Can anyone challenge Georgia for the SEC crown in 2023? Kirby Smart continues to reel in 5-star recruits like Bubba Gump bringing in jumbo shrimp. Even with an improved Tennessee squad, the Dawgs remain the team to beat in the East.
As for the battle in the West, Nick Saban and Alabama will relish the underdog narrative this season. The Tide lost 2 conference games a year ago, and Brian Kelly and LSU has seemingly closed the gap on Bama's stranglehold on the Wild West division.
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Well, it was another banner year for the Georgia Bulldogs as they were successful in repeating as National Champions. In fact, they bettered their record from the previous year by running the table and going undefeated the entire season. That puts the Bulldogs at 29-1 over the last 2 seasons.
Despite a scare against OSU in the semi-final, the Bulldogs made a statement against TCU in the title game by smoking them 65-7. The 5th ranked defense was only surpassed by their 4th ranked offense in terms of points per game. Stetson Bennett rode out in hero fashion for what seemed like his 15th year of college football.
Kirby Smart will have Carson Beck taking over for Bennett and he will have a ton of weapons including the top tight end in the nation in Brock Bowers. Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards will tout the rock and averaged a combined 6.25 yards per carry last season.
Some of the top picks in this past NFL draft left the Bulldogs looking a bit bare on defense but another crop of 5-star recruits ready to step up. We expect Glenn Schumann to have these youngsters ready to go for another run at the title.
The Vols were an early season surprise in the SEC as they began the campaign with an 8-0 record. A win streak that included wins over Florida, at LSU, and capped by the 52-49 thriller over Alabama. QB Hendon Hooker seemingly was in the driver seat for a Heisman run.
Unfortunately, they had to hit the road to Athens where the Bulldogs showed their superiority by holding this #1 offense in the country to just 13 points and defeating them by 2 touchdowns. They bounced back in big fashion in dominating Missouri the following week but fell to South Carolina the next.
They ended the season on a high note as they defeated Clemson in the Orange Bowl 31-14. Hooker’s 2023 replacement, Joe Milton threw for over 250yds and 3 TDs in the game.
Milton will have Bru McCoy and Squirrel White on the outside to help stretch the defense. He will also have a solid offensive line that protected Hooker well last season.
If the defense can continue the trend, they began last season as they allowed just under 23ppg after allowing almost 30ppg the year prior. The Vols will likely go, as well as Milton goes this season.
The Wildcats underachieved last season and finished with a 7-6 record. Will Levis’s NFL stock did take a hit as he threw 10 picks to go with his 19 touchdowns. His offense finished 111th in the country in points per game and the air attack averaged only 195 yards per game.
The defense is what kept the Wildcats heads above water through most of the season but it was not enough down the stretch as they lost 3 of their last 4 games, including getting shutout 21-0 by Iowa in the Music City Bowl.
Devin Leary, NCST transfer, is now in Lexington to take over for Will Levis. While he had decent numbers last season when healthy, he will have a chance to put up big numbers this season.
Robinson, Brown, and Key will be Leary’s targets and make up the conference’s top set of wide receivers. If the defense can replicate their 2022 season (19.2ppg allowed), this Wildcats team could surprise a lot of big named teams in 2023.
The Gamecocks had a decent season overall last year. Wins at Kentucky, home against Tennessee, and at Clemson were the highlights of the season. A home loss to Missouri in the middle of the season was the low point and snapped their 4-game win streak.
As a team that relied on their offense, the Gamecocks average only 0.3ppg more than what they allowed. It is no shock when you see that to understand how they went 8-5 on the year.
It has taken only 2 years for Shane Beamer to get the Gamecocks trending in the proper direction. He hopes that Spencer Rattler will be able to finally live up to the hype he had when he entered his college career and get this offense rolling.
That said, he will be working with an offensive line that is not up to the same scale as most of the conference. Trey Knox is likely to get a ton of targets in the tight end position while Dakereon Joyner will be tasked with stretching the field.
All that said, if South Carolina is going to take the next step forward, they will need to do so on defense as it begins with stopping the run.
Missouri’s offense in 2022 was one of the most penalized offenses in the country. They averaged over 60 yards of penalty yardage per game.
That nearly cut their averaging rushing yards per game in half. That said, the Tigers were successful in getting a bowl bid but did not make the most of it as they lost 27-17 to Wake Forest.
The Tigers are returning 8 starters from a defense that allowed just a tick over 25ppg last season. Linebacker, Ty’Ron Hopper, is likely to be the leader of the defensive unit and will have a solid secondary behind him.
The defense will be the strength but the line needs to be better in whoever they are protecting. Jake Garcia transferred in from Miami and will push Brady Cook for the starting spot.
The Gators were never able to string 3 wins together last season. Their season opening win over Utah seemed to be a great starting point for them but losses in 2 of their next 3 took the wind out of their sails. The offense seemed to constantly sputter when it reached the red zone as they finished 118th in the country with a sub 74% scoring rate.
Dual threat QB, Anthony Richardson, did all he could do throughout the season. He finished with over 650 yards on the ground and 9 touchdowns to go with his 2500 yards through the air and 17 touchdowns.
Richardson is now gone and Wisconsin transfer, Graham Mertz will be the new face running the offense. Mertz went from the next great thing to an expendable loss in less than a year in Madison.
