For this team preview I’m starting with the defense. This unit deserves it. They’re an old school
SEC defense if I’ve ever seen one. Let’s talk about Richard LeCounte. This kid is as good as it
gets. The senior chose to forego the NFL draft last year. When you watch the team play,
LeCounte is in on every play, and he’s quite the run stuffer for a safety. It’s actually mind
boggling how much this guy ends up around the football. Blink and you’ll miss him. Any team
that doesn’t draft this kid is going to be hurting. Overall, the defense returns eight starters. Last
year the Bulldogs only allowed seventy two rushing yards per game. That’s 2.6 yards per carry!
They return three out of four linebackers. They lost their second leading tackler Tae Crowder,
who I thought was a leader for the Dogs defense. However, Georgia's linebacker room is so
stacked, somehow I don’t think they’ll miss him. Nakobe Dean was the number one linebacker
coming out of high school. Monty Rice led the team with eighty nine tackles last year, and is
returning for his senior season. Jermaine Johnson is six foot five and 240lbs; he and Azeez
Ojulari are experienced edge rushers. The defensive line is led by nose tackle Jordan Davis. He’s
six foot six and 320lbs. Coaches are going to be scared of this team on film. I think we’re going
to see some 24-17, 14-0, 21-13 games from the Dogs this season. They can go toe to toe with
Before I get into the offense I wanted to mention that Kirby Smart let Justin Fields walk, because
he was comfortable with Jake Fromm, the NCAA version of Case Keenum, leading his offense.
This is result-based criticism, but I never really saw the talent that everyone else did in Jake
Fromm. Likewise, I was a huge Justin Fields fan when he was coming out of high school. Nick
Saban benched Jalen Hurts for Tua, and Dabo Swinney benched Kelly Bryant for Trevor
The Georgia offensive line returns only one starter. They also bring in Ole Miss head coach Matt
Luke. The offensive line was affected by injuries last year. Losing Andrew Thomas hurts, but
their offensive line has been playing without a lot of continuity (same five guys starting in games
consistently) over the last couple seasons. I don’t think we’ll see too much of a decline. They
lose D'Andre Swift, which I think hurts them the most on offense. Georgia won some ugly
games last year where Swift was the only one really producing and scoring on offense. Georgia
has been able to reload especially well at this position. Zamir White will presumably receive the
bulk of carries for this team. He’s a big back at six foot 215lbs. They return their leading receiver
and one of the best in the country in George Pickens. JT Daniels will most likely be the starting
quarterback. He was a very highly touted prospect coming out of football powerhouse Mater Dei.
He struggled his freshman year at USC and missed almost all of his sophomore season with a
Really tough beginning of the schedule for UGA. They play Auburn, Tennessee, at Alabama, at
Kentucky, bye week, then Florida in Jacksonville. Assuming they win their last four and their
first game against Arkansas, Georgia will have to win four out of those five games. It’s a really
tough call for me, but I lean towards the over.
Florida went 11-2 last season with their only losses to LSU and Georgia.
Kyle Trask played well last season after replacing Felipe Franks. Trask had his first start in high
school or college last season. I think Trask is a top three quarterback in the SEC. Emory Jones
adds a nice wrinkle to the offense as a dual threat QB. They lose Van Jefferson but return TE
Kyle Pitts who led the team in receptions. Pitts will most likely be a first round pick, and might
be the best tight end in the country. The Gators offensive line was not great last season -- only
118 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents. They return three starters along the
offensive line and add Miss St grad transfer Stewart Reese. They have the talent to reload, so this
should be an improved unit. I like Dameon Pierce who had 54 carries for 320 yards (5.6ypc) last
year and Lorenzo Lingard who transferred from Miami. The offense overall should be improved
from last season.
The defense returns nine starters, but loses lead tackler David Reese and defensive back CJ
Henderson, who was a first round selection. Ventrell Miller returns at LB as the second leading
tackler, (Reese was first by a landslide). They also gain UGA transfer Brenton Cox. The
defensive line loses three starters, but the backups have in game experience. They shouldn’t drop
off too much. Secondary should improve. Both safeties are seniors (Brad Stewart and Shawn
Davis). Marco Wilson started all 13 games at corner last season.
I think Florida goes over 7.5 wins. Their schedule isn’t that tough compared to other SEC teams.
I think Florida could honestly go 9-1. But here’s the catch: I think Georgia beats them, and
therefore wins the East. I really like Florida, and I am ready to see them in the national
championship conversation again. I just don’t think they beat Georgia. That defense is just too
good. I think Daniels will be plenty settled in by then too.
Kentucky faced the 68th toughest schedule in the country last season and went 3-5 in conference
play. They beat: Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee Martin,
Louisville, and Virginia Tech.
Terry Wilson will take over at QB. It will most likely still be a run-based offense, but a little
more balanced. They have a great offensive line with NFL talent, and a combined eighty-four
starts. This team is deep at running back, and will most likely go with a committee approach.
On defense they return five out of their six leading tacklers.
I think Kentucky has four wins right off the bat. They’ll need to beat Tennessee and South
Carolina to get to six though. For -145 odds I don’t see the value. I’ll pass.
This was really a tale of two halves for the Volunteers last season. They started off 2-5. They lost
their first two games to non-conference opponents. They lost to Georgia State as twenty-six point
favorites and BYU as three point favorites.
Last year Tennessee had three quarterbacks play throughout the season. Big loss in Juan
Jennings. Four out of five offensive lineman return, including Trey Smith who was the number
one player in the nation coming out of high school. Jarrett Gurantano will be the starting
quarterback. I think he will be improved, but I still don’t love him. This team will most likely
pound the football. I really love the offensive line, and running backs Eric Gray and Ty
Chandler. They will need the receivers to step up though; they are all upperclassmen.
