SEC football preview, odds, predictions: Is Georgia ready to take down Alabama?

·18 min read

Previously: AAC, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt

The 2021 college football season is right around the corner and this week we will be previewing each of the Power Five conferences. The SEC is up first. 

Below, Yahoo Sports' Sam Cooper and Nick Bromberg provide their thoughts on each SEC team before predicting where those teams will finish in their division and if they will go over or under their projected preseason win total.

Betting odds and win totals are provided by BetMGM. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

SEC East

Florida

SEC East odds: +450

Over/under: 9 wins

Sam: I know Florida lost a lot on offense, but I have confidence that Dan Mullen can assemble another high-scoring unit with Emory Jones at QB and the skill position talent he has on the roster. Defensively, I’m not sure UF has addressed some of the issues it had stopping the run. The knee injury to CB Jaydon Hill hurts, too. I think 9-3 is right on the nose here, but I lean toward the over. Alabama and Georgia feel like losses with the trip to LSU sticking out as the game that can swing the record to 10-2.

OVER 9 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Nick: I realize Florida played 11 SEC games in 2020 but the Gators’ defensive stats were shockingly bad. Florida allowed 171 yards rushing per game and opposing offenses completed 65% of their passes — those marks were the highest against any Gator defense in Dan Mullen’s tenure. While the Gators replace six starters on that side of the ball, there’s talent to get better with a couple scheme changes and some early-season cupcakes to pad the stats. Plus there’s an SEC East with five teams clearly worse than Florida. Put me down for a 9-3 season and an over if I had to pick.

OVER 9 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Georgia

SEC East odds: -400

Over/under: 10.5 wins

Sam: I think it’s pretty clear that Georgia is the best team in the SEC East. It’s also easy to see why many think this is the year UGA can bring home that elusive national title. There’s so much talent on this roster, and JT Daniels really elevated the offense late last year, albeit against mostly mediocre competition. The defense is loaded, but UGA is going to need to consistently produce explosive plays offensively to get back to the CFP. The schedule sets up nicely. The Bulldogs will be significant favorites in all but two games: Clemson and Florida. Split those two and take care of business elsewhere and you can land at 11-1.

OVER 10.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

ATHENS, GA - APRIL 17: Quarterback JT Daniels #18 of the Georgia Bulldogs drops back to pass during the second half of the G-Day spring game at Sanford Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
After starting his career at USC, JT Daniels is entering his second season at Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Nick: Every recent national champion has had a receiving corps full of NFL talent. If Georgia has some wide receivers with a breakout 2021 then there’s no reason to think the Bulldogs aren’t capable of winning a national title. Adding someone like Arik Gilbert was huge for an offense that will likely not have George Pickens all season. If Gilbert is ready to contribute right away against Clemson in Week 1, Georgia is a threat to go undefeated. I like the over here even with a Week 1 loss.

OVER 10.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Kentucky

SEC East odds: +1800

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: Mark Stoops has elevated Kentucky to a consistent bowl team by emphasizing the lines of scrimmage. UK’s o-line should be very good again and the d-line has a ton of size, but I’ve got questions elsewhere. Stoops finally realized his program needs a new offensive identity, so he brought in ex-Rams assistant Liam Coen as his OC. More of a vertical passing game is apparently on the horizon, and Penn State transfer Will Levis has been tabbed as the answer at QB. Levis is mobile and has a big arm, but is he accurate? I see six probable wins on this schedule, and the chance for a seventh. But I don’t see 8-4. I’m on the under.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

Nick: The Wildcats might have added the most of any SEC team in the transfer portal with the additions of Will Levis, ex-Ole Miss LB Jacquez Jones, former Nebraska WR Wan’Dale Robinson and former LSU OT Dare Rosenthal. That’s a lot of impact talent that can step in right away and play. The schedule is favorable; UK should be 3-1 at worst outside of the SEC and Missouri and Florida both visit. Like Florida, the push really looks like the right play here, but if I was forced to pick I would go with the over.

OVER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Missouri

SEC East odds: +1500

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: It took only one season for Eli Drinkwitz to make Missouri interesting again. The Tigers went 5-5 and found their QB of the future: Connor Bazelak. Bazelak has the potential to be one of the SEC’s best. If some of the team’s young receivers emerge, this offense has a high ceiling. There’s some solid pieces on defense, too. As long as Mizzou takes care of the rebuilding teams in the division, a bowl is a pretty safe bet. I think 7-5 is the most likely outcome, but with toss-up games like Kentucky, Boston College and Arkansas, I think 8-4 is more likely than 6-6.

