Our SEC East football preview for 2019 sees Georgia as being a good bet. Specifically, our SEC East football preview finds that odds are solid for the Bulldogs to earn a berth to the 2019 CFP. There are three other teams in this division that should be in the running for a bowl bid. The Florida Gators look to be a competitive postseason team, and both the Tennessee Volunteers and Missouri Wildcats should make a bowl appearance. That leaves the Kentucky Wildcats, a bowl dark horse last year that enjoyed postseason success, and the Vanderbilt Commodores out of the mix.
Our 2019 SEC East Football Preview
According to our SEC East football preview, the Georgia Bulldogs are the top contender to take the division. But it will be a mighty struggle for this team to win the SEC crown. The Bulldogs will field a potent offense, but could use help on the other side of the ball. They may have the best O-line in the SEC. The Florida Gators will be competitive and should give most SEC teams a run for their money. The Missouri Tigers bring a sound offense to the field, but their defense is lacking, while the South Carolina Gamecocks look to be stronger on D than they are on offense. We note that the Kentucky Wildcats have deficiencies in just about every area. Finally, in 2019, our SEC East football preview projects the Vanderbilt Commodores as being a ground threat but struggling at QB and on defense.
1. SEC East College Football – Georgia Bulldogs (11-3)
In 2018, the Georgia Bulldogs, led by QB Jake Fromm, averaged 37.9 PPG (14th). Fromm tossed 30 TD passes and six picks while completing 67.4% of his passes. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. Although Fromm will be missing four of his five top receivers from last season, he still has junior Jeremiah Holloman to toss to. Holloman caught 24 passes last season with five going for scores. He averaged 17.4 YPC. Still, the Bulldogs will need some of the less-experienced wideouts to step up. The rush attack was fearsome last season, and it should be once again this year. RB De’Andre Swift, who gained over 1,000 yards while scoring 10 times and averaging 6.4 YPA, is back. Plus, there’s depth at running back. Additionally, the Georgia O-line may be the best in the SEC.
Defense and Special Teams
Last season, Georgia’s defense was sound, holding teams to 19.2 PPG (15th). Ranked 12th versus the pass, the Bulldog D allowed just 180.3 passing yards per game. They were ranked 31st in defending the run, as they gave up 134.0 YPG in that area. Two major forces are gone, LB De’Andre Walker, who was consistent and dogged, leading the team in sacks and QBHs, with 7.5 and 15 respectively, and CB Deandre Baker, who did not allow a TD pass in his last two seasons. The frontline has solid experienced, although, not stellar players. All-SEC inside LBs Tae Crowder and Monty Rice return, while the outside linebacker spots include a wealth of premium, up-and-coming talent, including Walter Grant. In the secondary, sophomore CB Eric Stokes will try to get the job done, while fellow sophomore corner Tyson Campbell and safeties Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reed bring a wealth of experience.
The special teams are better than most in the SEC, although the Bulldogs must replace their top return man Mercole Hardman. Hardman averaged 25.2 YP kick return and 20.1 YP punt bring back. RB Brian Herrien has been given that task. He is a fearless runner but does not possess the breakaway acceleration that made Hardman so dangerous. As a freshman last season, punter Jake Camarda proved to be overall sound but not spectacular. Senior PK Rodrigo Blankenship, who hit all 65 of his extra points and nailed a 53-yard field goal, will likely pass former PK Blair Walsh for the school’s points record.
See our comprehensive preview of NCAAF #7 Georgia in our College Football Top 25 Guide for 2019.
2. SEC East NCAAF – Florida Gators (10-3)
Our SEC East football preview sees the Gators as being a very dangerous team. Most of their top-players are back to play on an offense that scored 35.0 PPG (22nd). That includes QB Feleipe Franks who threw for over 2,400 yards while tossing 24 TD passes and six interceptions. Franks, now a junior, would like to improve on his 58.4% completion rate. His receiving corps is stacked as the team’s top-seven pass catchers return. Included in the group are his two favorite targets, senior wideouts Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond.
The running back spot has numerous talented rushers, including sophomore Malik Davis. Davis, who has a lot of potential, has had to deal with season-ending injuries in his first two seasons. If he’s healthy, Davis could be the number one running back for the Gators. In 2018, Florida brought back the entire starting offensive line. This season, just one player returns. This group is a big question mark.
