Earlier this week, our friends at the Big Ten blog decided to crush some early fan dreams by unveiling their look at what will stop each team from winning the Big Ten.
Those Midwesterners can be so cruel sometimes.
Well, we here at the SEC thought it was a great idea to do the exact same thing and make sure some SEC fan bases don't get their hopes up too much in 2017. Hey, keep dreaming you dreamers, but remember to find your footing when you come back down to Earth.
Hey, that defense can't be any worse than it was last year, right? Teams are still running, passing and scoring all over a Mizzou defense that was at the bottom of the conference in just about every defensive statistic last year. Things will get better for the Tigers after a 4-8 debut by Barry Odom, but even getting to six wins will be a struggle.
Simply put, the Rebels are already disqualified from a trip to Atlanta because of their one-year postseason ban. But even if they could get to Atlanta, few would pick them after last year's 5-7 record, especially with defensive questions still lingering and a road schedule that features Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.
The Commodores finished the regular season 4-2 in their final six games before getting thumped by NC State in the bowl game. Derek Mason don't care about no stinking bowl loss! He's jacked up about this team, even if it had only 59 healthy scholarship players this spring. Vandy could be a better team in 2017, but it's hard to immediately find more than six wins on that schedule, right now.
Will Muschamp shocked us all by taking the Gamecocks to a bowl game in his first year. He also shocked us with impressive quarterback play from first-year starter Jake Bentley, who should have been a high school senior last year. There was growth, but until this team is consistent at getting to the quarterback and stopping teams from rushing for 200 yards each week, the Gamecocks will just be that spoiler team.
Nick Fitzgerald is budding star at quarterback and new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is excited about having seven JUCOs to work with on his side of the ball. This is one of those trendy sleeper picks, but we need to see more from Fitzgerald's arm, better defensive chemistry and see them survive a road schedule that includes Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
We really don't know what to make of the Razorbacks. The passing game lost four of its top pass-catchers, and that defense is still a mess. Paul Rhoads replaced Robb Smith as defensive coordinator after coaching the secondary last year, but not even he can immediately transform a defense that surrendered 482.9 yards per game, 7.9 yards per play and 37.3 PPG in league play last season.
Mark Stoops and his Wildcats finally got over the five-win hump to make it to a bowl game in 2016. They even upset Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for fun. This team is interesting because the offense should be fun to watch, but that defense still concerns us. You just can't win in the SEC if you don't sack the quarterback or if you allow conference opponents to average more than 200 rushing yards.
Oh, man. We've been bitten too much by the Aggies. Those 5-0 starts and 8-5 finishes were painful, but last year's 6-0 start and 8-5 finish was the last straw. Outside of having yet again a new quarterback, some new pieces at receiver and losing the heart and soul of the front seven, Texas A&M isn't winning the SEC because it just can't win in the month of November. The Aggies are 7-9 over the past four Novembers.
Hey, these Bulldogs are the early popular pick to win the SEC East. Kirby Smart returns 10 defensive starters, has one of the best running back combos in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and Jacob Eason appears to be a star at quarterback. However, that offensive line is still an issue, and no receiver has stood out as a consistent go-to threat. Eason's decision-making scares us too much, right now.
There's still a lot of talent in Baton Rouge, but you better believe that the jury is still very much out on Ed Orgeron being a head coach at this level. It didn't work out at Ole Miss, and while he's certainly a different person and coach since then, he went from journeyman defensive line coach to the head coach at LSU.
We've seen this all before: Gus Malzahn has a hotshot quarterback, and the defense should be one of the league's best. Last time Auburn was in this situation, the Tigers went 7-6 in 2015 and won just two league games. It's hard not to like this Auburn team, but do the Tigers have the clutch gene? And can Malzahn stop Alabama? Chris Davis ain't sprinting through that door, folks.
Why aim to be SEC champs when another Champions of Life title is on the line? OK, OK, that was petty. But you know you were thinking it, too. Seriously, Tennessee is embracing the underdog role, but that offense is littered with questions. New starting quarterback, offensive line issues, new starting running back, and the search for a go-to receiver are just some of the complications facing the Vols.
The Gators might have won back-to-back SEC East titles, but get ready to hear about why they won't make it three in a row. Florida is in searching of another starting quarterback, but after using two stop-gap QBs in 2016, Jim McElwain might find the present and future in Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask. Neither one has taken a collegiate snap. Until this offense takes off, the Gators won't win in Atlanta.
What stops Alabama's reign of terror over the SEC is the fact that the Crimson Tide lost six important starters to its defense. Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson accounted for 33.5 of Alabama's 54. 5 sacks last year (61.5 percent) and 64 of Alabama's 118 TFLs (54.2 percent) from last season. That's a ton of production, and it'll catch up to the Tide this year. So will Jalen Hurts' inconsistency throwing the football, which became even more evident in the Tide's last three games of the 2016 season.