Tennessee returns its entire defensive line as well as Henry To’o To’o. This team is also
extremely deep in the secondary.
I like the over for this team.
South Carolina-o/u3.5 (-130o/+100u)
The Gamecocks went 4-8 last season in Will Muschamp’s fourth year at South Carolina. South
Carolina faced one of the toughest schedules in the country last year, and also suffered a myriad
of injuries. They were 3-3 after upsetting Georgia as twenty-one point road dogs. After that, they
lost a hard fought battle at home against the Gators. Next, they lost another competitive game at
Tennessee. I don’t want to say that this team gave up, but there’s no doubt that this brutal SEC
schedule started to grind them down. They were 3-5 after the Tennessee game, and had Texas
A&M and Clemson still on the schedule. I don’t know what the feeling was in the locker room,
but I imagine the idea of making a bowl game seemed like a lofty goal.
Colin Hill is the projected starter on offense. South Carolina loses their center but returns the
other four starters along the offensive line. They also return Hank Manos and Dylan Wonnum
from injury. Should be an improved unit. They lose their number one receiver Bryan Edwards
and their tight end Kyle Markway. Seventy-one receptions for Edwards and thirty-one for
Markway. Markway was also an excellent blocking tight end. They return their number two and
four reception leaders. Nick Muse will look to fill the tight end role. Mike Bobo is the new
offensive coordinator. I think the offense will improve their numbers this year.
Defense loses Kinlaw but returns six starters.
The Missouri Tigers decided to part ways with head coach Barry Odom after four seasons with a
combined record of 25-25. I had no problem with the move honestly. Odom was 7-13 on the
road and 3-7 ATS as an away favorite. This is an indication of bad coaching in my opinion. Last
season, Mizzou lost straight up as seventeen point favorites at Wyoming, twenty-one point
favorites at Vanderbilt, and ten point favorites at Kentucky. Mizzou was ranked in the top
twenty-five for the first time since 2015 headed into the Vanderbilt game. Odom made it to two
bowl games in his four years, where Missouri lost to Texas 33-16 in a game where they were
favored by a field goal then lost to Oklahoma State 38-33 as eight point favorites.
During Missouri’s first half of the schedule, (Wyoming, WVU, SEMO, SC, Troy, Ole Miss) they
averaged 38.8 ppg and 474 ypg. When competition stiffened in the second half, (Vandy, KY,
UGA, UF, TN, ARK) they fell to 11.8 ppg and 274 ypg. First year head coach Eli Drinkwitz,
who only held three spring practices, faces a daunting schedule as Missouri drew Alabama and
LSU out of the West. Mizzou will play Alabama followed by at Tenn and at LSU. Missouri will
be 0-3 and desperate for a win when they host Vanderbilt on a Saturday night. After that, they
play UF, KY, UGA, SC, AR, and Mississippi State.
On offense, the QB shouldn’t drop off much. They’ve got thunder and lightning at RB. WRs lose
Albert O but the group wasn’t very productive last season so there’s potential to improve. The
O-line is my biggest concern, with only 58 career starts between the group.
The Tigers’ defense has at least one playmaker at every level.
I think Missouri will need three wins between Vandy, SC, Arkansas, and Miss St if they’re
gonna go over. I don’t like them against SC but I think they’ll be favored against Vanderbilt and
Arkansas. It may come down to the Miss St game in December, between two new coaches who
have gotten settled in with their programs. Could be a good one.
Since taking over in 2014, Dereck Mason has a conference record of ten and thirty-eight, and an
overall record of twenty-seven and forty-seven. His record against the spread is 35-39. Besides
James Franklin’s two nine win seasons, Vanderbilt is historically a fairly average to below
average team. The talent gap is extremely wide between Vanderbilt and the top SEC teams. I like
Derek Mason as a coach, and I think the players like him too. I also think coaches jobs are more
secure for the time being due to the coronavirus. Dereck Mason was on the hot seat after a loss at
home against UNLV, a game in which Vanderbilt was favored by fifteen at home. However, the
Commodores rallied around their coach the next week and took down Missouri as twenty-one
point underdogs. The defense turned a huge corner that week. During the first six games of the
season, the Vandy defense allowed 36.8 ppg. The next six games, they allowed 26.7 points per
game. They return all eleven starters for the 2020 season. The defense should continue to make
strides. They return Dimitri Moore, inside linebacker who had 99 tackles last season. Along the
defensive line they add Oklahoma transfer Derek Green and Florida transfer Malik Langham.
Vanderbilt loses Ke’Shawn Vaugh on offense. He had 198 carries last season. Keyon Brooks
was next with only fifty-six; he returns. They also return redshirt senior Jamauri Wakefield, who
suffered a season-ending injury in the home opener against Georgia last season. The
Commodores used four different quarterbacks, who all struggled, last year. They return their
number two and four receivers. They lose their LT, LG, and C, but they still have a good amount
of returning production. Consistent QB play will be the most important factor for Vanderbilt this
year. JUCO transfer Jeremy Moussa Jr. is the projected starter. Moussa threw for 353 ypg and 37
touchdowns in 2019 in JUCO.
I don’t see this team winning more than one game. I think the only two possible wins are at
Missouri or against Ole Miss. Other than that I just don’t see it. I like the trajectory of this team,
but looking at the SEC schedule I just can’t go over. Gotta go under. Just too tough of games.
You can follow Nick on Twitter @NickHebenstreit