OVER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Nick: At first glance, Missouri looks like it could go 9-3. The only games that jump out on the schedule as losses are to Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida. But this is Missouri, nothing ever goes as planned. The Tigers bring back eight starters on offense and Tyler Badie is an underrated running back who will be the primary rushing option. Adding transfer LB Blaze Alldredge (Rice) and transfer CBs Akayleb Evans and Allie Green (Tulsa) will bolster the defense. I think 8-4 is more likely than 6-6.

OVER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo, Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Columbia, Mo. Bazelak is back under center after wresting control of the quarterback job from Shawn Robinson about five quarters into last season. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson, File)
Missouri's Connor Bazelak could emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson, File)

South Carolina

SEC East odds: +8000

Over/under: 3.5 wins

Sam: This feels like the beginning of a rebuild. There are some good players left over from the Will Muschamp era that will make the Gamecocks competitive, but the injury to quarterback Luke Doty and a brutal second half of the schedule make it hard to predict many wins. If USC is going to go over the 3.5, it needs to win its non-conference games against East Carolina and Troy. If Doty is out for Week 2 on the road against ECU, I think that’s a loss.

UNDER 3.5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Nick: South Carolina should start the season 2-0 no matter who is playing QB. After that, things get really tough. Troy is no pushover and even if you pencil that game in as a win along with a home contest against Vanderbilt, the ceiling doesn’t look any higher than 5-7. RB Kevin Harris is going to have to shoulder a heavy load again in 2021 for South Carolina to reach that ceiling. I think 4-8 is the record to go with here.

OVER 3.5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Tennessee

SEC East odds: +2000

Over/under: 6 wins

Sam: The biggest hope for Tennessee fans this year should be that one of these QBs (Joe Milton, Hendon Hooker or Harrison Bailey) clearly stands out above the rest. Above-average QB play can go a long way in Josh Heupel’s offense, but I don’t have my hopes up. The Vols also had a lot of their best players transfer, especially on defense. UT gets a visit from Pitt in Week 2 and faces both Missouri and Kentucky on the road. Those are the swing games here, and I think they’re probably all losses, resulting in a 5-7 record.

UNDER 6 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

Nick: While Heupel and his staff were eager to add Milton and Hooker to the QB room this offseason, it feels like the best option for Tennessee in 2021 and beyond is for Bailey to win the starting job. He was the best QB for the team as a freshman in 2020, though that’s not much of an endorsement given how last season went. Tennessee lost a lot of talent to the transfer portal and it’s hard not to see how last season’s 3-7 record isn’t transformed into 4-8 or 5-7 or so in a 12-game schedule in 2021.

UNDER 6 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

Vanderbilt

SEC East odds: +20000

Over/under: 3.5 wins

Sam: The Commodores bottomed out under Derek Mason and brought in Clark Lea to replace him. He’s got a lot of work to do. Lea is a Vanderbilt alum, so he knows what he’s getting into — a long rebuilding process. Having a promising quarterback like Ken Seals is a good place to start, but there are challenges ahead. UConn and ETSU are on the non-conference schedule, so there are a few wins to be had. I think Colorado State is beatable, too, but I don’t think Vandy will get both CSU and one SEC win. I’ll take the under 3.5.

UNDER 3.5 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Nick: Vanderbilt won six games in 2018. It needs three wins in 2021 to reach six combined wins over the three seasons since. A main cause for Vanderbilt’s recent struggles is the offense. Vandy averaged 16.5 points per game in 2019 and an abysmal 14.8 points per game in 2020. Vandy scored over 20 points just twice in nine games a year ago. If the Commodores are going to hit the over, they have to hit 20 or more five or six times this season. And that still may not be enough.

