Projecting the SEC
Instead of a crystal ball, we formulate who will run the nations best conference
In the latter days of March, most SEC campuses are empty with only fading glimpses of students unlucky enough to beheld captive there while their friends are away at Panama City. Yet, after the break – and after the conclusion of college basketball in early April – there is a subtle, briefly sustained adoration with football. It usually lasts until, say, next January. During this time, media organizations release far-fetched preseason rankings and pundits around the country speculate about what could happen, or should happen in the coming season. Here at Three Point Stance, we decided not to speculate. Instead, we created our own formula for measuring the potential success of this year’s SEC teams. The scores on the list are based on a formula that combines last year’s results, head coaching changes, coordinator moves, average margin of victory, bowl results, recent success over a five year period, upper-class experience level, recruiting rankings, needs met, potential schedule difficulty, and of course… returning starters. The numbers are calculated mathematically and weighed accordingly with returning starters, recruiting and last year’s results having the most significant impact. Here are the results:
14. Kentucky: 105.25 – The Wildcats had a lot of momentum this time a year ago and into the first five weeks of the season. That momentum has backed off. The Wildcats are falling behind in recruiting. However, they do return 14 starters this season.
13. Vanderbilt: 107.50 – No, the Commodores did not come in last place. Derek Mason will have a more hands-on approach with the defense in 2015, which should certainly help. They have not been on par in recruiting top level talent for years, but are meeting their needs.
12. Florida: 140.00 – New head coach Jim McElwain is already bringing in top talent in Gainesville, but the current roster is nothing too stunning. The Gators must find playmakers on offense to compete for the SEC East this season.
11. South Carolina: 144.25 – Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have a lot of work to do in rebuilding a defense still impacted by the losses of Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcey Quarles two seasons ago. They were atrocious last season, but made up for it on the recruiting trail. Their 2015 schedule will be an obstacle.
10. Arkansas: 145.05 – The Razorbacks lose some key pieces on defense, but bring back two NFL-caliber running backs and a meaty offensive line. They lost offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to Pitt. The main thing that hurt the Hogs by our calculations were lacking areas in recruiting.
9. Mississippi State: 145.55 – The Bulldogs return quarterback Dak Prescott for another season in Starkville, but they lose the majority of a strong defense from a year ago. In fact, only nine total starters return. The Bulldogs may take a leap back this season.
8. Tennessee: 149.55 – A popular pick outside Georgia to win the eastern division, the Vols secured another top five recruiting class. They also bring back the most starters of any team in the SEC with 18.
7. Ole Miss: 150.20 – Last season started well for the Rebels before the injury to Laquon Treadwell which sealed their fate. They return 16 starters this season and have experienced the rough waters of the SEC West.
6. Missouri: 153.19 – Missouri returns 13 starters in 2015 and maintains a consistently good program that has won consecutive SEC East titles. The Tigers have historically struggling to land high profile recruits, but it does not stop Gary Pinkel and his staff from achieving success.
5. Auburn: 156.00 – Like A&M, Auburn instantly improved on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. The Tigers landed Will Muschamp after he was let go from Florida. Add that to the offensive prowess of Gus Malzahn and 12 returning starters and it could be a good year down on the plains.
4. Texas A&M: 162.40 – After a tough year in 2014, the Aggies look to be one of the most improved teams in the SEC. With an already explosive offense, A&M will be nearly unstoppable if they can shore up one of the conference’s worst defenses.
3. Georgia: 173.55 – The Dawgs bring back the most important part of a lethal rushing attack from a year ago in running back Nick Chubb. They return 12 starters and upgraded with a new offensive coordinator.
2. LSU: 177.28 – Surprisingly, LSU had the second highest calculation for potential success this season. They continue to recruit well and bring back most of what last year was considered a fairly young defense. One factor that affected their potential was the loss of defensive coordinator John Chavis.
1. Alabama: 193.75 – The Crimson Tide took the top spot in the rankings by a landslide. Although they will have to find a quarterback, they bring back enough talent to win a championship. Alabama finished No. 1 in the recruiting rankings and have been able to maintain success every year in the Nick Saban era.