SEC football picks: Alabama vs. Missouri and 4 more
For some college football fans, the 2020 NCAAF season doesn’t truly start until Saturday, when the Southeastern Conference takes the field for the first time.
No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 LSU, and more will make their debut in front of limited stadium attendance, as they kick off a 10-game conference-only schedule.
Below we examine five of the most intriguing SEC matchups and predict their outcomes in Week 4 of college football.
No. 2 Alabama vs. Missouri
Sat, September 26 2020, 11:00 PM
Alabama Crimson Tide
For the first time since the College Football Playoff’s inception in 2014, the Crimson Tide failed to crack the top four last season.
An 11-2 record and freak hip injury to star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left a bitter taste in Alabama’s mouth. But the team is back with healthy, high-end talent and hungry to collect its sixth national title of the Nick Saban era.
Running back Najee Harris, receiver DeVonta Smith, and linebacker Dylan Moses are just some of the elite playermakers returning to the program.
Mac Jones will get the start at quarterback Saturday, after he filled in for Tagovailoa at the end of last season, but five-star dual-threat Bryce Young could emerge as the long-term answer under center.
The secondary is the primary question mark for Alabama and will get a decent test against Missouri on Saturday.
The Tigers have welcomed former Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who will attempt to jumpstart an offense that ranked 96th in yards per game (362.7) in 2019. Either Connor Bazelak or TCU transfer Shawn Robinson will start at quarterback and run all new schemes behind a rebuilding offensive line.
Missouri's uncertainty on offense is far more concerning than Alabama's new-look secondary.
The Crimson Tide should get the ball rolling immediately and show no mercy to a team getting its feet wet under a new regime.
Saban hasn’t lost a season opener as head coach of Alabama, and those Week 1 games have hardly been close. Alabama destroyed Duke, 42-3, to start the season last year and handed Louisville a 51-14 loss in the opener a year prior.
The Crimson Tide is a 27-point favorite and will cover against a green Missouri team.
No. 5 Florida vs. Ole Miss
Sat, September 26 2020, 4:00 PM
Florida is coming off an 11-2 season, led by quarterback Kyle Trask, who threw 2,941 yards and 25 scores on 66.9% passing.
Three starting offensive linemen return, as well as tight end Kyle Pitts (649 yards, five touchdowns) and receiver Trevon Grimes (491 yards, three scores). More importantly, the defense that ranked 12th in points allowed (18.3) will get back most of its key pieces.
New Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin will make the Rebels' offense dangerous, eventually, but the defense was awful last season and won't have three of its top four linemen.
No. 23 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Auburn
Sat, September 26 2020, 4:00 PM
Quarterback Terry Wilson guided Kentucky to its best record (10-3) of the Mark Stoops era in 2018.
Last season, Wilson went down with injury, and receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden transformed Kentucky into a run-first offense that ranked fourth in the nation in rushing yardage (263.8).
With Wilson back under center, Kentucky's offense will shift once again, while the defense will remain a steady force.
The Wildcats will square off with sophomore quarterback Bo Nix (2,542 yards, 23 total TDs) and an Auburn team that has gone 26-6-1 against Kentucky. The Wildcats are also 2-12 at Auburn, but their pass defense should cause Nix enough trouble to keep this game close.
Mississippi State vs. No. 6 LSU
Sat, September 26 2020, 7:30 PM
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What will defending national champion LSU look like after it lost 14 players to the NFL, including quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and receiver Justin Jefferson?
The Tigers begin the season with an inexperienced quarterback, mostly new offensive line, new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, and a depleted defense.
Back-to-back top-five recruiting classes give the Tigers upside.
As for their opponent, Mississippi State brought in the colorful Mike Leach as head coach and Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello in the offseason.
State's defense was one of the worst in the SEC last year. They'll put up points in Leach's air-raid offense, but not enough to cover against LSU.
No. 16 Tennessee at South Carolina
Sat, September 26 2020, 11:30 PM
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Vols head into the 2020 season on a six-game winning streak, which dates back to a 41-21 home win against South Carolina on Oct. 26.
The Gamecocks finished a lousy 4-8 in Will Muschamp's fourth season and bring in new coordinator Mike Bobo (former Colorado State head coach) and CSU transfer quarterback Collin Hill to spark some life into the offense.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano lost three of his top four receivers, and the SEC's third-worst rushing attack probably won't improve much.
Home-field advantage is less of a factor in front of just 20,000 people, but it is better than nothing for the Gamecocks, who will keep this one close and possibly eke out a win.