The Georgia Bulldogs avenged their loss to Alabama in the SEC Title game and exercised 40 years worth of demons to win the National Title. The Bulldogs should be primed to repeat next year but they will once again have strong challengers. Alabama will return a strong core of players including Bryce Young and Will Anderson. Texas A&M brought in one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory but could be in line for a rebuild. Florida and LSU both brought in new coaches who will be looking to make a splash. Tennessee quietly improved and could be looking to make a jump in 2022. Kentucky has flown under the radar and has continued to build a strong program. Arkansas and South Carolina had bounce back seasons and will look to make repeat bowl appearances. We cannot forget Lane Kiffin or Mike Leach, the Egg Bowl schools will be entertaining once again in 2022.
What Will It Take For Georgia to Repeat? – Georgia had one of the best defenses ever in 2021 and many of those star players will depart for the NFL. Just about every starter on the Bulldog defense is draft eligible or out of eligibility. How many starters will need to be replaced on the Georgia defense? The Bulldogs are also losing defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as he accepted the head coach position with the Oregon Ducks. The Bulldogs have continued to recruit well so the defense should be one of the best in SEC but they are unlikely to reach the unprecedented level they reached in 2021. The next question is quarterback. Stetson Bennett could enter the draft but he is likely to return. Some rumors existed in the past few weeks where Kirby Smart considered bringing in a transfer quarterback. They also have J.T. Daniels and Brock Vandagriff on their bench who former five star quarterbacks. Will Smart have a quarterback competition if Bennett returns?
Are the Crimson Tide the Favorites to Win the National Title? – Alabama will once again be one of the most talented teams entering the 2022 season. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will be back but with a retooled offense. The Crimson Tide welcome running back Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech. Gibbs rushed for over 1,200 and averaged over 5 yards per carry in his two seasons with the Yellow Jackets. He is a violent downhill runner who will give Alabama fans memories of Najee Harris and Derrick Henry. John Metchie should return to form and lead the Alabama receiving corps. Nick Saban will need to find a reliable second option. The Tide failed to find a consistent second option in the playoffs after Metchie was lost for the season. Will Anderson returns on defense and he could be the best player in the nation next season. Anderson finished with 17.5 sacks, including two in the national title game. Alabama also brings in Elias Ricks from LSU who should boost their secondary. Ricks was a freshman All-American in 2020 after intercepting four passes and returning two for touchdowns. Ricks was injured for the majority of 2021.
Who Will be the Biggest Impact Transfer? – According to 247Sports transfer rankings, 11 of the top 30 transfers are heading to an SEC school. We have seen transfers play a larger role in college football. Elias Ricks and Jahmyr Gibbs are early favorites for the biggest impact transfers. Zach Evans was the former number one running back in his recruiting class. He transferred from TCU to Ole Miss after rushing for over 1,000 yards and averaging more than seven yards per carry. Jadon Haselwood was one of the top receivers at Oklahoma and he transferred to Arkansas. Haselwood will be one of the top targets for KJ Jefferson after he totaled 399 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2021 for the Sooners. Miles Frazier was a freshman All-American at offensive tackle for Florida International. He was one of the first commitments for Brian Kelly at LSU. Spencer Rattler was previously anointed a future number one pick before losing his job to Caleb Williams. Rattler will find a fresh start at South Carolina. Transfers will once again play a key part in the success of the SEC.
Will Anyone be Able to Challenge Alabama in the SEC West? – LSU made a splash hire bringing in Brian Kelly. Unfortunately for Kelly, LSU is in a rebuild and will take a few years before they can compete with Alabama on a consistent basis. Ole Miss is an interesting case because Lane Kiffin has proven to build high scoring offenses. Kiffin is currently searching for a quarterback and many believe he will look to the transfer portal for his next signal caller. The addition of Zach Evans gives Ole Miss a legitimate rushing attack for next season. Mississippi State should also have a high powered offense under Mike Leach. Will Rogers was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC after he tossed 36 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Auburn had an underwhelming year finishing 6-7 in Bryan Harsin’s first season. Harsin added former Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada after Bo Nix transferred to Oregon. Harsin’s biggest victory is retaining Tank Bigsby after the running back briefly entered the transfer portal. Arkansas made a jump forward but their senior laden defense will need rebuilt. They are also losing their top three receivers. Sam Pittman is a great coach but next year is likely to be a rebuilding season. Texas A&M will contend with Alabama for the most talented team but they lack experience. The Aggies entire defensive line is expected to enter the NFL Draft. The biggest question for the Aggies entering 2022 will be their starting quarterback. Haynes King returns after missing part of the season due to injury and he will compete with LSU transfer Max Johnson for the starting spot. The SEC West is likely
Does the SEC Have a Sleeper in 2022? – I have avoided making too many predictions in these segments but I am breaking my own rule here. Tennessee will be the biggest surprise in the SEC in 2022. Tennessee’s hire of Josh Huepel was met with criticism but he proved to be a favorable hire after the Volunteers finished 7-6. Tennessee does not have an ideal schedule in 2022 with trips to Pitt, LSU, and Georgia but they could pull off an upset or two and reach the nine win threshold. South Carolina is another candidate to make a jump after Shane Beamer led his team to a bowl victory. The Gamecocks brought in Spencer Rattler to be their quarterback which should be an upgrade after they started a graduate assistant due to lack of depth. Florida’s first season under Billy Napier will come with low expectations. Napier has been using the portal to acquire talent and he could turn the program around with a few instant contributors.