The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 18, 2019

2019 Southeastern Conference Football Preview

Current Penn State and former Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin once said, “The three toughest conferences in football are the NFC, AFC, and SEC.”  Even though Clemson has taken Alabama to the woodshed twice in three years, the SEC is still the class of college football.  Clemson has no rival in the ACC like Alabama has in the SEC.  There are no Georgia, LSU, Florida, or Texas A&M types in the ACC.  Clemson played Texas A&M last year; it was a close game, and the Aggies had a chance to win it.  They go to Clemson early this season, and it is probably the only game Clemson will have to worry about until the Playoffs.

In the East Division, Georgia is the only team that has won the SEC Championship in the last 10 seasons.  The Bulldogs won the 2017 title, and they led Alabama in the National Championship Game until Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench and became the best quarterback to wear the Crimson since Ken Stabler and Joe Namath.  Georgia lost to LSU last season and then led Alabama into the second half in the Championship Game, before Tua rallied the Tide again.  Can the third year be the charm?  Coach Kirby Smart has star quarterback Jake Fromm and talented running back D’Andre Swift back behind a tough offensive line.  The receiving corps is thin on experience but has some talent, and with Fromm throwing the ball, the passing game will top 200 yards a game.

The Bulldog defense had a little trouble stopping some enemy quarterbacks last year, but the secondary will be improved in 2019.  The Bulldog defense should yield 17 or less points per game, and Georgia has a chance to go 12-0 and get that third chance in a row to stop the Tide.

Florida won 10 games in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach in the Swamp.  The Gators should be Georgia’s principle competitor this year, but Mullen has some rebuilding to do on the attack side.  Feleipe Franks is a near star at quarterback.  If he stays healthy, Franks should pass for 3,000 yards this year, as Florida has a receiving corps that rivals Alabama’s in the league.  A defense that returns a lot up front and in back could give the Gators a chance in Jacksonville against the Bulldogs.

Unless an appeal is successful, Missouri will be on probation this year and not eligible for the SEC Championship Game, the Playoffs, or a bowl.  The Tigers might be the dark horse in the division, and if eligibility is restored, this team might be good enough to sneak into the division title picture, probably in a three-way tie.  Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant replaces Drew Lock at quarterback, and the Missouri offense will be a little different, using Bryant’s ability to run.  The Tigers have an excellent receiving corps, led by a potential Mackie Award-winning tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.  The Missouri defense is not up to the standards of Florida and Georgia, but Coach Barry Odom has been gifted with a plum of a schedule this year.  The Tigers have a chance to go to Georgia on November 9 with an 8-0 record.

South Carolina and Tennessee are teams in transition.  The Gamecocks are trying to stay relevant against a tough schedule, while Tennessee is trying to return to relevance after several years under .500 in the SEC.  The Gamecocks are looking at a mild rebuilding year with a young, inexperienced defense that gave up more than 27 points last year.  Having to compete with Florida and Georgia is tough, but USC has three tough non-conference opponents, in rival Clemson plus North Carolina and Appalachian St.

Tennessee returns the most starters of any team in a power 5 conference, and the Vols have a rather strong group of redshirt freshmen available for second year coach Jeremy Pruitt.  Pruitt is a master defensive specialist, and the Volunteers will improve on their 2018 numbers of 28 points and 377 yards per game allowed.  The Big Orange offense was inconsistent last year, and it won’t be championship quality this year.  With Jim Chaney brought on board as offensive coordinator, Tennessee should be a little more consistent in 2019, and the Vols should improve to the plus side of .500 and make a bowl game.

Kentucky had its best season since 1977 in 2018, but the Wildcats face a major rebuilding year under Coach Mark Stoops.  The Wildcats lost All-American Josh Allen off the defense, and even if they returned the rest of that unit, it would mean the defense would be weaker.  Unfortunately, UK lost six other starters from this side of the ball, and it was defense that allowed UK to win 10 games last year.  The offense also lost seven starters, including star running back Benny Snell.  Terry Wilson is a serviceable quarterback, but he’s not going to shred defensive backfields like Fromm or Franks in the East.

Vanderbilt is the perennial choice for last place in the East Division, but Coach Derek Mason has been able to produce bowl eligibility twice in three years, even having to play a tough non-conference foe in those years.  The Commodores lost star quarterback Kyle Shurmur, but they bring in former Ball State starter Riley Neal, and Neal has the talent to equal or even top the production given by Shurmur.  With running back Keyshawn Vaughn returning after leading the SEC in rushing, and with a receiving corps that is deep and talented, the Commodores could average more than 400 total yards and 30 points per game this year.  Unfortunately, the defense may give up even more, and that is why Vandy might not be as dandy in 2019.  The losses of secondary stars Joejuan Williams and Ladarius Wiley will be tough on an inexperienced pass defense.

