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SEC Conference Win Totals Projections
by ASA - 09/03/2015
Alabama – OVER 9.5 Wins
Bama has one of the toughest schedules in the nation and a retooled offense, however it’s tough to bet against Nick Saban getting to 10 wins so we won’t. As we stated, the Tide offense will probably be a work in progress early in the season with just 24% of their total yards returning (QB Sims, RB Yeldon, and WR Cooper all gone). Senior Jake Coker should step in and do well at QB as he has some experience and has done fairly well in his limited attempts (64% completions last year). He will be behind a reworked offensive line that has only 40 starts among the entire group. The defense, which allowed 18 PPG last season, will be very good again with 7 starters back. The schedule is tough, however their first true road game is not until October 3rd @ Georgia. They play only 4 true road games all season. They should be favored in every game with the exceptions of @ Georgia and @ Auburn where they could be a slight favorite or underdog. Bama has won 11 regular season games in 4 straight seasons and we’re not about to buck that trend this year. We could see them losing 2 regular season games which would still give them 10 wins. We don’t think they’ll lose 3. Take the OVER.
Arkansas – UNDER 8.5 Wins
We think this number is about a half too high. We project the Razors for an 8-4 record this year. Last year they finished 6-6 in the regular season and their total at the beginning of the season was set at 4.5. This one has jumped a full 4 games from last season’s projection. Don’t get us wrong, Arky should be a very solid team this year. They return an experienced QB, two of the better RB’s in the SEC and a very good offensive line. Their defense will probably take a step back from last year’s 19 PPG allowed effort as they lose much of their front 7. We expect them to win all of their non-conference games (UTEP, Toledo, Texas Tech, and UT Martin) and even with that, they’d still need to finish 5-3 in the SEC to get over this number. They were 2-6 in the SEC last year. With road games @ Bama, @ Tennessee, @ Ole Miss, and @ Auburn we see them falling just short of this posted total.
Auburn – UNDER 8.5 Wins
Last year’s Auburn team was loaded with offensive talent and they still won only 8 games. This year in nearly a complete rebuild on that side of the ball after losing QB Marshall (2,500 yard passing & 800 yards rushing) and their 3 leading rushers that combined for almost 3,000 yards on the ground. Their defense will be under the tutelage of a new DC (Muschamp) so we might be looking at a learning curve on that side of the ball. The Tigers as a whole lost 33 letterman which is the most in the SEC. After beating LSU 41-7 to move to a perfect 5-0 last year, they proceeded to lose 5 of their last 8 games. They were just 4-4 in SEC play and we look for a similar outcome this year. Their non-conference games are weak with the exception of their opener vs. Louisville in Atlanta. We expect them to win that game, however with an inexperienced offense, who knows. If they lose that game, there is no way they get to 9 wins. Even if they sweep the non-conference, they would still need to go 5-3 in the SEC and with road games @ LSU, @ Arkansas, and @ A&M and home games vs Bama, Georgia, Miss St and Ole Miss that will be very tough. Their only “gimmie” in league play will be @ Kentucky. We’ll call for another 8-4 campaign and lean UNDER here.
Florida – UNDER 7.5 Wins
The Gators always have talent but they did lose a bunch of experience with 31 lettermen moving on (2nd most in the SEC). They also have new systems on both sides of the ball with new head coach Jim McElwain coming over from Colorado State. We think he is a very solid coach, however our opinion is the 2016 or even 2017 season is when we’ll see a big jump in terms of wins. Two years ago the Gator offense was abysmal scoring only 18 PPG. It took a jump forward last year (30 PPG), however we don’t think it was as much improved as it might have appeared. They put up big numbers against the poor teams they played. In SEC play they averaged just 25 PPG on 338 total yards. Not great. The offensive line might be the least experienced in college football. Just one player on the offensive front has ever started a game. That’s it. The defense was 9th in the league in PPG allowed but they should be improved. A tough slate, inexperienced offense, new head coach, and only 3 SEC home games have us looking at the UNDER for the Gators.
Georgia – OVER 9 Wins
When combing over UGA’s schedule, they should be favored by at least a TD in 8 of their 12 games. Win those and we’re almost at this posted number of 9. Their other four games should be very close to a pick’em (vs Alabama, @ Tennessee, @ Auburn, and @ Georgia Tech). In other words, they should be heavily favored to win 8 of their games with the other 4 being toss ups. There is a 3 way battle at QB with Brice Ramsey being the front runner. Whoever comes out on top there should be in good shape behind one of the best OL’s in the nation. The running game will also take pressure off the new QB with Nick Chubb (1,600 yards last year) leading the way. The defense allowed just 291 YPG and they return a number of key players. UGA was +15 PPG & +83 YPG in SEC play. They were outgained by only South Carolina & Arkansas in league play. The Dawgs should start out fast with 4 fairly easy wins to begin the season. They close out the year with Georgia Southern and a revenge game vs Georgia Tech. Mark Richt has a 120-30 record during the regular season in his 15 years at Georgia. Nine wins was our projection but if you make us select, our opinion is it’s more likely they hit 10 than finish with 8.
