After a longer-than-expected wait because of the coronavirus pandemic, the SEC makes its long-awaited return this weekend. The conference postponed the start of its season by two weeks, but all 14 programs will be in action this Saturday.
With eight ranked programs, the SEC dominates the AP Top 25 Poll, with Alabama beginning the season as the No. 2 seed, while Georgia and Florida are ranked fourth and fifth respectively, with defending national champions LSU at No. 6.
Meanwhile Auburn is ranked at joint-No. 8 along with Texas and Texas A&M rounds out the top-10, with Tennessee and Kentucky ranked 16th and 23rd respectively.
Here’s a look at the state of play ahead of kickoff in the SEC.
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All odds are courtesy of DraftKings.
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At 4/5, Alabama begins the season as the bookmakers’ favorite to win the SEC title and rebound from the disappointment of last season, when the Crimson Tide missed the College Football Playoff for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2014. Tua Tagovailoa and star wideouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy have left for the NFL, but the likes of running back Najee Harris and wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle ensure Alabama’s offense remains stacked with talent. Mac Jones will replace Tagovailoa under center, but five-star recruit Bryce Young could see some playing time too.
Georgia pipped Florida to the top of the SEC East division in both of the last two seasons to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game and enters the campaign as a 3/1 second-favorite behind Alabama to win the conference title. Before they can look that far ahead, however, the Bulldogs must first find a quarterback. Jake Fromm entered the NFL in April, Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman opted out for the season due to coronavirus-related concerns, and USC transfer JT Daniels hasn’t yet been medically cleared after returning from an ACL injury. That means redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis—who missed last season after undergoing an emergency brain surgery—could start the season opener on Saturday.
After spending his first two seasons at Florida as back-up, Kyle Trask established himself as the Gators’ starting quarterback last season, seemingly solving the conundrum that had plagued Florida at the position over the last few years. If the Gators are to justify their ranking as 4/1 third-favorite to win the SEC and continue a trend that has seen them finish the last two seasons with a combined 21-5 record, Trask will have to pick up where he left off last year, although he must do so with an offense that has lost three receivers to the NFL draft.
The defending national champions have a very different look to the team that went 15-0 last season. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow was the first overall pick of the NFL Draft in April after a record-breaking season, one of four Tigers to be selected in the first round of the Draft along with linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. LSU lost a total of 14 players to the draft and with star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin among those opting out of the season. Head coach Ed Orgeron faces an uphill battle to lead the Tigers to back-to-back titles.
LSU has recruited well but starts the season as a 6/1 fourth-favorite.
The Aggies kick off the season as 14/1 outsiders. Texas A&M returns 16 starters from last season, including quarterback Kellen Mond, and head coach Jimbo Fisher has plenty of talent at his disposal on his side of the ball, despite having to revamp his receiving corps due to a combination of players entering the NFL and opting out of the season.
The Volunteers begin the season as the No. 16-ranked team in the nation but at 25/1 their odds are shorter than No. 8-ranked Auburn. Tennessee has a revamped receiving corps but plenty of talent on the offensive line and must avoid a repeat of last season’s slow start, when it went 2-5 in the first seven weeks of the season.
The Tigers begin the season as a 33/1 underdog to win a first SEC Championship title since 2013. Hopes will largely rest on Bo Nix’s shoulders and head coach Gus Malzahn will need his quarterback, who will play behind a brand new offensive line, to be far more efficient and consistent than he was last season.
The last of the SEC programs ranked in the AP Top 25 poll, the Wildcats start the season as 100/1 outsiders. One of the most solid offensive lines in the SEC should offer returning quarterback Terry Wilson plenty of protection, but whether that will be enough for Kentucky to make waves remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, South Carolina begins the season as 125/1 outsider, while Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Missouri are all 150/1, followed by Vanderbilt and Arkansas at 300/1 and 500/1 respectively.