2018 SEC Preview

August 21, 2018 by CFP Staff

Georgia won the 2017 SEC title, beating Auburn 28-7. But Alabama still got the last laugh as it entered the CFP Playoff as the 4-seed, defeated defending champ and #1 seed Clemson in the 1st round, and then edged #3 Georgia in overtime for its second national championship in the playoff era (2014-present).

It was the Bulldogs' first SEC title since 2005 and it came in Kirby Smart's second season as head coach. It was also the first SEC title for a team from the Eastern half of the conference since Florida's 2008 title.

Alabama's 15th national title was also Nick Saban's 6th, tying 'Bama legend Bear Bryant for the most in the poll era.

The 2018 forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, has Georgia dropping to 3rd in the Eastern Division and South Carolina ascending to the top. Missouri is the No. 2 pick.

The computer gives the Gamecocks a perfect 8-0 conference mark, and the only overall loss is at Clemson in the final regular season game.

The Western Division race is a logjam with Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State all finishing 7-1. All 3 teams go 1-1 versus each other, with 'Bama defeating MSU but losing at home to Auburn, and Auburn losing at MSU. Following SEC tie-breaking procedures, it comes down to Alabama defeating teams in the other division with better records.

The Tide then knocks off South Carolina for another SEC title, but it's not enough to propel them into the Final 4 as a 12-1 Alabama team gets trumped by a trio of unbeatens - Michigan State, Oklahoma and Clemson, as well as a similarly 12-1 USC that would be riding an 11-game winning streak and be fresh off beating undefeated Washington in the PAC-12 title game.

Hmmm, no SEC team in the Final Four? We don't know many people (anyone?) who would jump on board with that, but the SEC is ripe for uncertainty as 'Bama has to reload again and loses esteemed assistant Jeremy Pruitt to Tennessee. Five teams in the league have new head coaches, and a 6th officially turns to the guy that guided them through 2017 with an interim tag attached.

Tennessee plucked Pruitt from Alabama after running off Butch Jones. The Vols have a lot of ground to make up and are handed a 3-9 forecast for 2018, including a winless SEC campaign.

Former SMU head man Chad Morris replaces Bret Bielema at Arkansas. His first Razorback team is picked to bust out of the gate with 3 straight wins against a weak opening schedule before settling in for a 6-6 season.

Dan Mullen moves from Mississippi State to Florida where he once spent time as Urban Meyer's OC and QB coach. The Bulldogs turned to Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead as their new head coach, and as stated earlier, are predicted to take a serious run at the Western Division title.

Texas A&M dumped Kevin Sumlin and picked-off FSU's Jimbo Fisher. Don't expect a payoff for 2017 as the computer sees Fisher's first team going 7-5, the same as Sumlin's last.

And finally, Ole Miss removed the interim tag from Matt Luke after a season-long audition. The Rebels are bowl ineligible for 2018 and face scholarship reductions through 2019. Ole Miss is given a 4-8 forecast for 2018, including 1-7 in the SEC.

2018 Projected Order of Finish

SEC East

  Team W-L CW-CL Rank Power SOS
1 South Carolina 11-1 8-0 12 84.02 53
2 Missouri 10-2 6-2 16 84.10 40
3 Georgia 9-3 5-3 22 85.39 51
4 Kentucky 6-6 3-5 55 79.40 39
5 Florida 5-7 2-6 77 72.06 63
6 Vanderbilt 4-8 1-7 92 67.44 42
7 Tennessee 3-9 0-8 105 62.27 56

SEC West

  Team W-L CW-CL Rank Power SOS
1* Mississippi State 11-1 7-1 9 8751 38
1* Alabama 11-1 7-1 10 85.38 50
1* Auburn 10-2 7-1 15 89.77 44
4 Texas A&M 7-5 4-4 38 83.23 18
5 LSU 6-6 3-5 54 79.85 29
6 Arkansas 6-6 2-6 66 71.68 47
7 Mississippi 4-8 1-7 88 72.20 28