1. Georgia Bulldogs– They enter the year as the favorites to win this division in 2015. The quarterback position is still a very big question mark so this offense will be built around a young man who I’m extremely high on and that’s running back Nick Chubb. He’s shown that he’s more than capable of being the go to guy after backing up Todd Gurley last season when he tore his ACL. Four offensive linemen from last season also return which will give this offense some structure up front. Their defense improved greatly last season but there is still much work to do. Outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins elected to come back for one more season. Now, it’s time to see if Georgia can balance it all out as a complete football team.
2. Tennessee Volunteers– They are slowly improving as a program under Butch Jones. They’ve gone from 5-7 in 2013 to 7-6 in 2014 including a win in a bowl game so they can only go up from here. Another positive is they have 17 starters from last season returning so they are poised to get even better and win more games in 2015. Remember the defensive line that dominated Iowa in their bowl game victory? Believe it or not, they got better. Derek Barnett and Curt Maggit are both back for another season. Last year, they combined for 21 sacks so bringing these two back is a huge asset. The secondary led by Cameron Sutton should be one of the best in the SEC. This could be a good year to be a Volunteers fan.
3. Florida Gators– After years of speculation, Florida finally fired Will Muschamp. They replaced him with an offensive minded head coach from the Mountain West. Can Florida bounce back with Jim McElwain roaming the sidelines? The offense, which wasn’t Muschamp’s specialty as a coach should be improved under McElwain. The big question as expected is who will be starting come week one? Will Grier or Treon Harris? Another cause of concern for me is their offensive line. Without a dominant group up front, Florida will struggle to run the football. The defense should be fine in 2015. They have finished in the nation’s top ten in total defense over the last four seasons. Replacing Dante Fowler won’t be an easy task. Florida also has one of the best all around secondaries in the country.
4. Missouri Tigers– You can doubt them all you want too but when you do, remember that they’ve played in two straight SEC Championship games. I thought I’d remind you all. They’ve become one of the biggest success stories after switching conferences. A major factor to that success has been producing two defensive players of the year in the SEC and they’ve won 23 games total in the last two seasons. With the defense looking to improve its core after losing Shane Ray, quarterback Maty Mauk will be expected to raise his game significantly in 2015. The receiving core is very inexperienced. This could be a tough year for Gary Pinkel and the Tigers.
5. South Carolina GameCocks– I can never figure Steve Spurrier’s team out. They’ve been so “consistently inconsistent”. Replacing Dylan Thompson won’t be an easy task. Connor Mitch will more than likely be under center come week one for South Carolina. Up front, they must replace tackle A.J. Cann. The biggest issue for South Carolina last season was their defense which was absolutely terrible. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The lack of tackling, they put no pressure on the quarterback, they gave up many big plays down the field and committed stupid penalties. They were ranked 92nd in the nation in total defense.
6. Kentucky Wildcats– I can sit here and say that they could be a team on the rise. In his second season, Mark Stoops made his team a more competitive one. They won two games in the SEC last year and if they can improve that record by just one game, they can compete in the conference. This defense will have to try its best to replace Bud Dupree. Melvin Lewis, a 6’4, 342 pound defensive linemen will anchor the front.
7. Vanderbilt Commodores– Derek Mason’s first year was a down one. They only won three games and didn’t win a single game in conference play. With a season under his belt and some changes made to his staff, Mason will hope for success in year two but let’s remember that this is the SEC. Nothing will come easy. They couldn’t get anything going on offense last year as they were one of the worst offenses in all of the nation last year. Derek Mason will run Vanderbilt’s defense in 2015.
Prediction: Georgia is my pick to win this division. I think this is the year that Richt’s team will make some noise and live up to the expectations that people give them each season. With Chubb running the ball, they won’t miss Gurley much. They lost a great running back only to replace him with another great back.