Five bold predictions for this SEC football season, plus title game & CFP picks

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts passes against Georgia during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on January 8, 2018. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
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Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts passes against Georgia during the College Football Playoff National Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on January 8, 2018. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The SEC reigns supreme.

The conference not only won the College Football Playoff national championship last season, it guaranteed the crown by having both finalists. And Alabama and Georgia delivered a memorable title game with the Crimson Tide prevailing in overtime.

Forecasting the league in 2018 starts with those programs. Six others are starting over with new coaches. The league is quarterback heavy, so much so that the Crimson Tide have two who would start for most programs.

Jalen Hurts has won 26 games for Alabama over the previous two years as a starter and the Tide has played in both national title games. But Tua Tagovailoa entered the Georgia game in the second half and led the comeback triumph.

Seems like a can’t-lose situation. But will Alabama lose a game this season? Here are five bold predictions for the SEC.

1. Drew Lock will be the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL draft

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Lock has the physical tools many NFL teams seek. Last year’s All-SEC quarterback returns for an encore season after leading the nation with 44 touchdown passes. With new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, a former Dallas Cowboys assistant, expect the offense to be less frenetic this season and for some of Lock’s totals to decrease. But not his pro prospects, especially if Lock improves on his short passing game.

2. Mississippi State will finish second in the SEC West

Got to have more cowbell. The conference’s biggest splash hire was Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. But the Bulldogs’ landing of Joe Moorhead, who spent the previous two years as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, also received rave reviews. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will benefit from the offensive-minded Moorhead, and Mississippi State returns most of its defensive production from last year’s nine-victory team.

3. One coach loses his job after the season

The SEC seems to switch out coaches in waves. There are six new coaches in the league this year, four in the West. Time to check the stability on the league’s East side. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason begins his fifth season and has one bowl appearance on his resume. The Commodores went 1-7 in the SEC last year and are projected for another bottom finish. It’s difficult to see Mason surviving another season without a bowl game in 2018.

4. Alabama and Georgia will have divisions wrapped up by early November

Or before the Crimson Tide meet The Citadel or the Bulldogs face Massachusetts on Nov. 17. They are the class of their divisions and should have things clinched well in advance of the SEC title game. Auburn is the final league opponent for both teams, and the Tide and Dawgs both have the revenge motivation this season and each get Auburn on home turf.

5. The SEC does not win the national championship

The College Football Playoff committee voted in two teams from one conference for the first time last season and those teams reached the final, with Alabama defeating Georgia in an overtime thriller. Some griped about the inclusion of two from one league over a conference champ but the committee got it right. This year, the bracket will return to four conference champions — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. And Clemson will capture its second title in three years by defeating the Crimson Tide.

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Projected order of finish

SEC EAST

Georgia 7-1

Missouri 5-3

South Carolina 4-4

Florida 3-5

Tennessee 3-5

Kentucky 2-6

Vanderbilt 1-7

SEC WEST

Alabama 8-0

Mississippi State 6-2

Auburn 5-3

Texas A&M 4-4

LSU 4-4

Mississippi 2-6

Arkansas 2-6