Before the season, four of us picked Auburn to win the SEC and one picked Alabama. After this past Saturday, a day in which we saw the Tigers dominated at LSU and the Crimson Tide beaten at home by Ole Miss, it looks as though we might have been wrong.
So we’re doing a reboot. That doesn’t mean Alabama and Auburn are out of it. But for this week’s round table, we are re-picking our conference champion.
Edward Aschoff: I’m going with LSU. Though I think Ole Miss is currently the best team in the SEC, the Tigers have one thing the Rebels don’t: a power running game. In the SEC, not having one of those is hazardous to your long-term health. Leonard Fournette is going to carry this offense -- and a few defenders -- on his back for as long as he can. The man is averaging 8.2 yards per carry and 193 yards per game. People are going to start stacking the box even more against LSU, but I think quarterback Brandon Harris will be fine. He hasn’t thrown for more than 74 yards in a game yet, but he’s looked confident throwing the ball when allowed. That defense will only get better when safety Jalen Mills returns. LSU does have to play Ole Miss and Alabama on the road, but this team fears no road environment.
David Ching: Through three weeks of the season, there are four teams I still view as genuine contenders to win the SEC: Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. I’d imagine Ole Miss is the most popular pick, and deservedly so after its performance last weekend against Alabama. But I’ll switch it up and offer LSU as my pick. Here’s why: I don’t think Ole Miss will be able to run against LSU’s defense, I don’t think the Tigers will turn the ball over five times against anybody (as Alabama did against Ole Miss) and I don’t think LSU's secondary will surrender the big pass plays that Alabama did last weekend. Granted, LSU still has to play at Ole Miss and Alabama, and the back end of the schedule will be awfully difficult, but with Fournette running like he has lately and with a defense that should rank among the best in the conference, the Tigers have as good a shot as anybody.
Sam Khan: I'm going with Ole Miss. I was high on them in the preseason because of all of those talented members of the Rebels' 2013 recruiting class entering their third season on campus and the fact that many of them could be in the NFL next year -- making this the swan song for much of that group. But I didn't have the guts to pick them to win the SEC West, much less the SEC (I had them going 10-2). Now that I see what Chad Kelly can do at quarterback -- which was the biggest question mark I had coming into the season -- I feel the Rebels are the team to beat, especially if they regain the services of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil at some point. That defense is championship-caliber, now I think they will do enough offensively to get the job done.
Greg Ostendorf: Does the SEC winner have to come from the West? I realize that a team from the East hasn’t won since 2008, but I think that changes this season. I think Georgia gets to Atlanta and wins the conference championship for the first time since 2005. The Dawgs have arguably the top running back tandem in the league. They have one of the better offensive lines. And they have a defense that continues to play well. Oh and their quarterback Greyson Lambert? All he did was set a record for completion percentage last week. If he continues to be efficient and make plays, this team has the pieces to not only win the conference championship, but also make a run at the national championship.
Alex Scarborough: We're only three weeks in and already the season has been defined by chaos. Auburn has gone full meltdown, Arkansas doesn't know which way is up, Alabama is struggling to find itself and the East is a mess with Georgia as a clear front-runner. I have a hard time buying long-term. So with all due respect to Ole Miss, give me LSU. There's something about Les Miles' program that thrives in situations like these. Something tells me they will be the best two-loss team standing when it's all said and done. And with Fournette running the football behind that big O-line, it feels like a safe pick.