We took a look at the SEC East in our last preview article, so today we'll break down the SEC West. As it's been since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa, most teams are playing for second in the Western division.
However, Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies are closing the gap and they proved that by upsetting Alabama last season. Fisher and Saban even had a heated back-and-forth exchange earlier in the summer. It'll be interesting to see how the West shakes out.
In the below column, we'll take a look at the current odds to win the SEC Championship Game as well as each team's season win totals. These numbers are from DraftKings Sportsbook and will be updated as the season gets closer. As expected, the Alabama Crimson Tide is the runaway favorite in the SEC West.
|SEC West Team||SEC Championship Odds||Win Total|
For majority of the country, the 2021 season that Alabama had would have been seen as extremely successful. After an early loss to Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies, the Tide went on to win out and then defeat Georgia in the SEC championship game. They were then awarded a playoff spot to face Cincinnati, whom they held to just 6 points and defeated by 19.
That set up a rematch with their SEC rivals, the Georgia Bulldogs, for the national championship. However, the result was not the same as the SEC title game and Bama fell 33-18. For Nick Saban and the Alabama program, the loss to Georgia in the national championship stung as much as any loss in recent seasons and was likely looked at by most as a failure.
The offseason seems to have been filled with accusations and criticisms among many within the SEC coaching ranks, in particular, Saban and Fisher. From that, many have circled October 8th on their calendars to watch them meet in Tuscaloosa. That news aside, the Alabama program will once again be in the national title hunt and filled with all-world talent.
They bring back 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to run the show and added a few toys for him through the transfer portal. Jermaine Burton came over from rival Georgia and Saban snagged Tyler Harrell from Louisville to provide some relief after losing Jameson Williams and John Metchie III to the NFL.
Jahmyr Gibbs will be in the backfield after leaving Georgia Tech and will give Young a great passing option out in the flats. The defense could be even better than last year’s group that held opponents to just 309 yards per game (6th in the nation) and 20.6ppg (17th in the nation). We expect Bama to surpass 10 wins once again with ease and be battling for another national title.
After an early season loss to powerhouse Bama, the Rebels stumbled only once more prior to bowl season, which came on the road to Auburn. There was early season talk of QB Matt Corral being a serious Heisman contender, but those talks fizzled out later in the year. Overall, Lane Kiffin’s 2nd season was a tremendous success.
He took the Rebels from 5-5 in 2020 to 10-3 and a bowl berth in 2021. Kiffin’s offense averaged over 480 yards per game, good enough for 6th in the nation. His defense held opponents under 26 points per game which ranked them 49th nationally.
Their bowl game set them against Baylor and with Corral deciding to participate, the hype was high until he suffered a high ankle sprain that sidelined him and the hopes of a Rebels victory. They lost 21-7 to the Bears.
2022 will be a season filled with transfer talent for the Ole Miss Rebels. Kiffin did one of the best jobs in the country in attaining some serious talent from other universities. Jaxson Dart was brought over from USC to be the new man to run the show and follow in Matt Corral’s footsteps.
Kiffin also brought in Zach Evans at running back from TCU, Jaylon Robinson from UCF, and Jordan Watkins from Louisville to help him spread the field. Tight end Michael Trigg followed Dart from Southern Cal to Mississippi to provide a steady presence over the middle and in the flats.
The defense, much like the offense, will have a number of new faces in the form of transfers but also at the DC position. Chris Partridge will serve as the coordinator and be in charge of improving upon a group that held opponents to 24.7 points per game last season. We believe in Kiffin’s eye for transfer talent and expect him to keep the program over 8 wins this season.
The Aggies had a very inconsistent season last year. Back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State early in the season all but crushed their hopes of competing for the SEC title. In week 11, they lost on the road to Mississippi, which put the nail in that coffin. And lastly, a loss on the road to LSU ended their season on a sour note.
An 8-4 mark was not great but most can be contributed to the loss of starting QB, Haynes King, who went down in the 2nd game of the season. The defense did everything it possibly could to keep the Bulldogs in games, holding opponents to just over 17 points per game. They posted an impressive 70% red zone scoring allowance to opponents that ranked them 5th in the nation.
King is back this season and will have Max Johnson (LSU transfer) waiting in the wings if another injury occurs. Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith will need to provide explosive plays for King in the passing game while Devon Achane should provide a steady running option.
