Welcome to our 2016 preseason edition of the SEC Power Rankings.
Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina on Thursday night, bringing us our first taste of SEC football this year. A number of SEC teams will be tested over the weekend with Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss all facing ranked opponents in their openers — plus LSU heads to Green Bay to take on a quality Wisconsin team.
What that means is we’ll learn an awful lot about the top of the SEC in the first week. Until then, we can only go off of projections and what we know about the teams based off of last season and what they’ve done in the offseason.
Here’s our preseason SEC Power Rankings, knowing full well that there will be shakeups to come next week once we’ve seen each team in action.
|1||Alabama||To be the champ, you got to beat the champ. Until someone knocks the Tide off the top spot, they’re staying here. The defense is going to be filthy again. Will the offense be able to pick up where it left off in the title game with a new quarterback and running back? The opener against No. 20 USC could provide an answer.||—|
|2||LSU||LSU should be really good and have the benefit of getting Ole Miss and Alabama at home this year. If the defense comes along and Brandon Harris can give them balance to Leonard Fournette, this team has the chance to be special.||—|
|3||Tennessee||I’m a believer in the Vols. There’s just too much talent on this roster for them not to win the SEC East, right? Right? We’ll see if they’re willing to trust Joshua Dobbs and the offense late in games this year to go out and win.||—|
|4||Ole Miss||The Rebels lost three first-round draft picks, but Chad Kelly is back. I’m a bit skeptical of the Rebels, but a win over Florida State — or even a quality showing in a close loss — can make me a believer in their chances to be title contenders in 2016.||—|
|5||Georgia||This is where things get funky. From 5-10 there are a lot of teams that have potential for sleeper contender status but also could struggle. Georgia has Nick Chubb back. The defense has players and will be well coached under Kirby Smart. Quarterback could be an issue, but we’ll learn quickly if they are contenders or pretenders when the Dawgs face No. 22 North Carolina in the Georgia Dome.||—|
|6||Texas A&M||I can’t help myself with Texas A&M. I’m blinded by the talent, but this season they can’t fake it early in the season as they welcome No. 16 UCLA to College Station, Texas, in the opener. If nothing else we’re going to get some really fun moments out of Christian Kirk and Myles Garrett this season.||—|
|7||Arkansas||Arkansas’ offense lost an awful lot, and we’re going to find out how well Bret Bielema has developed the depth of that offense. We know they’re gonna be physical, but can the Razorbacks be dynamic enough on offense to compete in the SEC West?||—|
|8||Florida||Am I disrespecting the reigning SEC East champs? I’m not sure, maybe I am, but we won’t learn much from their opener against UMass (where the Gators are 35-point favorites). The defense has some serious players, but Jim McElwain has his work cut out for him with the offense.||—|
|9||Auburn||Auburn will run the ball. I’m not sure who will do that as they lost their top three running backs from last year, but someone’s going to tote the rock for Gus Malzahn. For the first time I feel more comfortable with the Tigers defense than the offense in the Gus era. They have the unenviable task of hosting Clemson on Saturday night. A stunning upset or strong showing in a close game can vault the Tigers up a few spots.||—|
|10||Vanderbilt||Watch out for Vandy this year. Zach Cunningham is a monster in the middle of a very strong defense. They’re not going to be an easy out because of that defense, and the Commodores could play spoiler for some teams if they can get anything out of the offense — Ralph Webb is good!||—|
|11||Mississippi State||Dak Prescott is going to be a starting quarterback in 2016. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, he’s starting for the Dallas Cowboys and not in Starkville, Mississippi, for another season. I fear a slide is coming for our cowbell-ringing friends.||—|
|12||Missouri||Missouri’s defense is legit. The offense is, well, downright offensive to watch. The Tigers played three games last year where neither team scored more than 10 points. They are beautiful in their own special way.||—|
|13||Kentucky||Stanley “Boom” Williams is good. I don’t have much more for Kentucky. This is the team I simply find to be the least intriguing in the SEC.||—|
|14||South Carolina||What’s going to be the impact of Will Muschamp? This team was a disaster in 2015, but maybe he can give this defense an identity and there will be some improvement. Nothing about Muschamp’s tenure at Florida has me expecting a quick offensive turnaround, though. It could be another long season in Columbia.||—|
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / SEC Power Rankings: Ole Miss, East favorites get some preseason love