Defense and Special Teams
In 2018, the Florida Gators allowed 20 PPG (20th). They were tight against the pass, giving up 180.8 YPG (13th), but porous when defending the run, allowing 162.5 YPG (65th). This season, the entire D-line returns, including senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga. Zuniga led the team with 6.5 sacks and 4.5 TFL while also recording four QBHs. In QBHs, DT Adam Schuler led the Gators with five. The deep game looks better than it did last season. The secondary will be led by junior corner C.J. Henderson. Last season, Henderson notched two picks and seven PBU. The linebacking unit includes senior David Reese II in the middle. Reese, who made 77 tackles last season, leads what is the defense’s most inexperience and perhaps vulnerable unit.
On special teams, the kicking game is overall sound. As a freshman, PK Evan McPherson offered accuracy, hitting all 50 extra points as well as 17 of 19 field goals. More distance would be helpful. Punter Tommy Townsend averaged 45.5 YPP and placed 24, almost 50%, within the 20- yard line. He did have two punts blocked. The return game is also in good shape.
See our comprehensive preview of NCAAF #7 Florida in our College Football Top 25 Guide for 2019.
3. SEC East College Football – Missouri Tigers (8-5)
The Missouri Tigers bring a better than average offense to the filed, but perhaps one that’s inferior to last season’s. In 2018, they scored 36.6 PPG (18th). But the team must replace prolific QB Drew Lock who passed for over 3,400 yards, hitting pay dirt 28 times and completing 62.9% of his throws. They’ll look to Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant. Bryant is a solid passer who’s also a threat to run. Sophomore Taylor Powell is also a possibility. Four of Missouri’s top-five receivers are back, including Jonathan Johnson who caught 59 passes while averaging 12.5 YPC. Junior Larry Roundtree leads the ground game. In 2018, Roundtree netted 1,216 yards on 225 carries, averaging 5.4 YPA. He scored 11 TDs. There’s depth at running back, as sophomore Tyler Badie returns. Four of six starters return to the O-line, which appears to be the best part of this offense.
Defense and Special Teams
It’s on defense where things get very questionable for this Tigers team. Last season, Missouri allowed 25.5 PPG (50th) and 262.0 YPG in passing (112th). In 2019, our SEC East football preview notes that each defensive unit has holes. The frontline needs to put more pressure in QBs. Juniors Chris Taylor and Jordan Elliot have to become more productive. The team’s leading tackler from 2018 with 112, senior Cale Garrett, returns to anchor the linebacking unit. Sophomore LB Nick Bolton will be given the opportunity to become more involved. Corner DeMarkus Acy, a senior, led the team with three interceptions while also breaking up 10 passes. The other corner, Christian Holmes, a junior, topped the Tigers with 12 PBU. Although the corners are accomplished, Missouri needs safeties Ronnell Perkins and Joshuah Bledsoe to contribute more.
In 2018, Missouri’s punt return unit was ranked second-to-last in the nation. Their prime returner, Jonathan Johnson, averaged just 1.5 YP return. Tyler Badie was better on kickoffs, averaging 22.0 yards per bring back. Tucker McCann, who handled the placekicking chores last season, will also serve as punter this year. Although as a placekicker he hit two-of-three attempts from 50-plus yards, McCann struggled from between the 40 and 49 yard-line. He was 51-of-54 on extra points and 24-of-33 on field goals.
4. SEC East NCAAF – South Carolina Gamecocks (7-6)
The offensive side of South Carolina needs work, especially at running back. Last season, the Gamecocks averaged 152.8 YPG in rushing (91st). The offense generated 272.8 YPG in the air (26th) and totaled 30.1 PPG (56th). Senior Jake Bentley returns to quarterback. His completion rate of 61.9% was good but his touchdown-to-interception ratio of approximately 9-to-5 was not. Bentley’s top receiver, Deebo Samuel, is gone, but two other solid performers, senior Bryan Edwards and junior Shi Smith, come back. Edwards had 55 catches for 846 yards and seven scores. Smith caught 45 passes for 673 yards and four touchdowns. Each averaged 15 YPC. The two top running backs, Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson, both seniors, return. Dowdle led the tandem with 123 carries, 654 yards, four TDs, and 5.3 YPA. The O-line loses four experienced players and lacks depth. This could hinder both the running and passing games.