The defense has some turnover but will still be one of the best in the conference, if not the nation. DJ Durkin has taken over the DC role as he left Mississippi after spending 2 seasons as their co-DC and linebackers’ coach. If he is able to replicate the 2021 performance they put on, the Aggies will be one of the toughest teams in the country.
Close losses on the road to Mississippi and Alabama were the difference between 2021 being a magical year for the Hogs and a mediocre one. 8-4 was a good number for an Arkansas team that was predicted to be more of a .500 to sub.500 team following a 3-7 record the previous year. The upset win over Texas in the 2nd game of the season had many excited for an upstart program that ended up coming back to earth a few weeks later against the SEC brass.
The 223 yards per game that Arkansas averaged on the ground made them a top 10 running attack in the country. Repeating their success there will be likely as many backs will return. KJ Jefferson will have 4 starters returning from his offensive line last season and Rocket Sanders to lead his backfield.
Jefferson will have options in returning players Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson to compliment their transfers in Haselwood and Landers from Oklahoma and Toledo respectively. The defense made its mark in holding teams to field goal attempts in the red zone and being stout on 3rd down, but will need to do more in 2022 for the Hogs to make a run at the top of the conference.
Only 4 starters return and the transfers will need to step in and make a difference immediately as they open up the season by visiting Cincinnati. Their 8 plus wins will be within reach and we believe the offense will do enough to get the Hogs above their number.
Just two years removed from the 15-0 national champion season, the LSU Tigers looked like a shell of themselves by posting a 6-7 mark in 2021. Ed Orgeron retired at the end of the year, and honestly, it may be what the program needed in order to move forward again. The Tigers sat in 75th place in scoring offense and points allowed.
Mediocrity was rampant on both sides of the ball and that is something no team in the SEC can afford, especially one with a target on its back. Following the retirement of Ed Orgeron, the LSU leadership announced they had lured away Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to be the next head coach of the Tigers. Many believe this is a match made in heaven as Kelly never seemed to have enough talent at Notre Dame to get over the top and finish a national title run.
Redshirt Senior Myles Brennan will likely be the man behind center and Kayshon Boutte will provide some highlight reel plays from the wide receiver position. It will remain to be seen how the defense responds to the change of leadership but we don’t believe this season is going to be a pleasant one for Kelly and LSU.
While many believed it was inferior talent that led to Kelly’s stumbles in his bid for a national title, it is our belief that it was actually Kelly’s inferiority, compared to the great minds he faced in those games. In season one inside the SEC, Kelly is going to get a dose of reality in facing some of the best coaches in the game week in and week out.
The Bulldogs finished the season 7-6 after losing their final game of the regular season to Mississippi at home and then to Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl 34-7. It was an uncharacteristic year for a Mike Leach offense, as they were only able to generate 26.9 points per game. They did accomplish the primary objective of every Mike Leach team, and that was to have a top 5 passing offense in the country.
Mississippi State was #1 in passing play percentage and completion percentage, but an 83.3% red zone scoring rate was crushing. The Bulldogs were not imposing on the defensive side of the ball and had a real hard time getting off the field on 3rd down.
Will Rogers will be back to lead Leach’s aerial assault but will have new faces in his wideout corps and also his line up-front. Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson will be in the backfield and both will be used as an asset in the passing game as well.
The Bulldogs will sport a solid linebacker unit to go with their 8 returning starters, but if they are not able to keep teams from throwing all over them, it could be a long season for Leach and company. While they took steps forward in 2021, we think the loss of their playmakers around Will Rogers and a lack of consistent defense will be extremely problematic for a team that has one of the toughest schedules in the conference.
After starting out 6-2 in 2021, the Auburn Tigers lost their remaining 4 regular season games and also were upended by Houston 17-13 in the Birmingham Bowl. They almost shocked the world once again at home against Alabama but could not seal the deal and ultimately lost 24-22.
The offseason was a rocky one for head coach Bryan Harsin, as many pundits were claiming his job was in jeopardy after their final 5 game losing streak. No change was made but the idea of a change mid-season, if things get bleak, is certainly in the cards.
Zach Calzada seems to have been the decision after a 4-man QB battle ensued during the spring. But his job will be far from secure unless he produces some consistent play in the first few games of the season.
The defense was decent last year and signs point to more of the same this season. However, the success of the Tigers will rely heavily on the play of the offense and there are just way too many question marks on that side of the ball to take anything but the under for their total wins in 2022.