The biggest and best college football conference returns this Fall. Alabama are back-to-back national champions. Florida has had time to take stock of an impressive 2020 season. Georgia is expecting to take a leap forward in 2021. LSU are freed from the shackles of Bo Pelini. Coaches Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin continue to impress in Mississippi. Vanderbilt begins a new era under HC Clark Lea. No wonder Oklahoma and Texas want to join the fun! This is our 2021 SEC season preview. In the SEC, it just means more.
2021 SEC season preview: SEC West
2020 Record: 13-0
Bowl Game: Won National Championship Game v. Ohio State (52-24)
Our 2021 SEC season preview had to start in Tuscaloosa. What else is there to say about Nick Saban’s team? They return as back-to-back national champions. Once more, elite talent has left for the NFL. Fortunately, the next group on the Saban conveyor belt of excellence are ready to take the reigns. Bryce Young debuts at Quarterback. Keep a keen eye on receiver John Metchie III and DB Malachi Moore. The next class of outstanding talent is waiting to take college football by storm.
Prediction: Another National Championship for Saban and Co.
2020 Record: 9-1
Bowl Game: Won Orange Bowl v. UNC (41-27)
The Aggies enjoyed success with Kellen Mond under centre in 2020. Their season preparations have been rocked by the news that Texas now wishes to follow them to the SEC. Texas A&M can boast some recent successes in recruitment, surpassing the efforts of their in-state rivals The Longhorns. Expect The Aggies to enjoy another successful year at College Station. On offence, Running Back Isaiah Spiller and Tight End Jalen Wydermyer are first round draft picks in waiting. Texas A&M will be one of the key beneficiaries when the college football playoffs expand. For now, they’ll continue to give a bloody nose to their SEC rivals.
Prediction: A meaningful Bowl Game and top 8 CFP ranking
2020 Record: 6-5
Bowl Game: Won Citrus Bowl v. Northwestern (35-19)
It has been an off-season of change for The Tigers. Gus Malzahn is out, and has been replaced by new Head Coach Bryan Harsin. Harsin has left his post at Boise State in his home state of Idaho to take on an intriguing role at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He has never suffered a losing record as a Head Coach in his eight years at Arkansas State and Boise. Tigers fans will be hoping that he can boost a program that went stale in Malzahn’s final years at the helm. The man to watch in 2021 is Sophomore Running Back Tank Bigsby. He has at least two years left in college football. Auburn fans should enjoy his talent while they can.
Prediction: A bedding-in season for the new HC with an over .500 record
2020 Record: 5-5
Bowl Game: N/A (self-imposed ban)
The 2020 college football season was one to forget for LSU after the euphoria of the 2019 National Championship. Bo Pelini was one and done as Defensive Co-ordinator. He has been replaced by Daronte Jones. Jones has experience with three NFL franchises. That should be music to the ears of Derek Stingley Jnr and Eli Ricks. The two comprise the top CB tandem in all of college football. On offence, Sophomore receiver Kayshon Boutte should elevate his game further. He joins a growing list of LSU receivers that have wowed the nation with their electric playmaking.
Prediction: A post-Pelini bounce, but this isn’t a playoff team
2020 Record: 5-5
Bowl Game: Won Outback Bowl v. Indiana (26-20)
Lane Kiffin has put his stamp on this Ole Miss program. It is never boring watching The Rebels. Kiffin has quickly moulded this team into an exciting, shoot-out happy outfit. Quarterback Matt Corral is the perfect signal caller for this tactical approach. Corral has 5 TD games in his repertoire, but is equally susceptible to multiple interceptions. Speedster Elijah Moore has left for the NFL. In his place, the star on offence should be Running Back Jerrion Ealy.
Prediction: A Lane Kiffin offence is always a fun watch, expect shootouts galore once more
2020 Record: 3-7
Bowl Game: N/A (Texas Bowl v. TCU cancelled due to Covid-19)
The Razorbacks haven’t enjoyed a winning record since 2016, when they went 7-6. Sam Pittman amassed three wins in his first year as Head Coach. In defeat, they were competitive. Putting it simply, it was a job well done by Pittman. Arkansas will benefit from the return of out of conference games in 2021 after a gruelling all-SEC schedule in 2020. The star of this team is undoubtedly Treylon Burks, who led the team with 820 receiving yards. The offence will be without Mike Woods, who has transferred to Oklahoma.
Prediction: An easier schedule this year should see Pittman build on last year’s groundwork
2020 Record: 4-7
Bowl Game: Won Armed Forces Bowl v. Tulsa (28-26)
Mike Leach and the Air Raid have arrived in Starkville. The team struggled to build on an impressive start to the season, a shock victory over LSU. The loss of Quarterback KJ Costello and talismanic Running Back Kylin Hill didn’t help matters. But this is a 2021 SEC season preview, not a 2020 review. Leach moves forward with Sophomore QB Will Rogers, who enters the year as the starter. However, a tough schedule awaits The Bulldogs. They face tough out of conference matchups with NC State and Memphis alongside fixtures against Alabama, LSU and A&M.