Kentucky – UNDER 6 Wins
We realize the Cats are vastly improved under Mark Stoops but 6 wins is too high. Maybe if they were in a different conference they’d have a shot, but not the SEC. Their non-conference slate is no cakewalk either. The face Louisville, who has beaten them 4 straight years, and UL Lafayette who has the best record over the last 3 seasons in the Sun Belt and has been to 4 straight bowl games. Let’s say they sweep their non-conference slate, which we don’t think they will, even with that, the Cats would need to finish 3-5 in the SEC to get over this number. Let’s not forget this is a team that has won a grand total of 2 SEC games in the last 3 years. Kentucky’s offense should be pretty good with QB Towles coming back behind a solid offensive line. The defense started well last season against the cupcakes but gave up 40+ points in 5 of their last 6 games once they hit the tough part of the SEC schedule. Stoops has them moving in the right direction but it may not show record wise in the ultra tough SEC. We have the Wildcats tabbed as underdogs in 8 of their 12 games this year. We think UNDER 6 wins is the way to go.
LSU – OVER 8 Wins
We expect the Tigers to bounce back from a “down” 8-5 season a year ago. They were just 4-4 in the SEC which is their worst mark since 2008. If Les Miles can get even average play out of his QB (either Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris) this team will be very, very good. They are loaded with talent at the skill positions on offense and return 81% of their total yardage from last year. RB Fournette will be one of the best in the nation. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (at Bama last year as LB coach) takes over a unit that allowed just 17 PPG and has NFL talent all over the field. Steele has been a head coach (Baylor) and DC (Clemson) in the past so he brings great experience. The Tigers have a ridiculously easy non-conference schedule with Western Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, McNeese State, and Syracuse. They will be huge favorites in all of those games so we’ll pencil in a 4-0 mark. Can they better their 4-4 SEC run last year? We think so. This team has won 10+ games in 7 of their last 10 seasons. Miles has a 91-24 mark in the regular season and he has a lot to work with here. Only Mizzou lost fewer lettermen than LSU in the SEC. QB play is the key to a huge season for LSU. We’ll call for a 9-3 mark.
Ole Miss – OVER 8.5 Wins
The Rebs might have as much talent as anyone in the league. They return 58 lettermen which is the most in the SEC. If this team had a proven QB, they would be National Championship contenders. They began last season winning 7 straight before losing 10-7 @ LSU and then 35-31 vs Auburn. If they didn’t have a few key injury situations, including QB Wallace who played but was injured much of the season, this team would have had a chance to win the SEC. This year they return most of their offense including a great offensive line (all 5 starters back) that has 120 starts between them, 3rd most in the nation. The QB will most likely be Chad Kelly who led his team to the Junior College National Championship last season. If he can be productive, this Ole Miss team can be very good. Defensively they were top notch last year allowing only 16 PPG. They should be one of the better stop units in the country again this year. Their defensive line is one of the best in the SEC making them very strong on both lines of scrimmage. They are experienced as well with nearly half (10) of their projected starters being seniors. They should roll through an easy non-conference slate (Memphis, New Mexico St, UT Martin, & Fresno St) which would mean a 5-3 SEC record would get them to 9 wins. We think 10-2 is a strong possibility.
Mississippi State – UNDER 7 Wins
The Bulldogs had a breakout 10-3 season last year but we see a big drop off in 2015. There biggest plus going into this year is the return of QB Dak Prescott. He was one of the top QB’s in the nation last year but he also had a solid and experience supporting cast. This year, not so much. Especially up front where MSU will have one of the most inexperienced offensive lines in the SEC. They also lose their top RB and have only 4 starters back on that side of the ball. Defensively it’s worse. Only 3 starters return and the Dogs will be working under a new defensive coordinator as Manny Diaz comes over from Texas. While they have a rather easy non-conference slate, we have MSU tabbed as underdogs in 6 of their 8 SEC tilts. Their season ender vs Ole Miss we have near a pick-em right now but as the season progresses we would not be at all surprised if they are getting points in that one as well. If they are dogs in 7 of 8 league games, it will be very tough for this team to get to 7 wins. We’ll take the UNDER here.
