The SEC is in transition and 2020 could be a year of new challengers for the Alabama football throne.
Going back to 2008, when Alabama football made its first SEC Championship game under Nick Saban, the SEC has been dominated by only a few teams. The SEC West has of course been dominated by Alabama football who have made seven SEC Championships since 2008 winning six of them.
The other five appearances were made by Auburn (3) and LSU (2). In the East division things have a little more parity but not much. The East is led in appearances by UGA (5) followed by Florida(4), Missouri (2), and South Carolina (1). (Note, all SEC Championship Game information retrieved from the SEC official website)
Will this be the year that somebody different can challenge for the SEC title? While I think there are a lot of teams that can challenge in the East, I don’t know if any of them will be better than either Georgia or Florida.
The West is a different story though. As I wrote earlier this year, I think LSU and Auburn are both taking big steps back in 2020. LSU lost pretty much every impact player on both sides of the ball and most of their coaching staff. Auburn lost almost their entire defense from a unit that was one of the best in the nation.
There will be growing pains for both teams and I don’t believe they are prepared to take on Alabama football this year. I believe the team best suited to challenge the Crimson Tide in the West is Texas A&M. They have the skill and the experience that you see in teams that have historically given Alabama problems under Nick Saban.
That being said I think 2020 will surprise a lot of SEC fans. Recently, Ron Evans here at Bama Hammer, talked about whether 2019 foreshadowed a power shift in the SEC or if we would see more of the same in 2020.
While I agree with him for the most part I disagree that only Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Auburn have a chance to win the SEC. For me, I think you have to include Texas A&M in that discussion. I also think there is an outside chance for Tennessee or Kentucky to be in the East race.
I think 2020 will be the real beginning of the power shift in the SEC. 2020 might end up seeing the same players make it to the championship game, but the teams ranked 2-4 in each division will be teams to watch in the future.
With that being said, here is how I see the SEC race playing out in 2020.
Alabama 12-0 (8-0)
Texas A&M 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 8-4 (5-3)
Ole Miss 7-5 (3-5)
Mississippi State 7-5 (3-5)
Auburn 6-6 (3-5)
Arkansas 4-8 (1-7)
Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Tennessee 9-3 (6-2)
Georgia 9-3 (5-3)
Kentucky 8-4 (4-4)
South Carolina 5-7 (2-6)
Missouri 5-7 (1-7)
Vanderbilt 3-9 (0-8)
SEC Championship Game
Alabama football regains the top spot, but surprises abound.
I’m sure that many people will be intrigued at where Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee are in these standings. For Auburn I think that the losses on defense are too much to overcome this year especially now that the SEC is more offensively focused than it has ever been before. Couple that with the fact that the offense is undergoing a shift with Chad Morris and that is a recipe for a letdown in 2020. I think they will be back in 2021 but 2020 is just not their year.
For Georgia I think that Jamie Newman is not the answer at QB that many people believe he is. He could develop if Georgia had an easier schedule to begin the year, but that game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa to kick of UGA’s SEC schedule is difficult. Early season losses like that can cripple a team with a new QB.
As for Tennessee, I think that they have recruited well and have momentum going into 2020. They will be the surprise team that plays above their talent level. There is at least one every year that does that. Kentucky was that team two years ago with Benny Snell and Josh Allen. Tennessee is that team in 2020. I think they upset Georgia and only end with losses to Oklahoma, Alabama, and Florida.
2020 is shaping up to be a wild year in college football and not just because of uncertainty due to the pandemic. There is a chance that teams’ schedules get changed and we may not see every team play in 2020. Whatever happens, rest assured that Alabama football will be ready to roll back to the College Football Playoff.