UNDER 3.5 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 11: Christian Harris #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide awaits a play against The Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
Christian Harris is one of the best players on a loaded Alabama defense. (Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

SEC West

Alabama 

SEC West odds: -450

Over/under: 11.5 wins

Sam: Fresh off an undefeated season and another national title, Alabama is ready to cycle in the next batch of five-star talents. Bryce Young will get the reins to the offense with an awesome supporting cast around him and Bill O’Brien in place as the new OC. There could be some slight growing pains on offense, but this defense has the chance to be the nation’s best. The length and speed of linebackers like Will Anderson and Christian Harris is ridiculous, not to mention the Tide added Henry To’o To’o from Tennessee. Alabama has gone through the regular season unbeaten in three of the last five years. Perhaps Nick Saban’s team will slip up somewhere, but I’m willing to take that chance.

OVER 11.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Nick: Can we take a moment to appreciate this over/under for the Crimson Tide? You’re placing a bet on whether or not you think Alabama will lose in the 2021 regular season. Surface-level wisdom says a team replacing eight starters on offense will definitely lose, but this is an Alabama team that could have an even better offensive line and has plenty of experienced skill position players ready to step in. I’m really bullish on the defense. The linebackers Sam mentioned are fantastic and the secondary will be really good again too. I’m going with the over too.

OVER 11.5 wins

Projected division finish: 1st

Arkansas

SEC West odds: +5000

Over/under: 5.5 wins

Sam: A lot of people expected Arkansas to go winless last year, so its 3-7 season got a lot of positive attention. Perhaps too much positive attention. That’s not to say there isn’t talent on this roster. Treylon Burks is one of the SEC’s best receivers, and there’s a lot of returning production on defense. But the lack of a proven quarterback and impact players up front on defense lead me to believe this is more of a 5-7 team than a 7-5 team — especially playing in the SEC West.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Nick: The Razorbacks play Texas in Week 2 and draw Georgia and Missouri from the SEC East. This could be the toughest schedule in college football. Feleipe Franks was quietly a very good QB in 2020 for the Hogs and it’s hard for me to see how KJ Jefferson will duplicate that in his first full season as the team’s starter. Jefferson will have Treylon Burks and Trelon Smith, however, and they should be productive even if Arkansas ultimately ends up with just a win or two more than it had in 2020.

UNDER 5.5 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Auburn

SEC West odds: +1600

Over/under: 7 wins

Sam: Bryan Harsin strikes me as a strange fit at Auburn, but he has SEC experience on his staff with OC Mike Bobo and DC Derek Mason. The Tigers brought in a lot of transfers, especially on defense, and also return some quality starters like RB Tank Bigsby and center Nick Brahms on offense and LB Zakoby McClain and DB Smoke Monday on defense. But even with a new staff in place, I’m not expecting Bo Nix to all of a sudden become a top-tier SEC quarterback. When sizing up the situation as a whole, brutal schedule included, I tend to land on 6-6 or 7-5 way more than 8-4. I’m picking the under here.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

Nick: I think this is my easiest over/under pick in all of the SEC. Auburn has an incredibly tough schedule with games against Georgia and Penn State in addition to the normal SEC West gauntlet. And it’s hard to have confidence in Bo Nix unless you believe a new coaching staff will cause him make a big leap. Auburn didn’t beat a team with a winning record at all in 2020 and I’m not sure they will in 2021. I think 6-6 is a success in Year 1 of the Bryan Harsin era.

UNDER 7 wins

Projected division finish: 5th

LSU

SEC West odds: +1100

Over/under: 8.5 wins

Sam: I think LSU is getting overlooked. The championship hangover was strong and so many things went wrong last year, including the disastrous Bo Pelini hire. There should be some steadier footing this year and I’m expecting a big jump forward, particularly on defense. The secondary should be a big strength. Can the Tigers rekindle the 2019 magic on offense? Probably not, but I like the QB-WR combo of Max Johnson and Kayshon Boutte and some of the other young pieces they have. If LSU can build some confidence and win at UCLA to open the year, an undefeated record well into October is on the table.

OVER 8.5 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 28: Derek Stingley Jr. #24 of the LSU Tigers reacts after a play against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 28, 2020 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Chris Parent/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. is one of the best cornerbacks in the country. (Photo by Chris Parent/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

Nick: Sam is a bit more bullish on LSU than I am. I think the absence of Myles Brennan could be a big factor at the start of the season, though it’s also easy for me to see how LSU is 6-0 heading into a game against Florida on Oct. 16. The jump from Pelini to no Pelini running the defense will be fascinating to watch and the offensive line will have four starters back. While I’m not sure LSU is a contender for the West, I’m also not convinced there are more than four losses on the schedule. I’ll go with the talent in Baton Rouge and say LSU loses three.