Missouri – OVER 7.5 Wins
Talk about a team that flies under the radar in the SEC. Mizzou doesn’t get much respect for a team that is 23-5 over the last two years and loses only 17 lettermen. The offense struggled a bit last year but we expect them to be better in 2015. QB Mauk returns off a year where he did not live up to expectations however let’s not forget he played injured (shoulder) for much of the season. He will be setting up behind one of the top offensive lines in the SEC with 97 starts returning on that unit. The defense had a few clunkers last year but actually held 6 of their 8 SEC opponents to 21 points or less. The Tigers return 6 starters on that side of the ball. Overall 16 of their 22 projected starters are upperclassmen. We have them slated to be favored in a whopping 10 of their 12 games this season. They miss Bama, LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss out of the SEC West. Because they get most of their key opponents at home, we have them as underdogs @ Georgia and @ Arkansas and that’s it. This number is set too low in our opinion. Mizzou continues to be overlooked and we’ll take advantage by grabbing over 7.5 wins.
South Carolina – UNDER 7 Wins
The Gamecocks will be hard pressed to replace all of their offensive production from last year. They averaged 32 PPG & 443 YPG a year ago but lose nearly everyone on that side of the ball including their QB, top RB, and 4 of their top 5 pass catchers. They return only 31% of their total offensive production which ranks them 120th in that category (out of 128). They also bring back only 43 lettermen (only 62% returning) which ranks them in the bottom 15 in the nation in that category as well. They do return 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball, however we’re not sure that’s a huge positive for a team that allowed 30 PPG and 433 YPG a year ago. This stop unit allowed 34 points or more in 6 of their 8 SEC games. Another factor that has us playing the UNDER here is the Gamecocks non-conference slate. Unlike most of the SEC teams, it’s not easy. They play an improving North Carolina team, a UCF team that is 31-9 over the last 3 years, as well as a very good Clemson team. That’s on top of their SEC schedule which has them traveling to Mizzou, Georgia, A&M, and Tennessee. We have this team slated above only doormats Vandy & Kentucky in the SEC East. The UNDER is the spot here.
Tennessee – OVER 7.5 Wins
The Vols have gotten steadily better under head coach Butch Jones. In year one he was 2-6 in the SEC and last year he was 3-5. This year we think a +.500 mark in the league is very realistic which would put this team over this 7.5 win total. They return 18 starters which is more than anyone in the SEC. That includes QB Dobbs who turned the Vols season around when he was inserted as a started on October 25th vs Alabama. Once UT went to Dobbs, they went 4-2 down the stretch including a bowl victory over Iowa. He will operate behind an experienced offensive line with his two top RB’s returning and ALL of his receivers. This offense averaged 29 PPG last year and we expect that to go up in 2015. The defense was fairly solid (24 PPG allowed) and they bring back 7 of their top 9 tacklers. The only games we see them being definite underdogs would be @ Alabama and @ Mizzou. They a few pick-em type games vs Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas but three of those four are in Knoxville. We have a feeling Butch Jones keeps this program moving upward and they pick up at least 8 wins this season.
Texas A&M – OVER 7.5 Wins
The offense was definitely not the problem for the Aggies last year, it was the defense which gave up a whopping 451 YPG. Head coach Kevin Sumlin went out a got one of the best DC’s in the nation to remedy the problem. John Chavis comes over from LSU where he led the Tigers defense for the last 6 seasons. He has some talent to work with and 8 starters return on the defensive side of the ball. We look for a big improvement there. Sumlin is one of the best offensive minds on college football. The Ags rolled up 35 PPG & 455 YPG last year and we look for similar or better numbers this season. Kyle Allen returns at QB after taking over for an overrated Kenny Hill midway through the season. His top RB returns and most of his targets on the outside. The schedule sets up nicely for A&M. Believe it or not, they have only 3 true road games this season and they will be a heavy favorite in one of those games @ Vandy. They have to compete in the always tough SEC West, however they miss all of the top teams in the East in their cross-over games. They face Vandy & South Carolina, two of the three worst teams in the SEC East in our opinion. Sumlin has never failed to reach 8 wins at A&M and we think he can get to at least that number again pushing us to the OVER.
Vanderbilt – OVER 3 Wins
We were surprised this number was set at 3. It’s too low in our opinion. The Commodores won 3 games last season and this squad will be much better in 2015. They return 18 starters and 51 lettermen. After going to 3 consecutive bowl games under James Franklin, this team struggled under new head coach Derek Mason who came over from Stanford. Now they have had a full year to adapt to Mason’s systems on both sides of the ball so we look for big improvement. Their offense can go nowhere but up after averaging just 17 PPG and the defense returns 82% of their tackles from last season – 6th most in the nation. We realize they are the worst team in the SEC and may go winless again, however sweeping their non-conference games gets them over this number. Even if they go 3-1 in non-league play at worst they push this total. Their games outside of the SEC including Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, Houston, and Western Kentucky. Far from a murderers row. They also get the next worst SEC team, Kentucky, at home so who knows. While much improved, we see them getting to 3, maybe 4 wins this year so we’ll lean slight to the OVER.