Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics
With the 2021 season over, it is time to look ahead to next season. With the 2022 season just over seven months out, it is time for speculation season.
Here is one way-too-early prediction for each SEC West team for 2022:
The Tide Bounce Back and Win the National Title
Alabama’s 2021 season ended in heartbreak against Georgia in the national title game. Still, we know that Nick Saban’s team will be out for revenge.
Alabama will have some key players to replace, but it returns its two best players in Bryce Young and Will Anderson. Both are sure to be first-round picks when the 2023 NFL Draft rolls along.
With Georgia likely to be in a transitional year, Alabama will again be the most talented team in the nation. For that reason, consider the Crimson Tide the early favorites to win it all.
KJ Jefferson Has a Monster Season
In his first year running coordinator Kendal Briles’ offense, quarterback KJ Jefferson made it happen with his arm and his legs. The Razorbacks relied on him as they finished with nine wins — a pipe dream for Arkansas not too long ago.
Now, look for Jefferson to take the next step and boost his NFL Draft stock. Yes, his top playmaker in Treylon Burks is headed to the NFL, but the addition of Jadon Haselwood to his already prolific set of tools will lessen the loss of Burks.
Arkansas is trending in the right direction, and year two for Jefferson in this offense will help that trend continue.
Auburn Wins Six or Fewer Games
At one point in 2021, Auburn was in position to win the SEC West, or at least make an New Year’s Six bowl. However, the wheels came off the bus. Auburn dropped its final five games to finish 6-7 — its first losing season in nearly a decade.
An injury to starting quarterback Bo Nix certainly did not make things easy for Auburn over the final weeks of the season, but the Tigers still led at one point in every single one of those losses. In some of them, they led by double digits, including the Iron Bowl.
Nix is off to Oregon, and the Tigers have lost numerous other players to the portal. On top of that, they have yet to add any impact players on the offensive line or at wide receiver from the portal.
These are way-too-early predictions, so this could change. As of now, Auburn is not looking like a team that can compete for the SEC West; there is still time to change that.
The Tigers Drop the Season Opener to Florida State
LSU is in a transitional year, but it is still likely to be favored against Florida State to start 2022.
Even though the record has not indicated it, the Seminoles are trending in the right direction under head coach Mike Norvell. With a win over a prominent SEC team like LSU, things will keep trending higher.
It won’t be a pretty loss for the Tigers, but they will bounce back as the season goes on.
The Bulldogs Continue to Pull Upsets
Last season, Mississippi State pulled off two significant wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. They don’t seem as good as they once were, but at the time, those wins were pretty significant.
Mike Leach and the Bulldogs surprised many last year. The final record may not indicate it, but Mississippi State will still field a very dangerous team.
Ole Miss Drops Four or More Games
Last season, the Rebels finished 10-2 in the regular season and took a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
However, that success will not continue. The Rebels lose both of their coordinators and some key players. One of those is quarterback Matt Corral.
The Rebels will still be competitive, but they are unfortunately caught in a transition year.
The Aggies Contend for the West
Last season, Texas A&M dealt with an injury-ridden squad all season and somehow still went 8-4. Now, this team is getting healthy and adding some serious impact players through the transfer portal to go along with the current No. 1 recruiting class. This team has the makings of a contender.
Texas A&M has always been a sleeping giant, and maybe this is the year that it finally wakes up for good.