Brad’s 2022 College Football Preview- SEC Analysis and Predictions

Every summer since 2007 I have created an intricate set of college football predictions for each upcoming season.  This year is no exception, as I will be using my blog over the next few hours to publish my 16th annual college football preview guide which will contain 18 entries in all. The records below reflect each team’s predicted regular season overall record followed by their conference record.  These records include conference title games for the two division champions but exclude bowl games which will be previewed later on in a separate column on this blog.  The teams marked in bold font are the ones predicted to gain bowl eligibility.  Without further ado, here are my predictions for the world-renowned Southeastern Conference in 2022.

West Division

1Alabama (12-1, 7-1)conference champion

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Offensive Live

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Georgia (December 3)- SEC Championship Game

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Ole Miss (November 12)- huge upset here as Kiffin gets the Tide on the back end of a brutal back-to-back road stretch that begins with Bama playing at Baton Rouge the Saturday before.

Bottom Line: Ten years ago if you said Alabama’s biggest strength would be its quarterback play and its biggest weakness would be its offensive line, people would think you were crazy. Nevertheless, Saban has greatly modernized his offensive attack thanks to a slew of great QB play. The Tide will be back in the playoff in 2022, but Bryce Young will come up just short of repeating as the Heisman trophy winner (see Heisman entry later in this preview guide).

2Mississippi State (9-3, 6-2)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Defensive Backs

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Georgia (November 12)- the Dawgs get Air Raided in Starkville this year, as Leach finishes off the upset he almost pulled as a 25 point road underdog two seasons ago

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Arizona (September 10)- if there is anything we know about Mike Leach now, it is that when his Air Raid is clicking his teams can beat anyone in the country (see predicted Georgia win above), but we also know they often struggle in non-conference games against lesser opponents (see LA tech scare last year, Wazzu losses to Boise and Eastern Washington in 2016)

Bottom Line: Leach finally has enough experienced guys that fit his scheme (including a three year starter at QB) to make some major noise in the SEC West race.

3Auburn (8-4, 5-3)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Texas A & M (November 12)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Western Kentucky (November 19)- the Hilltoppers catch the Tigers in the perfect trap game scenario, as this game is sandwiched between Auburn’s matchups against Texas A & M and Alabama. The Tigers are also much better defending the run than the wide open passing offense that they will see from WKU.

Bottom Line: Lost in the offseason turmoil that has surrounded this program, was the fact that the Tigers team was pretty good last year and were only a few plays away from going 10-2 with wins over Alabama and Penn State. This year they return 7 offensive starters including star running back Tank Bigsby and should improve on their 6-7 mark from 2021.

4Texas A & M (9-3, 5-3)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Miami-FL (September 17)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Auburn (November 12)

Bottom Line: The Aggies had a tremendous offseason as they picked up several key transfers and the # 1 recruiting class in the nation for 2022. With that being said, this was still an 8-4 team last year which struggled to throw the football at times and now loses their star running back Isaiah Spiller as well as their starting QB, top receiver, and # 1 tackler. I think Texas A & M will still be very good in 2022, but the predictions for them to reach the CFP are exaggerated and premature.

5Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Linebacker

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Alabama (November 12)- Kiffin finally gets the best of his arch nemesis!

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Auburn (October 15)

Bottom Line: The Rebs lost a lot from their 10-win Sugar Bowl championship season of 2021, including their starting quarterback, top four rushers, top three receivers, and top two tacklers. And while Kiffin used the transfer portal well to replace a lot of those critical pieces, I expect Ole Miss to take a slight step back this season, even though I am picking them to knock off Bama in mid-November!

6Arkansas (7-5, 3-5)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Ole Miss (November 19)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Missouri (November 25)

Bottom Line: The Hogs overachieved in their 9-win campaign last season, and while they will continue to play hard-nosed, tough-minded football under coach Sam Pittman, the losses on defense, the difficulty of their schedule, and the overall lack of elite talent, will prevent team from achieving the same level of success they had in 2021.

7LSU (6-6, 2-6)

Positional Strength: Wide Receiver (what else is new?)

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Tennessee (October 8)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Mississippi State (October 17)

Bottom Line: I will be the first one to say that I was not a huge fan of the Brian Kelly hire, as it seems like a bad fit for all parties. I, especially don’t envision much improvement in year 1 under Kelly, as this team will be dealing with massive personnel and scheme changes. However, the Tigers still have too much talent to not at least make a bowl game.

East Division

1Georgia (11-2, 7-1)- conference runner-up

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Oregon (September 3)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Mississippi State (November 12)

Bottom Line: It seems like I always pick the Dawgs to run the table under Kirby Smart with the exception of their annual meeting against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and at least one game they shouldn’t. Typically, that formula has held true (2020- Florida, 2019- South Carolina, 2018, LSU, 2017, Auburn), but last year Georgia avoided that fate largely because Clemson was so terrible on offense in their season opener. Nevertheless, I am once again calling for the supremely talented Dawgs to lose to Bama in the SEC title and one regular season game in which they are favored (Mississippi State) which will ultimately cost Georgia a spot in this year’s CFP. The Dawgs just lost too much on defense (eight starters and their top five tacklers) to repeat as national champions.

2Tennessee (8-4, 4-4)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Florida (September 24)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at South Carolina (November 19)

Bottom Line: The Vols’ offense will once again be extremely potent with 8 returning starters including their starting quarterback, leading rusher, and top receiver. However, the defense is what will keep this team from being elite.

3Kentucky (8-4, 4-4)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Defensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Florida (September 10)- the Cats seem to have the Gators’ number after losing 31 straight to Florida from 1988-2018

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Mississippi State (October 15)- last year’s losses to Miss. State and Tennessee demonstrated Kentucky’s struggles in defending the pass.

Bottom Line: The Cats will still be really good in 2022, but the loss of their best players on each side of the ball (Wan’Dale Robinson- offense, Joshua Paschal- defense) and the departure of their offensive coordinator, will prevent Kentucky from replicating its 10-win campaign of 2021.

4Florida (6-6, 4-4)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Western Michigan (November 25)- de facto MAC West title game!

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Northern Illinois (October 8)

Bottom Line: It is never recommended to starting your coaching tenure at a new school with two games against Power 5 top 20 teams coming off 10+ win seasons like Billy Napier does this season. We will know a lot more about the Gators after those two contests, but I think ultimately Florida’s brutal schedule will limit their success in year 1 under their new head coach.

5South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Tennessee (November 19)- Despite getting destroyed by the Vols last season, the Cocks have won 5 out of the last 7 in this series in Columbia.

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Arkansas (September 10)

Bottom Line: Shane Beamer has this program headed in the right direction, but given the current state of the SEC, six wins is about as much as you can ask for here, especially when the Cocks have to play Clemson every year.

6Missouri (5-7, 2-6)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Arkansas (November 25)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Kansas State (September 10)

Bottom Line: Inexperience at Quarterback will doom team that already has a porous defense. Not everyone (besides Vandy) can go .500 or above in this conference can they?

7Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Hawaii (tonight!)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Northern Illinois (September 17)

Bottom Line: The Dores should be a little better than they were last year, but they are so far behind the rest of the league that I am calling for a third straight winless SEC campaign for Vandy.

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