THE LSU TIGERS’ MAGICAL 15-0 RUN ENDED WITH A RESOUNDING WIN over Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers that left no doubt who the best team in college football was. In fact, I don’t know if I witnessed Joe Burrow make a bad decision the entire season. Burrow is now a Bengal of a different color (Cincinnati) and Ed Orgeron has to replace a lot of NFL departed talent aside from his former quarterback if he wants to make another run to the college football promised land.
So if LSU isn’t up to another title run, which teams can rise to the challenge? The obvious answer is Alabama, who lost two games by a collective eight points to LSU and Auburn last season. While the Tide lost their usual numbers to the NFL, they return plenty of talent, like running back Najee Harris and linebacker Dylan Moses. Mac Jones got plenty of experience at quarterback while Tua was injured, but blue-chip recruit Bryce Young will be ready if needed. So yeah, duh…the Tide.
But! There are others that could challenge for the throne.
In the west, Auburn, whom I’ve given up on trying to predict, has Bo Nix and a bevy of talent, Texas A&M always seems like they are ready to get over the hump and the Mississippi schools have must-watch coaches if nothing else. I don’t see anyone other than LSU, Auburn or A&M sniffing the western crown, and since I think Auburn has the best shot, expect them to go the other way.
On the eastern side, it’s a dawg eat dawg world. Kirby Smart has recruited at an elite level and thus been in Atlanta on the first weekend in December for the last three years. The Dawgs lost a ton on offense, but scoring Jamie Newman and JT Daniels in the transfer portal will help in replacing the early departure of Jake Fromm. If the offense can find itself, look out, as the defense is absolutely loaded.
The clear challenger is their bitter rival, the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen has to beat Georgia to win the East, and that monkey on his back will only get bigger if he can’t do it this year. The Gators have proven talent at the skill positions and a salty defense. The schedule sets up well too, so that game in Jacksonville should be the de facto SEC East Championship.
Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina would all like to have something to say about that, but despite a recruiting boom and a strong finish (against weak competition) to last season, Tennessee isn’t ready to challenge yet. To me, Will Muschamp is the Charlie Brown of college football. He is likeable, able and willing, but Lucy always seems to swipe the ball away from him at the last minute before he can achieve pride and glory. What Mark Stoops has achieved at Kentucky is amazing, and I could certainly see the Cats ruining a season or two, but unless Terry Wilson returns from a torn ACL and goes Johnny Football in 2020, a run at the Eastern title isn’t likely.
So the favorites are clear, but the challengers are strong enough to shake things up if things go their way. Aren’t you ready for some football?
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