Defense and Special Teams
The 56th-ranked scoring defense of the Gamecocks allowed 27.2 PPG. They gave up 195.3 YPG in rushing (95th) and 229.0 YPG in passing (65th). In yards per game allowed, South Carolina was ranked 84th. Upfront, DT Javon Kinlaw posted 4.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, and five PBU. He leads what is the strongest part of this defense. MLB T.J. Brunson, a senior, returns as the top tackler with 106 and most TFL with 6.5. Although Brunson brings a lot to the field, the rest of the linebacking unit is thin. Four of South Carolina’s top seven defensive backs return with three of those players being sophomores. There is talent here but can they reach their potential?
On special teams, senior punter Joseph Charlton, who averaged 44.8 YPP and put 16 within the 20-yard line, is an asset. PK Parker White does not have a strong leg, but, overall, he’s accurate. Bryan Edwards averaged 7.9 yards per punt return and A.J. Turner was good for 20.8 yards per kick bring-back. They’re not spectacular, but they do fill the basic need.
5. SEC East College Football – Tennessee Volunteers (5-7)
The Tennessee Volunteers struggled to score last season, averaging just 22.8 PPG (108th). Their offense was ranked 113th in rushing yards (129.1 per game) and 96th in passing (196.4 per game). Overall, the Vols offensive was 121st with 325.5 YPG. Junior QB Jarrett Guarantano returns after completing 62.2% of his passes for 1,907 yards and 12 TDs with three picks. He has a deep group of experienced receivers. In 2018, Marquez Callaway caught 37 passes for 592 yards and two scores, while Juan Jennings made 30 receptions for 438 yards and three TDs. Josh Palmer made 23 catches, averaging 21.0 YPC. The running backs are improved, as true freshman Eric Gray has a lot of promise and the two top rushers, Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan, return. The O-line is also more experienced, which should help Tennessee score more points. However, a tough schedule will work against Tennessee.
Defense and Special Teams
Our SEC East football preview sees the Volunteer defense as being improved overall. Within the SEC, they are projected to be about average. The D-line is the weakest link in this group. Senior NG Emmit Gooden, who had six TFL and one sack last season, anchors the front. The linebackers are the strongest unit on this side of the ball. Senior LB Darrell Taylor was a top performer past season, with 38 tackles, eight sacks, three TFL, and three QBHs. CB Bryce Thompson, a sophomore, had a fine freshman season last year nailing 34 tackles, grabbing three picks, and breaking up seven passes. The major question for Tennessee is will the other players who need to step up on defense do so?
Finally, special teams are a strength for the Volunteers. PK Brent Cimaglia hit all 31 extra points and was good on 10 of 13 field goals. As a freshman punter, Joe Doyle performer well. He netted 38.9 YPP and placed 23 within the 20-yard line. Marquez Callaway proved to be an effective punt returner, averaging 11.9 YPR and breaking one for an 82-yard score. Ty Chandler needs to improve his average of 16.1 yards per kick return.
6. SEC East NCAAF – Kentucky Wildcats (10-3)
Our SEC East football preview notes that last season was a breakout year for the Wildcats. They won 10 games and beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl 27-24. The big question is can they sustain that type of performance? The major question is can Kentucky garner more effective execution from junior QB Terry Wilson. In 2018, Wilson completed 67.2% of his passes, throwing 11 TDs and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 547 yards, averaging 4.1 YPA and scoring four times. The ground and receiving units are both depleted, while the offensive line sees just two starters return. Still, there’s a decent amount of experience upfront. Anchoring the ground attack is junior Asim Rose who, over 71 carries last season, averaged 6.2 YPA and scored six TDs. Kentucky’s top receiver, junior Lynn Bowden, returns. He made 67 receptions in 2018, scoring five times while averaging 11.1 YPA.
Defense and Special Teams
Last year, the Wildcat defense allowed just 16.9 PPG (6th) and 186.3 YPG in the air (18th). They were 23rd in overall yards allowed (337.9 YPG). Each unit has lost some top players with the linebacking group being the best suited to excel. Senior MLB Kash Daniel is the team’s top returning tackler (84). He had 6.5 TFL and five QBHs. As a freshman last season, WLB DeAndre Square posted 35 tackles, one sack, 2.5 TFL, and three QBHs. He should be more productive this season. Junior free safety Devonte Robinson returns having made 42 tackles, three TFL, and four PBU. On the line, senior tackle Calvin Taylor had five TFL, one sack, and one PBU, while senior DE T.J. Carter had four QBHs, three PBU, 1.5 TFL, and one sack. Both will be asked to step it up even more this season.
