Nick Saban began his tenure at Alabama in 2007, and has undoubtedly dominated the SEC since. The last 14 years has produced seven SEC Championships, six National Championships, and two Heisman Trophy winners in Mark Inrgam and Derrick Henry. It is obvious that the Crimson Tide are the favorites to repeat as SEC champions this upcoming season, but they might not hold that spot for long...
Nick Saban began his tenure at Alabama in 2007, and has undoubtedly dominated the SEC since.
The last 14 years has produced seven SEC Championships, six National Championships, and two Heisman Trophy winners in Mark Inrgam and Derrick Henry.
It is obvious that the Crimson Tide are the favorites to repeat as SEC champions this upcoming season, but they might not hold that spot for long.
I will confess that I am biased as a die-hard Auburn Tigers fan, but I am not picking them to win, either.
Alabama is a juggernaut on the recruiting trail.
Their best players get drafted year after year, and are replaced by a 5-star waiting for his opportunity.
It seems to be an endless cycle.
This season, that cycle will take a tumble.
Offensively, Alabama lost key positions to the NFL draft.
Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and three anchors on the offensive line in Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, and Deonte Brown.
Not that it has not been done before, but the rebuild of the offense will have to be monumental for the Tide to repeat.
Defensively, less of a rebuild is in store as less important positions left for the draft.
Roster fluidity is just the beginning of Alabama's challenges.
The 2021 schedule for the Tide is one of the toughest they have faced in years; which isn't saying much.
To open the season, they will make a trip to Atlanta to take on D'eriq King and the Miami Hurricanes.
While most may view that as an easy foe, Miami is built to upset.
And yes I know they aren't in the SEC, but losing a season opener can be detrimental on a team's morale.
The Hurricanes suffered two losses last season - one to Clemson and one to North Carolina.
Even with the two losses, they averaged 45 points-per-game.
D'eriq King is returning as a Heisman favorite and one of the most electric players in the nation.
Don't be surprised if Alabama drops the season opener.
After that test, they get a slight break with the home-opener versus Mercer.
Then the fun begins.
Next on the schedule is a trip to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators.
Dan Mullen is entering his fourth year with the Gators which means he will finally have a team full of players he recruited himself.
I have always been a strong believer in the four-year waiting period for new coaches to turn a team around.
This is that year for Mullen and Florida.
They lost Heisman candidate Kyle Trask, but sitting behind him is former 4-star dual-threat Emory Jones.
Jones has seen the field sparingly the last couple of seasons, yet it seems that Mullen has been building the offense for him.
I expect this game to go to the wire.
Looking deeper into the season, Alabama will make trips to Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Auburn.
Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M is a previous assistant of Saban's.
We might see Fisher become the first assistant of Saban's to beat him.
One reason is because the Aggies play with 12 men on the field at home.
Don't get confused, I'm simply talking about the fans.
Kyle Field has been dubbed as one of the toughest places to play for years.
After the season the Aggies had last year, and stadiums being at full capacity I fully believe Saban will fall victim to Fisher and Texas A&M.
Mississippi State is less of a threat.
The only reason I have them listed is Mike Leach.
Leach made the Air Raid offense what it is today.
He proved in his first season for the Bulldogs that he would stay true to that.
If Leach can string some momentum together before that meeting with Alabama, there could be an upset in Starkville.
Last but not least on the list is Auburn.
Listen, I know we just hired a new head coach and almost entirely new staff.
I also understand that Bo Nix has a long road to take before he is mentioned among the elite.
Before I get carried away, Auburn has won three of the last four meetings with Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
We won't know what Bryan Harsin brings to the table for Auburn until the season opener at Penn State, so I am not going to make a prediction.
Of the four games I listed as a threat for the Crimson Tide, the matchups versus Florida and Texas A&M are the biggest.
But don't get comfortable for the Auburn game because it has the possibility of being one for the ages.
Now that I gave you every reason why Alabama won't repeat as champions, let me tell you who I picked to win the SEC.
As much as I hate to say it, the Georgia Bulldogs are the team to beat.
The biggest test for them is in the season opener versus Clemson at a neutral site.
If they can secure a win there, the momentum train will be hard to stop with their following games coming against UAB, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas.
The stop at Jordan-Hare against my Tigers is their mid-season worry.
Again, I am biased, but believe me when I say Auburn will be tough to beat at home.
The final threat of the season for Georgia comes from Florida in Athens.
It was a tough decision to pick Georgia over Florida to win the SEC, but the Bulldogs' roster is and has been one of the best in the country.
Returning for Georgia is quarterback JT Daniels who took over towards the end of the 2020 season.
Daniels proved to be the guy for Georgia averaging 307 yards over the course of four games with 10 touchdowns.
Not to mention, the Bulldogs have one of the best wide receiver rooms in the SEC.
Between a healthy George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, and the star-studded freshman receivers, the Bulldogs passing attack might surprise some people.
Georgia's offense has been balanced for years.
That won't change as Zamir "Zeus" White is regarded as one of the top running backs in the SEC.
Last season, White averaged 77 yards a game with 11 touchdowns.
I won't mention Georgia's defense because Kirby Smart has proven that is his specialty since becoming head coach in 2016.
There are 39 days separating us and college football, so strap in.
Will Carter is an intern with the Times-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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