Way-Too-Early 2017 SEC Power Rankings: Alabama, Auburn on top

The 2016 college football season is officially over, and most SEC fans are probably ready to move on by this point. Not even Alabama could salvage what was a disappointing season for the conference.

But it's never too early to look ahead. Here are our "Too-Early SEC Power Rankings" for the 2017 season.

1. Alabama: Nick Saban's defense might take a (slight) step back with so many starters heading to the NFL, but his offense should be in great shape under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian with the starting quarterback, both starting receivers and all four of the top tailbacks returning. -- Alex Scarborough

2. Auburn: We've seen a first-year starting quarterback win the SEC four seasons in a row. Will Jarrett Stidham make it five? The former Baylor transfer arrived on campus Sunday, and assuming he wins the starting job, he and Kamryn Pettway form a dangerous tandem in Auburn's backfield. The defense loses both Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson but should be solid yet again with Kevin Steele back as coordinator. -- Greg Ostendorf

3. LSU: The Tigers are taking a sizable draft hit (Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, Davon Godchaux have declared so far) and will face a grueling second-half schedule in 2017. Ed Orgeron will boast plenty of talent in his first season as the Tigers' full-time head coach, including future NFL stars Arden Key and Derrius Guice, but they had better develop some serious depth this offseason because most teams would be out of gas by mid-November against the schedule the Tigers must play. -- David Ching

4. Georgia: The biggest surprise of the offseason might have come when Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy all announced they were returning to school. Pair that group with a 2017 recruiting class that's currently ranked No. 2 nationally, and Georgia should have more than enough talent to win the East in Kirby Smart's second season. It will likely come down to quarterback Jacob Eason and his progress from Year 1 to Year 2. – G.O.

5. Florida: The Gators should have just about everybody back on offense. Now all they need to do is find a quarterback. Luke Del Rio is back, but don't be surprised if one of the two true freshmen, Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask, wins the starting job. The defense looked just fine in the bowl game with Randy Shannon calling the plays in place of Geoff Collins, but the bigger concern will be the five starters Florida needs to replace. -- G.O.

6. Tennessee: It's difficult to know what to expect from the Volunteers next season. They lost underclassmen Derek Barnett, Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone and Jalen Hurd (is that what he's doing?) to the draft, plus key players such as quarterback Joshua Dobbs, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, cornerback Cameron Sutton and defensive end Corey Vereen were all seniors. This was the year for Butch Jones' Vols to make their move and they didn't do it. The cupboard is far from bare on Rocky Top, but the experience Jones must replace is considerable and makes my confidence shaky. -- D.C.

7. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a lot of key pieces to replace: defensive end Myles Garrett, safety Justin Evans, quarterback Trevor Knight and receivers Josh Reynolds among them. Doing so will be a challenge, but this team does have some quality returning talent to build off, namely receiver Christian Kirk, running back Trayveon Williams and safeties Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson. How the quarterback position pans out will likely tip the scales on where the Aggies land in the conference. -- Sam Khan

8. Arkansas: Four key defensive linemen on the Razorbacks' two-deep will be gone, as will middle linebacker Brooks Ellis, so finding quality options to succeed the departed will be key. Offensively this team is in good shape with a backfield of Austin Allen, Rawleigh Williams III and Devwah Whaley all returning. All but one starting offensive lineman (Dan Skipper) is back, including center Frank Ragnow, one of the nation's best. That's huge. -- S.K.

9. Ole Miss: Who knows what to expect from the Rebels next season? They went from a potential playoff contender to a team that didn't even make a bowl game this past season, and as a result, Hugh Freeze went out and hired new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Shea Patterson has a chance to be the best quarterback in the SEC, but three of the team's top four pass-catchers are gone. Plus, none of that will matter if the defense doesn't improve. – G.O.

10. Kentucky: The bowl game didn’t go as planned, but it looks as if the offense found something down the stretch with junior college quarterback Stephen Johnson and freshman running back Benny Snell. Both players will be back, along with the majority of the starters on an offense that racked up 550 or more yards in four of its last five games against Power 5 opponents. Now, the Wildcats just need the defense to step up and do its part. – G.O.

11. South Carolina: There were a few key seniors who will be missed -- pass rusher Darius English will be one -- but Will Muschamp ushered in a youth movement in 2016. Going into next season, the Gamecocks' offense will return quarterback Jake Bentley, running back Rico Dowdle, receiver Bryan Edwards and tight end Hayden Hurst, plus most of their starters along the offensive line. That's a lot for South Carolina fans to be excited about next season. – D.C.

12. Mississippi State: The good news is that Nick Fitzgerald has established himself as a solid quarterback. The bad news is that everything else is up in the air. The defense was woefully inadequate for much the season and will lose its best player, middle linebacker Richie Brown, to the NFL draft. -- A.S.

13. Vanderbilt: Commodores fans have to be happy with the direction the program is heading under Derek Mason. In 2017, it will be important to not take a step backward. The bulk of the offense returns, including running back Ralph Webb, a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past two seasons, but how will the defense replace Zach Cunningham (assuming he leaves early)? -- G.O.

14. Missouri: The Tigers finished 2016 strong, giving them reason for optimism in 2017. Drew Lock and the Tigers' offense took big steps forward and should do so again in offensive coordinator Josh Heupel's second season with 10 of 11 starters returning. Mizzou will have to get better on defense, but perhaps Barry Odom's decision to get more involved there on game day -- as he did late in the season -- will pay off the way Derek Mason's move did for Vanderbilt in 2015 and 2016. – S.K.