Special teams are a strength for the Wildcats. On kick and punt returns, Lynn Bowden averaged 21.6 and 29.2 YPA respectively. He broke two punts for TDs. Now a junior, punter Max Duffy had a fine season, as he averaged 44.8 YPP and netted 40.2. He placed 30-of-60 punts within the 20-yard line. Chance Poore replaces Miles Butler as PK.
See our comprehensive preview of NCAAF #12 Kentucky in our College Football Top 25 Guide for 2019.
7. SEC East College Football – Vanderbilt Commodores (6-7)
The Commodores have some depth at QB and look good in the receiving and rushing ranks. But the offensive line has to replace three starters, and there doesn’t seem to be much to choose from. Plus, Vandy has to replace four-year starting QB Kyle Shurmur. However, former Ball State starter and NFL prospect Riley Neal could be a perfect fit for this team. Plus, red-shirted junior Deuce Wallace has shown starting potential. Four of the team’s top receivers return, including senior Kalija Lipscomb. Lipscomb had 87 catches for 916 yards and nine TDs last season. Senior TE Jared Pickney, who made 50 catches and averaged 15.5 YPC, scored seven times. Senior RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn posted big numbers in 2018, rushing for 1,244 yards and a dozen TDs over 157 carries. He averaged 7.9 YPA. Vaughn also had 13 receptions for two scores while averaging 13.1 YPC.
Defense and Special Teams
Last season, the Commodores scored 28.5 PPG (T-69th), while allowing 26.2 PPG (61st). The defense, which was ranked 99th in overall yards-allowed (438.9 YPG), was porous. They will likely be a big problem again, as Vanderbilt fields the weakest D-line in the SEC and close to the weakest linebacking group and secondary unit. Junior NG Drew Birchmeier, who posted 31 tackles, three TFL, and four PBU in 2018, will anchor a thin frontline. Sophomore ILB Dimitri Moore returns as the team’s top tackler (84). He broke up three passes, notched four QBHs, and had 2.5 TFL. Junior FS Frank Coppet picked three passes, while SS Tae Daly, also a junior, made 45 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and four TFL. Finally, as a freshman last season, NB Allan George accumulated 33 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and four PBU. There’s talent on this side of the ball, but nut much depth.
Jared Wheatley, a freshman, will attempt to replace punter Parker Thome, while Ryley Guay returns as placekicker. Guay had a rough start as a freshman last season and almost lost the job, but, as time went on, he improved. Guay hit a 53-yard attempt, was 47-of-47 on extra points, and was 13-22 on field goals. Jamauri Wakefield, who averaged 21.3 YPR, is back for kickoffs, and former dynamic Harvard punt returner Shelton-Justice Mosely, a graduate transfer, joins the team.
2019 SEC East Football Preview
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27 – Oklahoma State Cowboys and Tennessee Volunteers
Peach Bowl (CFP), Dec. 28 – #4 Georgia Bulldogs and #1 Clemson Tigers
Music City Bowl, Dec 30 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons and Missouri Tigers
Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31 – Texas Tech Red Raiders and Florida Gators
2019 SEC East Football Preview
Projected Best Bets
Aug. 31 – Toledo @ Kentucky – Bet Wildcats.
Sep. 7 – Charleston Southern @ South Carolina – Gamecocks win easily.
Sep. 14 – Chattanooga @ Tennessee – The Vols by around 20 points.
Sep. 28 – Towson @ Florida – Gators win.
Oct. 5 – Troy @ Missouri – Take that Tiger at around -19.
Oct. 19 – Kentucky @ Georgia – We like the Dogs over the Cats by approximately 14.
Nov. 2- UAB @ Tennessee – Volunteers win what should be a relatively close game.
Nov. 9 – Appalachian State @ South Carolina – Gamecocks look good at around -12.
Nov. 23 – East Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt – Take the Commodores at -14 or better.
Nov. 30 – Georgia @ Georgia Tech – Bulldogs in a close one.
Utilize this 2019 SEC East preview to give yourself an added edge this NCAA football season. For more information on the SEC, go to our SEC West preview. You can access other conferences through our hub page.