One of the things that makes the SEC great is there will be a team or two that comes out of nowhere and surprises the conference and the college football world. Last year, Ole Miss and Mississippi State were the talk of college football, and it made their seasons a lot more interesting. The year before that, it was Missouri that caught everyone off guard as it won the SEC East in its second year of playing in the conference.
This year should be compelling because Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Missouri are not sneaking up on anybody; they know they will have to give everything they have in order to be where they want to be at the end of the year.
But while those three teams will be on everyone’s radar, there are three other teams that could sneak up on the rest of the SEC, and it will once again make the conference that much more entertaining.
Ever since Butch Jones took over in 2013, the Vols have gotten better. However, they are not where they want to be in terms of the SEC standings.
The Vols have only won five SEC games the last two years and the reason for the lack of success in the conference has to do with inconsistent quarterback play and line depth on both sides of the ball.
However, the Vols could make a big jump this season because they have a stable quarterback in Joshua Dobbs, they will have a strong running duo in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamra, and the defense has steadily improve under defensive coordinator John Janeck.
This is Year 3 in Jones’ system, and it ‘s time for the Vols to take the next step. They should win more than seven games this season, but if they can beat a team that they aren’t suppose to like Georgia or Alabama, then the SEC will take notice of the Big Orange.
Ok, Kentucky has not been on the radar ever since Rich Brooks was the head coach. But after a 2014 start it won five of their first six games, it looks like Mark Stoops has the team headed into the right direction.
The biggest key for the Wildcats is that they have depth at key positions. They have nine starters returning on defense, the offensive line has size, and they have a solid quarterback in Patrick Towles.
One of the things the Wildcats need to learn is winning conference games. They won two SEC games last year against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, but they had a chance to go .500 if they could finish off Florida or Missouri.
Regardless, this is a veteran team that is starting to buy in what Stoops want to do. With a bowl game in their grasps last season, they will be more motivated than ever to get over the hump.
The SEC West is going to be a very fun division because the team that’s in last place could be a first-place team in any other conference in the country.
Arkansas is not looked at to be the favorite to win the SEC, but at the end of the 2014 season, the argument could be made it was the best team in the conference.
But can that good play carry over to this season? There’s no reason it can’t as the Razorbacks feature two 1,000-yard rushers, a huge offensive line, and a defense that has a lot of confidence.
This is not to say they will knock off Auburn and Alabama this season (although they had their shot to beat Alabama last season), but the Razorbacks will come into this season with a lot of swagger because they were able to do a lot of good things last season including shutting out LSU and Ole Miss.