Prediction: A tough schedule will clip the wings of the Air Raid
2021 SEC season preview: SEC East
2020 Record: 8-4
Bowl Game: Lost Cotton Bowl v. Oklahoma (55-20)
The excitement of the 2020 season is in the rearview mirror. Losses to Alabama (SEC Championship Game) and Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl) ended the year on a damp squib. Unfortunately for fans of The Gators, this 2021 SEC season preview lacks the optimism of last season. Emory Jones steps in for Kyle Trask at Quarterback. Replacing Kyle Pitts is an impossible task. There are just three games that appear less-than sure things on the schedule (Alabama, Georgia and LSU). How The Gators perform in those three fixtures will define their season.
Prediction: A comfortable winning season, but the heights of 2020 will not be reached in 2021
2020 Record: 8-2
Bowl Game: Won Peach Bowl v. Cincinnati (24-21)
Excitement surrounds Kirby Smart and The Georgia Bulldogs going into 2021. Kirby Smart has a gifted Quarterback to compliment a fearsome rushing attack. The Georgia defence is mean, too. Derion Kendrick will hope to put his personal issues behind him after transferring from Clemson in the offseason. Jordan Davis is one of the country’s leading Defensive Tackles, and the defence is stout on the edges. If this defence can be a top 5 unit in college football, the offence could get Smart to the college football playoffs. If they don’t make it this time, Kirby’s seat will grow warmer.
Prediction: Georgia makes the College Football Playoffs
2020 Record: 5-5
Bowl Game: N/A (Music City Bowl v. Iowa cancelled due to Covid-19)
Missouri is coming off back-to-back .500 seasons. On the surface, it was an unremarkable start for Eli Drinkwitz in his first year as Head Coach in Columbia. However, finishing 5-5 with an all-SEC schedule is to be admired, particularly the shock win over LSU. A favourable schedule this time out should result in a winning record for The Tigers. Connor Bazelak will get the opportunity to enjoy a full season under centre after beating Shawn Robinson to the job in 2020.
Prediction: Another also-ran year for Mizzou
2020 Record: 5-6
Bowl Game: Won Gator Bowl v. NC State (23-21)
A Bowl Game win over a competitive NC State side was a promising end to the year for The Wildcats. The 2020 season returned a losing record for the first time in five years. The all-SEC opposition can claim responsibility for that. This year’s schedule appears just as tough as the last one. Each fixture appears competitive, with the cupcake game against Chattanooga aside. Last year’s win in Knoxville against Tennessee was the program’s first ever road win over a ranked team. It was their first win on Vols’ turf in 18 attempts. They should best their rivals again in 2021, this time on home soil.
Prediction: expect a competitive program in Mark Stoops’ ninth season as HC, with a rivalry win over Tennessee to boot
2020 Record: 3-7
Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from the Music City Bowl due to Covid-19)
It all went wrong for The Volunteers last year. Jeremy Pruitt leaves under a cloud after allegations of improper recruitment practices emerged. This year is all about rebuilding the reputation of a program at a low ebb. On the plus side, there are six winnable matchups on their 2021 schedule. Whether they’ll win all six is down to new Head Coach Josh Heupel, who joins from UCF. Jarrett Guarantano has transferred out. The vacated Quarterback spot will be up for grabs. Joe Milton (Michigan) and Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech) have transferred to Knoxville in the hope of a starting role. They will have to beat out Sophomore Harrison Bailey. The former 5 star recruit is the current favourite to lead the offence in 2021.
Prediction: 2021 will be a rebuilding year on and off the field for Heupel and The Vols
2020 Record: 2-8
Bowl Game: N/A (Gasparilla Bowl v. UAB cancelled due to Covid-19)
Will Muschamp is out after five years as Head Coach at Williams-Brice Stadium. Back to back losing records had The Gamecocks looking for a fresh face to lead the program. It comes in the form of former assistant coach at Oklahoma, Shane Beamer. Beamer served on the coaching staff 2007-10, and returns with pride to Columbia. His experience under Kirby Smart and Lincoln Riley should serve him well in his first Head Coach role. They will doubtlessly face an easier schedule this time out. The Gamecocks will be expected to comfortably beat Eastern Illinois, East Carolina and Troy in out-of-conference matchups.
Prediction: More wins are in store this year with Coach Beamer at the helm
2020 Record: 0-9
Bowl Game: N/A (no invite received)
Vanderbilt was the only SEC program to not receive a Bowl Game invite in 2020. Derek Mason lost his job as Head Coach after seven years at the helm. Vanderbilt is no stranger to a losing record, but a winless season was the final straw. Clark Lea will hope to instill some optimism for the future. Recruitment seems to have started well for Lea. London-born Defensive End Darren Agu has committed to The Commodores after his decommitment from Notre Dame. Vandy continue to be the whipping boys of the SEC, and there are some tough out-of-conference matchups in store. Colorado State, Stanford and UConn will all hope to add a win to their tallies against Vandy.
Prediction: It’s a long season ahead for Vandy after the Week 1 matchup against East Tennessee State
That concludes our 2021 SEC season preview. It promises to be another thrilling year in the most entertaining conference in college football. It is no wonder that Oklahoma and Texas are planning to join the fun as soon as they can. The SEC: it just means more.
Check out our 2020 SEC season reviews for the SEC East and West if you haven’t already. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @5yardcollege. Ask about our Discord channel and join in the fun for the season ahead.