College Football Preview: Can Anyone Beat Alabama in the SEC?

The Alabama Crimson Tide owns the Southeastern Conference. This 2017 SEC preview shows the conference as the best one in the nation. No other conference can boast of 3, maybe, even 4 Top 10 teams in 2017.

For Alabama to win another SEC title would be amazing. And yet, the Tide is a huge -140 favorite to take home the SEC Championship Game hardware. Is Alabama a lock, again, to win the SEC? If Alabama doesn’t win it, which teams could challenge the mighty Crimson Tide?

2017 SEC Preview – Favorites to Win

Alabama Crimson Tide -140

As expected, Alabama is a less than even money favorite to win the deepest conference in college football. For the Crimson Tide, it all starts at the top. Head Coach Nick Saban might be the best college football coach to ever live after Alabama’s Bear Bryant.

Saban has won 5 national championships. He’s won 4 while the head coach at Alabama. Saban is not only a great coach, he’s also an amazing recruiter. Alabama has stayed at the top of the SEC for so long because Saban continually refreshes talent on both sides of the line.

The defense boasts 5 new starters in the front 7. Those starters should have no trouble picking up where Jonathan Allen left off. If you’re an Alabama Crimson Tide fan, don’t worry about the D-Line. It’s going to be just fine.

The offense is loaded with RB Bo Scarborough and QB Jalen Hurts both returning. It’s difficult to look past Alabama even if the odds are at -140.

LSU Tigers +550

Head Coach Ed Orgeron convinced the LSU Tigers alumni to pay Matt Canada $1.5 million to be the Bayou Tigers’ offensive coordinator. Can Canada make a difference? I think he can. Canada built Northern Illinois’ run and gun offense. He developed the offense at Pittsburgh.

With better talent who knows what Canada can do? The key for the Tigers on offense is QB Danny Etling. Etling should have no trouble slinging it all over the field because left tackle K.J. Malone, former basketball great Karl Malone’s son, returns.

The defense has some new players. It shouldn’t be an issue. LSU always boasts a strong D. The Tigers play a 3-4 D. I’m not worried about the defense stepping it up in Baton Rouge, just like I’m worried about the defense stepping it up in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn Tigers +700

Based on the odds, Auburn has a shot at winning the SEC this season. I’m not as high on Auburn as so many other are. I do believe that Gus Mahlzan’s hire of Chad Lindsey away from Arizona State to be Auburn’s offensive coordinator is a good move.

I’m not sure it’s a great move. The Tigers must find a passing game. Most SEC defense are clued in to Mahlzan’s rushing attack. The offense will be decent. It won’t be great.

Auburn’s biggest issue should be on the defensive side of the football. Last year’s Auburn defense was pretty good. But, last year’s defense boasted 3 players in Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, and Rudy Ford, who could all end up playing on Sundays in the NFL. All 3 guys are gone.

Without a strong enough defense, the Tigers should lose at least 3 conference games. That’s not good enough to challenge LSU or Alabama in the SEC West.

Georgia Bulldogs +700

Georgia’s odds are low because the SEC East shouldn’t be nearly as formidable as the SEC West. The defense should be Georgia’s strength. Kirby Smart, Georgia’s head coach, built his reputation as a great defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama.

Smart’s defense should play well. It might not matter. Georgia has the one issue that all college football teams eventually run into. It’s not a lack of skill players that dooms a college football team. It’s the lack of an experienced offensive line. Georgia’s offensive line is a weak spot. That should end the Bulldogs’ chances of challenging in the SEC earlier than expected.

Teams Garnering Some Attention to Win the SEC

Florida Gators +1000

The Gators are on the cusp of being a contender. Since their SEC odds are at double-digits, I’ve put Florida in a different category. How good can Florida be in Jim McElwain’s third season as head coach?

I think the Gators are a lock to win the SEC East. Florida only returns 3 starters on defense. No problem. The Gators return 4 starters along the offensive line. Yes, Jim McElwain must find a quarterback. But, that’s McElwain’s specialty.

He found a starting QB in his first 2 seasons at Florida. How is this season any different? Not only that, but McElwain is known as a great offensive coach. The offense should excel.

The defense only returning 3 starters could be an issue. Still, I believe McElwain has recruited well enough for the D to thrive. If Florida can beat Michigan and Tennessee early in the season, they could challenge for a College Football Playoff spot should they excel in SEC play.

I’m that bullish on the Gators in 2017.

Tennessee Volunteers +1200

Tennessee doesn’t have much shot at winning the SEC East. For starters, the offensive line, although loaded with talent, is young. Second, the Vols must find a starting QB. Finally, the defense, although it returns enough starters to be a viable unit, is already beat up.

Many of Tennessee’s best defensive players sat out spring ball. That’s not a good sign. My feeling is that if Tennessee had trouble stopping offenses from scoring points last season with Derek Barnett at DE, how well is it going to perform this season? I’m just not a believer in the 2017-2018 Tennessee Volunteers college football team.

Which Dogs Can Win the SEC?

Texas A&M Aggies +4000

Based on the odds, Texas A&M’s head coach, Kevin Sumlin, is staring at his final season in College Station. Sumlin’s teams always start out hot. They also always end up finishing in the bottom of the ridiculous SEC West where Auburn, Alabama, and LSU reign.

I believe Sumlin comes up with a spectacular coaching job. I also feel that A&M’s rush defense is going to be much better this season than it has been in the past couple of seasons. The strength of the D should be the interior defensive line.

If I’m right, the Aggies have a high-ceiling. If I’m wrong, Sumlin could be polishing off his resume after Week 6.

Arkansas Razorbacks +5000

Arkansas’ rush defense under new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads must improve. If the Razorbacks can stop the rush with Rhoads going to a 3-4 scheme, Arkansas might have a shot to upset Alabama, or LSU. That could give Arkansas a chance at the SEC West title.

I’m comfortable with Arkansas’ offense. Quarterback Austin Allen returns. He’ll play behind an offensive line that returns 4 starters. That alone makes me believe the Razorbacks offense should be one of the most productive in the SEC.

My Picks to Win 2017 SEC Preview

My longshot play is the Arkansas Razorbacks. I’m a big believer in head coach Bet Bielema. Bielema coached some fantastic teams at Wisconsin. He never had the best players in the Big Ten. He just put together the best coaching staff who put together the best starting line-ups.

Bielema made a great decision by hiring Paul Rhoads. Don’t sleep on Arkansas this season. With such a stout offensive line, the Razorbacks should contend in the vaunted SEC West. At 50 to 1 to win the SEC, the Hogs are an overlay.

I believe Florida is a lock to win the SEC East. Question, did anyone know last year’s starter Luke Del Rio until McElwain started him? Nope. McElwain’s going to find a starting quarterback. That’s what he does.

The SEC winner from my favorites category is LSU. Alabama almost certainly should win the SEC. Nick Saban is an amazing recruiter and coach. But, there’s something about Ed Orgeron at LSU that’s appealing.

I noticed how much harder the LSU Tigers played last season after the school fired Les Miles and promoted Orgeron to head coach. That attitude should carry the LSU Tigers far in their quest for the SEC Championship.

At 5 to 1, I believe LSU is worth a few bucks to win the Southeastern Conference.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson