Bama fans everywhere likely feel the sting of last year’s defeat against Clemson, but they are coming back with a strong team headed by QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts developed well during the 2016 season and there’s no reason to expect him to stop. As a true freshman, Hurts threw for 2,780 yards with 23 touchdowns.
The offense also returns both of their starting receivers. On the other side of the ball, they lose DT Jonathan Allen and LB Reuben Foster, but, as always, they have plenty of players to immediately step in.
In total, the Crimson Tide have recruited five 5-star players and 18 4-star players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them vying for a national title in the 2017 season.
Despite losing Leonard Fournette, Davon Godchaux, and Jamal Adams to the draft, the Tigers look to be in good shape for next season. Head coach Ed Oregon has led the charge in recruiting, snagging good players on both sides of the ball.
Danny Etling, a fifth-year senior, will most likely play quarterback, and he’s already proven to be effective with 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns after not playing the first three games of the 2016 season.
Auburn is looking better than they have in several years. The Tigers have a lot to look forward to, most importantly QB Jarret Stidham. Stidham started his freshman year at Baylor where he passed for 1,265 on only 75 completions with 12 touchdowns, before deciding to transfer to Auburn after a year at junior college.
With running back Kamryn Pettway returning after a 1,224-yard season, they should prove to have a balanced offensive game that is tough to stop. Add that to a seriously strong defense, and Auburn has a good chance at winning the west and finally beating Bama.
The Razorbacks always do okay despite their tough schedule, which they reinforced last season after going 7-6. QB Austin Allen passed for 3,430 yards last season with 25 touchdowns but threw 15 interceptions. As long as he keeps care of the ball, Arkansas doesn’t have much to fear on the offensive front.
Last year the defense gave up 6.8 yards per play. Subsequently, they have decided to change to a 3-4 defensive spread so we will see if they can pick up the pace and perform.
5. Texas A&M
The Aggies lost some great talent last year, but there are three quarterbacks vying for the position. Nick Starkel, Jake Hubenak, and Kellen Mond are all attempting to secure their place at quarterback.
Whoever wins the position battle will have some offensive talent to supplement their passing, with WR Christian Kirk and RB Trayveon Williams both returning. Kirk had 928 yards on 83 receptions last year, while Williams ran for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns.
6. Mississippi State
QB Nick Fitzgerald had 2,423 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, so the Bulldogs aren’t worrying about offense.
On the defensive side, however, Mississippi State has a lot of question marks. They gave up 6.2 yards per play last year and lost several of their best defensive players. With new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the Bulldogs hope to improve, but it is quite the uphill battle.
7. Ole Miss
The Rebels have a lot of work to do. QB Shea Patterson began showing promise later in the 2016 season and ended with 880 yards on 72 completions in just three games played.
However, they lost several of their receivers to the draft.
On top of possible passing inadequacy, the Rebels averaged only 3.99 yards per carry against SEC opponents last season. They also had one of the conference’s worst defenses.
With that being said, it will be a tough year ahead for Ole Miss fans.