Alabama is the defending SEC champions and has won three of the past five conference title games so any contender has to go through Tuscaloosa. Here I rank the top-three teams to do that this coming season and their 5Dimes odds to win the SEC.
I should preface this story by saying that if former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is able to transfer to an SEC school, it would affect things. It's still not clear of Golson will receive the necessary waiver to do so because of his academic problems at Notre Dame that cost him the 2013 season. The SEC also restricts players from transferring to an SEC school with less than two years eligibility unless their previous school discontinued their sport or without a hardship circumstance.
Golson has Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina among his list. There's also the possibility of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller transferring to an SEC school -- he has been linked with Alabama and LSU to name two. Having a returning quarterback should be a big deal in the SEC this season. Six of the conference's starting quarterbacks last year finished with a passer rating that was in the Top 50 in the FBS. They were: Alabama's Blake Sims, Georgia's Huston Mason, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, Auburn's Nick Marshall, Mississippi's Bo Wallace and South Carolina's Dylan Thompson. Only Prescott returns but you won't find the Bulldogs on this list because they have just nine starters back overall.
Losing Marshall certainly hurts, but the Tigers might have guy who could be better: Jeremy Johnson. In no surprise, he was named the team's starter for the coming season at the end of spring camp. Johnson took every snap with Auburn's first-team offensive unit during the spring game, completing 14-for-22 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns, including four completions of 25 yards or more. Auburn emphasized deep throws this spring. In two seasons as Marshall's backup, Johnson made two starts and saw time in 13 games. Auburn also welcomes former Florida coach Will Muschamp as the team's defensive coordinator, and he's one of the best in the nation on that side of the ball. Auburn brings back only 12 starters overall but eight on defense. The Tigers' schedule features tough road games at LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M. On the bright side, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama all visit The Plains, but Auburn also has to face the top team in the East, Georgia, which visits Nov. 14.
The Dawgs have the advantage of playing in the much weaker SEC East Division, and they should win that without too much trouble. If Golson can get cleared, this is where he should go because he would likely beat out Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Jacob Park, the three guys battling into fall camp for the starting QB job. Georgia brings just 11 starters back but one of them is the SEC's best running back in Nick Chubb. Hey helped Dawgs fans get over the injury/suspension problems of Todd Gurley last season by rushing 219 times for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman. Chubb is +1200 on the college football odds to win the Heisman Trophy. Georgia gets South Carolina, Alabama and Missouri at home and Florida as usual in Jacksonville. The two tough road tests in conference will be Tennessee (the second-best team in the East in my opinion) and Auburn. Even with two SEC losses, the Dawgs should win the East as long as the take care of foes inside that division.
Missouri was a surprise entrant in the SEC title game the previous two seasons and the Hogs could be the dark-horse team this season. They were just 3-9 overall and winless in the SEC in 2013, Coach Bret Bielema's first season. Last year, the Razorbacks improved to 7-6 overall, crushing Texas in the Texas Bowl, and 2-6 in the SEC. That latter record is misleading because Arkansas had close losses to Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State and Missouri and could have won them all. The Razorbacks dominated LSU and Ole Miss. They also have perhaps the nation's best backfield returning in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. QB Brandon Allen also is back. Those who place college football picks know that the schedule is obviously a beast residing in the SEC West. The Hogs have to visit Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU as well as Tennessee from the East Division.
College Football Pick: As things stand, Auburn beats Georgia in the SEC title game.