If everything flows together, Georgia is gonna be very hard to beat.

So can they beat Alabama? This may be the best shot they have. As mentioned before, Bama has its own question marks, but if Georgia has a fully clicking offense behind Daniels arm and a stable of talented runners, they have a shot against anybody in the country.

Head Coach Ed Orgeron, SELU vs LSU at Tiger Stadium, September 8th 2018, Tammy Anthony Baker, Photographer

#3 – Can LSU Bounce Back?

2019 was a dream season for Tiger fans. One of the most prolific offenses in college football history, a Heisman Trophy winner, everything you could desire. Then 2020 came, LSU lost a little over a dozen key players to the NFL Draft, Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the season, and the defense dealt with a ton of injuries on the back end of the defense. A dream season into an immediate rebuild.

So will the LSU Tigers bounce back in 2021? Sort of. I don’t see the Tigers playing for a Playoff berth, but I do think they’ll be a Top 20 team for the most part. Plenty of experience and skill returns on the defensive side of the ball, with one of the best CB duos in the game between Derek Stingley Jr and Eli Ricks.

So much of how the season plays out will rely on QB play. Max Johnson looks set to start the season, and after a win against Florida late in the year, hope is that he can build on that and become a successful starter. He’ll have some help up front in a returning offensive line as well.

Schedule wise, LSU goes on the road for Alabama, but gets both Texas A&M and Florida at home in Death Valley. Things should trend back upwards the Tigers this season, but if they don’t, the seat will be getting pretty hot for Coach O.

#4 – Breakout Contenders

Jeff Lebby, Offensive Coordinator (Ole Miss) – The offense in Oxford goes mostly through Lane Kiffin, but Jeff Lebby is a name that is going to start gaining more traction moving forward. A QB coach and OC at UCF before leaving for Ole Miss, he has good track record of working with high octane offenses, a trend that is obviously hot in the streets. Another year in Oxford, mixed in with working with potential first round pick Matt Corral , will start to get Lebby’s name out there for some G5 opportunities.

Darnell Washington, TE Georgia – Washington is basically an offensive tackle on the super soldier serum. Standing 6’7″ and nearly 270 pounds, Washington is a massive offensive weapon that is primed to break out with Tre McKitty moving on to the NFL. A highly rated recruit coming out of high school, Washington will get plenty of looks early in the season with George Pickens recovering from an injury in the Spring. I have very high expectations from the freak athlete, and a potential Mackey Award winner.

Ole Miss – I’m simply putting Ole Miss here because I think a) they’ll win a good chunk of games and b) they may be the most entertaining team to watch all season. A potential first round talent at QB in Matt Corral, who is unafraid to throw lawn darts wherever, whenever, if it gives his team a chance mixed with a defense that gives Swiss cheese a bad name. If Ole Miss is on the TV schedule, they’ll likely be on my TV for at least a brief stint every Saturday.

#5 – Games To Watch

Alabama vs. Miami (September 4th – Atlanta) – Alabama should win this game, but it’ll be interesting to see how they look coming out the gates after such a huge offseason turnover.

Georgia vs. Clemson (September 4th – Charlotte) – Georgia kicks off its season against Clemson in a potential make or break game for either team.

LSU @ UCLA (September 4th) – The first step in bouncing back for LSU is going to a road test on the West Coast against a fast paced offense.

Texas @ Arkansas (September 11th) – The Razorbacks have an unforgiving schedule ahead of themselves. Can Sam Pittman get a defining win against an old rival in Year 2?

Alabama @ Florida (September 18th) – An SEC Championship rematch and a tough road test for Alabama.

Auburn @ Penn State (September 18th) – Bryan Harsin has a tough test ahead as the Tigers travel to State College for Penn State’s annual White Out Game.

Ole Miss @ Alabama (October 2nd) – Can Matt “OK” Corral do enough to keep Ole Miss close against Alabama?

Alabama @ Texas A&M (October 9th) – Even with a trip to The Swamp on the schedule, this will be the toughest road test for the Tide. If A&M can pull off a victory, they may be in the driver seat for the SEC West.

LSU @ Florida (October 16th) – This game was decided by a shoe and a field goal in the fog. Will there be more craziness in this rematch?

Ole Miss @ Tennessee (October 16th) – Lane Kiffin makes his return to Knoxville.

Florida vs. Georgia (October 30th – Jacksonville) – The World’s Largest Halloween Cocktail Party. Kirby Smart is 3-1 in the rivalry, and will need another win for a chance at the Playoff.

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State (November 27th) – The Egg Bowl is always a good time, as are watching Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach led offenses.

Alabama @ Auburn (November 27th) – Gus Malzahn didn’t win this rivalry game enough, but he was able to be a thorn in Saban’s side enough. What will the rivalry look like with Harsin leading the Tigers?

Texas A&M @ LSU (November 27th) – This could be a tough final test for the Aggies if they are still in the SEC West/Playoff hunt.

#6 – Final Predictions

East

  1. Georgia
  2. Florida
  3. Missouri
  4. Kentucky
  5. Tennessee
  6. South Carolina
  7. Vanderbilt

West

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas A&M
  3. LSU
  4. Ole Miss
  5. Auburn
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Arkansas

Offensive Player of the Year

J.T. Daniels, QB Georgia

Defensive Player of the Year

Will Anderson, LB Alabama

Coach of the Year

Nick Saban, Alabama

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