SEC Football Stock Risers and Fallers in 2020
The LSU Tigers won the SEC West and conference championship on their way to an undefeated season and a national championship in 2020. The title was the conferences sixth of the decade and seventh in the last eleven seasons.
There is little to argue that the SEC is the best conference in college football as of those six titles in the last decade, three schools combined to win them, with Alabama garnering four while Auburn and LSU each notched one.
As dominant as the SEC is on top, the bottom has been almost as bad as the top has been excellent. Those teams in the basement are desperately attempting to change their fortunes and move up.
Which teams will rise and which teams might fall can be debated, so here is our opinion to start the debate.
Candidates: South Carolina, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State,* and Missouri.*
NOTE: Teams with asterisks finished at .500 last season with MSU finishing 6-7 after a bowl loss.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Will Muschamp's Gamecocks finished the 2019 campaign 4-8 overall, winning three conference games, two of which were victories over Vanderbilt and Missouri to keep them out of the SEC East basement.
Having a returning starter at quarterback in Ryan Hilinski with a year of experience under his belt should work in their favor. However, there were significant losses on the offensive side. On defense, there are some talented players with which to build upon this season.
Muschamp could well be coaching for his life this season, and that possibility would not be lost on his team.
The schedule sets up nicely with three very winnable home games versus Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, and Missouri before a pivotal first road game at Kentucky. The Gamecocks should be undefeated heading into Lexington, where a win would tie them with last seasons win total in just four games.
A tough trip to Florida followed by a home game versus Tennessee will be challenging and should give the Gamecocks their first loss of the season, and possibly two. The remainder of the schedule is brutal, with Texas A&M and Georgia at home and road trips to LSU and Clemson as well.
Throw in a road trip to Vanderbilt and a home visit from Wofford between Texas A&M and Clemson and the Gamecocks could find themselves winning six games this season and getting to a bowl.
It's not a giant leap, but it's an improvement.
Honorable Mention: Arkansas
New coach Sam Pittman has nowhere to go but up with the Razorbacks after a 2-10, 0-8 conference record last season, but a leap to a bowl game seems improbable.
LSU: It's not hard to see how LSU will be the biggest faller this season; after all, it seems all but impossible to repeat an undefeated, dominant national championship season and to have the Heisman winner all at the same time.
LSU will be the biggest faller while remaining one of the top five teams in the conference. Their biggest challenge, breaking in a new starting quarterback in Mile Brennan, who saw little action last season behind Heisman winner Joe Burrow.
Then there is the loss of running back Clyde, Edwards-Helaire, tight end Thaddius Moss, along with some offensive linemen and a ton of defenders.
How much do the Tigers lose? Try 58 percent of their offensive production last season, which even if those players were returning, it would still be hard to repeat last season.
The talent is in place to keep Ed Orgeron and his Tigers in the hunt in the SEC West, but they must get past Alabama and then either Georgia or Florida in the championship game. It will be all but impossible for the Tigers to go undefeated this time around and nothing short of a miracle if they win the conference title.
Honorable Mention: Alabama
The Tide is still loaded, and their defense should be improved over last season, but they will be starting a new quarterback this season.
Yes, Mac Jones played outstandingly well in replacing Tua Tagovialoa late last season- save the two interceptions he threw against Auburn- and he led the Tide to a bowl win over Michigan. However, there is no guarantee that Jones will be the starter in 2020 because of the nation's top high school quarterback, Bryce Young. The talented Young signed with Bama and could win the job in camp, meaning an inexperienced, yet extremely talented young player leading the team.
Like LSU, should Bama struggle, they will still win ten games and be in the hunt at the end. There's just too much talent on hand even if quarterback play is lacking to fall too much.
In the end, the top programs will remain, contenders, while the remainder continues to chase them.