3 of 4
No. 9 – Auburn Tigers
- The biggest problem for the Auburn defense is it will have to be on the field too much. If the Auburn offense had average SEC firepower, the Tigers’ defense would be better than No. 9. The front is capable and a rebuilt secondary is better than adequate. Defensive end Derick Hall and linebacker, Owen Pappoe (if he is healthy) could have big seasons. Auburn is going to lose a lot of games, but defense is not the biggest problem.
No. 8 – Florida Gators
- If the Gators can improve their rushing defense, No. 8 is a too low ranking. The secondary should be good and Billy Napier has a strong linebacker unit. What the Gators don’t have on defense is much depth. Napier does not have adequate replacements if defensive end, Brenton Cox Jr., safety Trey Dean or linebacker Ventrell Miller is lost to injury.
No. 7 – Kentucky Wildcats
- Mark Stoops has a strong linebacker group led by Jacquez Jones and Deandre Square. An inexperienced defensive line is a concern. The Wildcats’ cornerbacks are also suspect. The best thing for Kentucky is Mark Stoops is proven at building tough defenses.
No. 6 – Mississippi State Bulldogs
- Mississippi State had a good defense last season that was particularly effective in stopping the run. Most of those run-stoppers return. If the secondary is improved, built around the talented corner, Emmanuel Forbes and possibly Alabama transfer, Marcus Banks, the Bulldogs can be a pretty good defense.
No. 5 – LSU Bengal Tigers
- An assumption is made that Brian Kelly can rebuild the LSU defense sooner than the LSU offense. With BJ Ojulari and others, LSU should have an effective pass rush. The linebackers are capable. The wildcard is the LSU secondary and particularly the cornerbacks. Kelly has reloaded with transfers. If the mostly unproven transfers can’t perform in the SEC, LSU is ranked too high at No. 5.