OVER 8.5 wins

Projected division finish: 3rd

Mississippi State

SEC West odds: +4000

Over/under: 6 wins

Sam: Getting a full offseason is really going to benefit Mike Leach’s program. Leach seemed to identify his building blocks late in 2020 (especially QB Will Rogers, and getting those guys as many reps as possible in his offense should pay dividends moving forward. The Bulldogs are going to be pesky, and I won’t be surprised at all when they pull off a surprising upset in SEC play. I think they can beat a team like Memphis in the non-con, too. On the whole, though, I think this is more of a 5-7 team than a 7-5 team.

UNDER 6 wins

Projected division finish: 7th

Nick: The Bulldogs lost five consecutive games after winning in Week 1 and then lost three consecutive games after winning their second game of the season. It was not a great first season for Mike Leach. The offense has nearly every key contributor back and WR Jaden Walley was quietly one of the most productive receivers in the SEC. Throw in a defense that brings back a ton of its leading tacklers and there’s a lot of room for improvement here. But will that improvement be reflected in Mississippi State’s record? I’m not so sure.

UNDER 6 wins

Projected division finish: 6th

Ole Miss

SEC West odds: +1600

Over/under: 7.5 wins

Sam: Ole Miss is the SEC chaos team. With Lane Kiffin running the offense, the Rebels are going to put up points in bunches. Matt Corral, when he avoids INTs, is one of the best QBs in the SEC and he has Jerrion Ealy and a slew of playmaking WRs out there with him. But can Ole Miss stop anybody? That defense was brutal last year, but got a lot of experience at least. With nine starters back, they have to take some sort of step forward, right? Kiffin’s team will be favored in all four non-conference games and drew Vandy and Tennessee from the East. I think there are definitely eight wins on this schedule.

OVER 7.5 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

Nick: Ole Miss fans may disagree, but the biggest win of 2021 came when Lane Kiffin announced that his program had a 100% COVID-19 vaccination rate. Replacing Elijah Moore and Kenny Yeboah on offense won’t be easy, but Kiffin will find playmakers. As long as Matt Corral avoids the multi-interception games that plagued him in 2020 and the defense takes at least a small step forward, I like the over here. Drawing Tennessee and Vanderbilt out of the East is a nice gift.

OVER 7.5 wins

Projected division finish: 4th

Texas A&M

SEC West odds: +600

Over/under: 9.5 wins

Sam: There’s so much to like about this team. The defense is loaded, the RB room is special and the tight end group has a ton of potential. The Aggies have the personnel to play like they did last year and beat almost everybody on their schedule, but it really feels like they need to get more aggressive on offense to really compete for a national title. Their games with Alabama haven’t been competitive and until Jimbo Fisher makes some adjustments, I will remain skeptical of this program’s ceiling. I don’t think A&M can beat Alabama this year, especially with an inexperienced QB. And even if A&M splits road games against Ole Miss and LSU — by far the two other most difficult games — you can get to over 9.5.

OVER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

Nick: Haynes King or Zach Calzada is the biggest question mark facing the Aggies’ offense, but pay close attention to how A&M has rebuilt the offensive line this offseason. The Aggies need to replace four starters up front. Jimbo Fisher has recruited well along the line, so there’s talent there. But if there are any growing pains, they need to be fixed in the first few games. Alabama visits College Station on Oct. 9. The A&M defense has gotten better in every year of Fisher’s tenure, and with nine starters back in 2021, it should be very good again.

OVER 9.5 wins

Projected division finish: 2nd

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 02: Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs with the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first half of the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on January 02, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Isaiah Spiller leads a loaded Texas A&M backfield into the 2021 season. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

SEC championship odds

  • Alabama: -165

  • Georgia: +200

  • Texas A&M: +1200

  • Florida: +2000

  • LSU: +2500

  • Ole Miss: +3500

  • Missouri: +4000

  • Auburn: +5000

  • Kentucky: +6600

  • Tennessee: +10000

  • Mississippi State: +10000

  • South Carolina: +15000

  • Arkansas: +25000

  • Vanderbilt: +50000

Sam Cooper's SEC title pick: Alabama

Nick Bromberg's SEC title pick: Alabama

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