Sam released our first SEC power poll a few days back, and, probably unsurprisingly, Alabama was slotted in the #1 spot. We go a little bit deeper today: who are the players to keep an eye on? Who is a sleeper that perhaps many people aren’t keeping a close watch on? And most importantly, who’s going to win the league? Sit back, relax, and enjoy our SEC predictions.
Who’s the top player in the SEC?
Sydney: Chad Kelly. Ole Miss will go as far as the senior takes them. I’d say that he’s among the best quarterbacks in the country when it comes to overall skillset and his ability to carry his team. He also benefited from a great offensive line last year (only getting sacked 18 times all season), but with four of their five starters having graduated up front, that will be something to keep an eye on. Kelly won’t have guys like Laquon Treadwell to throw to this year, but with a strong core of receivers returning for Ole Miss, he’ll be OK.
Sam: I have to agree that Chad Kelly is the best player in the conference, and I don’t think it’s really all that close. Without Laquon Treadwell to throw to, and a defense that is looking to fill some big holes due to the NFL Draft, Ole Miss is basically riding on Chad Kelly’s performance this year.
Who’s the most underrated player?
Sydney: One name that jumped out at me when looking through possible ideas for this was Javon Patterson at Ole Miss. He’s not on the same level as a Cam Robinson, but without a guy like him helping shut teams down up front, Chad Kelly and that running game don’t get the opportunities that they have. That especially becomes important when you have a dual-threat like Kelly that can get it done with both his arms and legs. Patterson may not get a ton of press, but he’s certainly one of the best OLs in this conference.
Sam: I don’t know if he’s the most underrated, but perhaps the most under appreciated player in the SEC is Derrius Guice out of LSU. An All-SEC freshman performer last season, Derrius provided important carries off the bench so Leonard Fournette could rest on the sideline and have fresh legs in the fourth quarter during physical games. Look for Derrius to have a solid sophomore campaign and, while he won’t get the attention Fournette gets, he will be setting himself up to take center stage during the 2017 season.
Who will win the SEC?
Sydney: Alabama. It might be a little lazy to just pencil the Crimson Tide in to win the SEC once again, but I think they’re more talented, experienced and skilled from top to bottom. Sure, they’ll have a few questions that need to be answered (quarterback? wide receiver? linebacker?), but as I noted in my team preview a few days ago, they’ve found a way more often than not to get things figured out in recent years. Nick and the boys in Tuscaloosa will be holding that trophy in Atlanta once again.
Sam: I’d rather be lazy and correct than make the sexy pick and be way off. Alabama is going to win the conference this year. They might drop one early and be declared dead (again)...but they’ll rally behind Nick Saban and roll through whatever hapless East division opponent meets them in Alabama.
Who’s a dark horse to keep an eye on?
Sydney: Ole Miss. This ties in a little to how Chad Kelly does for them in 2016. But as far as the Rebels winning the SEC, I believe that the winner of the Ole Miss/Alabama game goes on to eventually win the conference. Sure, the LSUs of the world will be looking for their chance, but the Tigers (especially with Leonard Fournette) wouldn’t really qualify as a “dark horse”. For that matter, neither would the Rebels, but I feel that if they do end up taking the conference, I think that it will be a little bit more “surprising” (heavy quote marks around surprising).
Sam: I’m going to go a bit of a different route with this one. I think Georgia might be the darkhorse to win the SEC this year. Their defense will be stout and they’ll have an easier road to Atlanta than Ole Miss or LSU will. If Jacob Eason can blossom and Nick Chubb continues to be one of the best running backs in the country, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Bulldogs playing in Atlanta come December.