By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Georgia (11-1, 7-1)
Projected wins: at Vanderbilt, Murray State, Arkansas State, Notre Dame, at Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M, at Georgia Tech
Projected losses: Auburn
Kirby Smart has swiftly turned Georgia into an annual contender, with the Bulldogs being favored in every regular season game in 2019. Georgia has played for the SEC championship in each of the past two seasons and was seconds away from winning a national title two years ago. This group, led by junior quarterback Jake Fromm, has national championship aspirations but likely must go through Alabama for a third straight season.
Missouri (10-2, 6-2)
Projected wins: at Wyoming, West Virginia, Southeast Missouri, South Carolina, Troy, Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt, at Kentucky, Te-nnessee, at Arkansas
Projected losses: at Georgia, Florida
Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has brought new-found excitement to Columbia and leads a Missouri offense that should be one of the best in the SEC. The cloud of a postseason ban lingers over the team entering the season, though the team has appealed the ruling for 2019. If the bowl ban is reversed, Missouri will go bowling this season and, due to a soft schedule, is a dark horse candidate to win the East Division.
Florida (9-3, 5-3)
Projected wins: Miami, UT-Martin, at Kentucky, Te-nnessee, Towson, at South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at Missouri, Florida State
Projected losses: Auburn, at LSU, Georgia
Dan Mullen surprised many people when he won 10 games in his inaugural season in Gainesville and has Florida on the path to contention sooner than expected. However, this might not be the season for Gator fans to expect a berth in the SEC championship game. The Gators play Auburn and LSU from the West Division in back-to-back weeks and travel to Missouri. Another nine-win regular season would be a success for Mullen’s crew.
Kentucky (7-5, 3-5)
Projected wins: Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Arkansas, Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, UT-Martin, Louisville
Projected losses: Florida, at Mississippi State, at South Carolina, at Georgia, Missouri
Kentucky had the most surprising season of any team in the SEC a year ago. The school’s patience with Mark Stoops paid off in a major way as the Wildcats won 10 games for the first time in over 40 years. UK return the fewest starters (eight) of any team in the SEC, but there should not be a massive decline in Lexington. Stoops has recruited well, and this Kentucky team should go bowling for the fourth straight year.
Tennessee (7-5, 3-5)
Projected wins: Georgia State, BYU, Chattanooga, Mississippi State, South Carolina, UAB, Vanderbilt
Projected losses: at Florida, Georgia, at Alabama, at Kentucky, at Missouri
Despite only winning five games last year, Tennessee made strides in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season. The Volunteers were tougher and more physical, and Pruitt brought in a solid recruiting class to continue the team’s upward trajectory. Tennessee is not close to contending in the East, but this season would be a disappointment if the Vols didn’t at least make a bowl game. The non-conference schedule is light, and UT have a handful of favorable home games in the SEC.
South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) over/under 6
Projected wins: North Carolina, Charleston Southern, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Appalachian State,
Projected losses: Alabama, at Missouri, at Georgia, Florida, at Tennessee, at Texas A&M, Clemson
The Gamecocks were expected to finish near the top of the SEC last year, but a pair of early-season setbacks to Georgia and Kentucky helped lead to a 7-6 campaign. This year’s team should be improved, but its record might not since the Gamecocks play the toughest schedule in college football. South Carolina faces the three teams projected to be the best in the country – Alabama, Clemson, Georgia – and have road games at Texas A&M and Missouri. Returning to a bowl game would be positive re-sult for Will Muschamp’s team.
Vanderbilt (4-8, 0-8) over/under 5
Projected wins: at Purdue, Northern Illinois, UNLV, ETSU
Projected losses: Georgia, LSU, at Ole Miss, Missouri, at South Carolina, at Florida, Kentucky, at Tennessee
Vanderbilt surprised people last season when the Commodores qualified for a bowl game for the second time in three years under Derek Mason. Vandy will never be confused with a powerhouse program, but Mason’s teams are competitive and tough. Returning to a bowl game will be challenging, but there are some opportunities on the schedule for Vanderbilt to get to six wins. The margin for error is slim, however, and the Nashville squad likely must pull off an upset or two along the way.