We do not believe he will have a great season, but if Etienne and Johnson can run the ball well enough to keep the Gators from needing to throw much, they could have some success. The defense only returns 4 starters from a group that was awful against the run and allowed almost 30ppg last season.
Vandy was even worse than Auburn in point differential average (-13.5). Their regular season did end on a good note. They won back-to-back games at Kentucky (24-21) and then home over Florida (31-24). However, that high note was quickly squelched by Tennessee in the finale when they were shutout 56-0 at home.
AJ Swann will be back for his sophomore year after a solid Freshman season. The backfield is questionable as Ray Davis bolted for Kentucky.
Sheppard and McGowan are back for Swann, but the line will be tested early and often. The defense has been allowing nearly 40ppg over the past couple seasons and there is no sign this doesn’t happen again this year.
Most teams across the country would kill for a 2-loss season, but the Tide had what was an underperforming season in their minds. Early they barely escaped their road test against Texas 20-19. They then squeaked out a 4-point victory at home against the visiting Aggies.
They then hit the road to take on surging Tennessee and could not keep up with their offense and lost their 1st game of the season 52-49. They bounced back with a 30-6 win over Mississippi State but then lost a heart breaker on the road to LSU the following week.
That second loss left them on the outside looking into the playoffs and were saddled with a Sugar Bowl bid against KSU, which they took care of business winning 45-20.
Jalen Milroe is slated to start behind center for Tommy Rees. However, Rees is likely to lean on his stockpile of stud running backs to stabilize the offense this season.
The offensive line should be strong as always and the defense did lose Will Anderson but still has a ton of talent all over the place. Bama will be looking to take back the top spot in the SEC and having LSU at home this season will be a positive.
Brian Kelly’s debut season at LSU was filled with dramatic ups and downs. It began with a down as they lost a thriller to FSU in the season opener 24-23. They went on to win 4 in a row before losing at home to Tennessee 40-13. A 5-game win streak followed including a win over Bama.
However, back-to-back losses to A&M and Georgia ended their regular season. They did show out in their bowl game against Purdue winning 63-7.
Kelly is hoping the offensive line is better than last season and gives Jayden Daniels an opportunity to have a breakout season. Daniels will have a solid group at receiver and Mason Taylor adds another weapon from the tight end position. The defense could be an issue as the secondary is full of new faces.
Lane Kiffin and the Rebels looked to have some things figured out early in 2022 as they ran out to a 7-0 record. To be fair, they had not faced a top tier opponent in those 7 games but in their 8th game, they went to Baton Rouge to face LSU and got smacked 45-20.
That loss seemingly broke their spirits as it led to a 1-5 finish to their season. Quinshon Judkins ran for over 1500 yards while Zach Evans and Jaxon Dart added another 1500 yards on the ground to give the Rebels the 2nd best rushing attack in the country. Judkins and Dart do return for Kiffin.
It was an extremely disappointing season for the Aggies. After a 3-1 start, they then lost 6 straight conference games before getting a gift in UMass to snap the losing streak.
That said, they did impress the very next game as they upset LSU 38-23. The offense struggled to average just over 20ppg while their defense was solid and held opponent to sub 24ppg.
Bobby Petrino was brought in over the offseason to call the plays for the offense. Conner Weigman will be under center and has a decent set of weapons at his disposal.
Rueben Owens, freshman running back, replaces Devon Achane and will need to produce immediately. On defense, if the Aggies figure out how to keep the running game of opponents in check, they could be an elite defense.
The Razorbacks had one of the worst defenses not only in the SEC but in the country. They ranked outside the top 100 in points allowed (30.9). Close to 300 yards per game were allowed through the air by this same defense.
That said, Arkansas did manage to make a bowl game with a 6-6 regular season record. In their bowl game, against Kansas, they won an extremely exciting 55-53 shootout to end their season.
The transfer portal was kind and brought in 10 new players for the defense that needs help immensely. The offense should be fine with KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders at QB and RB respectively. They will have Dan Enos as their new coordinator and an offensive line that will have some new faces.
The season ended on an extremely sad note as head coach Mike Leach unfortunately passed away prior to their bowl game. The Bulldogs lost 4 games on the season but 3 of those were to LSU, Bama, and Georgia.
Their road loss to Kentucky was the only one that one could argue was truly winnable. Will Rogers racked up almost 4000 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air. He ranked #1 in the country with 48.7 passing attempts per game.
This will be an interesting season for the Bulldogs. Will Rogers is simply too good to move to a heavily rushing offense. However, Coach Arnett made a statement with the hire of Kevin Barbay as coordinator.
They are likely to have a bit more balance with Barbay in charge. The defense is led by a linebacker unit that is one of the best in the conference.
A 5-game losing streak in the middle of the season cost the Tigers a bowl game in 2022. With a scoring differential average of -7.9 leaves little surprise that the Tigers were not even in most of the games they lost last year.
They did average nearly 200 yards per game on the ground but with the defense unable to keep the opposing offenses in check, they needed quicker scores and were unable to manage them last season.
The Tigers will have a top ranked secondary this season but need to focus on stopping the run. Last season they allowed over 170 yards per game on the ground.
On offense, new head coach Hugh Freeze used the transfer portal to bring in Payton Thorne from MSU and a couple of other pieces on the line. If he can get the offense rolling early, there is hope for a bowl game for Auburn.