In the West, Alabama is the odds-on favorite to go 12-0, win the SEC Championship Game, and then win the semifinal game in the Playoffs, where a rematch with Clemson will excite college football fans from coast to coast.  In the Nick Saban years in Tuscaloosa, the Tide has had numerous stars drafted into the NFL, and it looked Saban had a little rebuilding to do.  At Alabama, one future star replaces a former star.  There is no such thing as rebuilding when you perpetually have the number one recruiting class in college football.  With Tagovailoa returning at quarterback, and with the best receiving corps outside of the NFL, Alabama should have no trouble topping 40 or even 45 points and 300-350 passing yards per game.  The Crimson Tide has the SEC’s best defense yet again, but they could be a tad vulnerable against some tough running backs and top of the line quarterbacks (like Fromm).  It will not be a cakewalk for the Crimson Tide this year.  One team is liable to upset them along the way, but whether that team can also finish 7-1 in the league and win the crown is highly unlikely.

LSU appears to have the best chance of dethroning the King.  The Tigers won 10 games last year but did not compete with Alabama, losing at home 29-0.  Coach Ed Orgeron has done a fine job recruiting talent to Baton Rouge, and in quarterback Joe Burrow, he has a potentially great passer, something that has prevented the Tigers from beating Alabama in recent years.  Defensively, the Tigers have the best defense not wearing crimson, and the LSU secondary might be the best in the nation.  It will give the Tigers a chance to stop Tua and the Tide.  An early game against Texas in Austin should give the nation a great look to see if LSU has what it takes to knock off the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in November.

Texas A&M faces an impossible schedule.  They play Clemson, Alabama, LSU, and Georgia, which is just plain brutal.  Second year coach Jimbo Fisher has worked wonders in his short time in College Station, but the A&M defense is going to be battered and bruised by these top notch offenses.  The Aggies could average more than 40 points per game in the other eight contests, and it would not be a surprise to see them upset one of those four powers.  At the same time, Auburn, Mississippi State, and South Carolina might sneak up and upset the Aggies.  8-4 is about the best that can be expected under these circumstances.

Auburn also has an impossible schedule this year, as in addition to Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M in the West, the Tigers have their annual game against Georgia, and then they must commence play against a tough Oregon team in a neutral site game.  With the loss of Jarrett Stidham and his top two targets, the offense may take a step backwards.  The defense should be quite strong, but in the SEC West, the Tigers could lose a lot of 21-17 games.  Coach Gus Malzahn is in a bit of a pickle on the Plains, and if War Eagles don’t win nine times this year, Gus may be on the bus out of town.

Mississippi State might be strong enough to compete for a division title in the Pac-12 or Big 12, but in the SEC West, they are probably not even in the top four.  In a league with incredibly talented defenses, the Bulldogs had the best of all in 2018, holding nine teams under 14 points.  Still, it led to only an 8-5 season, and the Maroons have issues on the offensive side of the ball this year, especially the all-important passing game.  Only a strong chance of going 4-0 outside the league will guarantee the Bulldogs bowl eligibility.

Arkansas might be the true sleeper of the league this year.  Second year coach Chad Morris had a major transition when he came to Fayetteville and switched the Razorbacks from a smash mouth offense to a more finesse spread offense.  He didn’t have the personnel to make the offense shine.  He will have a lot more of the necessary pieces this season, and he has a quarterback that can make the offense go.  Ben Hicks was Morris’s quarterback at SMU, when the Mustangs passed for close to 300 yards and scored 38 points per game in 2017.  He won’t replicate those numbers in the SEC, but Arkansas should top 28 points per game and challenge for a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility.

Ole Miss comes off probation this year, and the Rebels can become eligible for a bowl once again.  Unfortunately, the Rebels face a major rebuilding and transitioning with new offensive and defensive coordinators.  The offense welcomes Rich Rodriguez, and his read-option spread to the SEC.  The West Division foes have many years experience facing a nearly identical offense at Auburn, so it will not be something new and surprising.  The Rebels will not be as talented or competent at Auburn running this offense, so Ole Miss should see a considerable dip in production on this side of the ball.  Of course, losing quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and three star receivers would hurt no matter what offense was being run.  Defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre has a lot more experience to work with on his side of the ball, but the Rebels lack the talent to compete against the rest of the West.  It could be a long year in Oxford.

Here is how the SEC Media voted in the preseason poll.

 

Southeastern Conference Media Poll
 

 

East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall
1 Georgia 233 1789
2 Florida 21 1499
3 Missouri 3 1149
4 S. Carolina 1 883
5 Tennessee 1 804
6 Kentucky 1 798
7 Vanderbilt 0 358
 

 

West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall
1 Alabama 253 1813
2 LSU 5 1493
3 Texas A&M 0 1268
4 Auburn 1 1090
5 Mississippi St. 1 769
6 Ole Miss 0 504
7 Arkansas 0 343
 

 

Championship Game Winner Overall Votes
Alabama 203
Georgia 49
LSU 3
Mississippi St. 1
Tennessee 1
Florida 1
South Carolina 1
Auburn 1

 

The PiRate Ratings show just how strong the league begins the 2019 season.  Ten teams begin 2019 at least 10 points better than the average FBS school.

 

Preseason PiRate Ratings–SEC

 

East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Georgia 126.2 123.6 126.6 125.5
Florida 120.5 117.8 119.5 119.2
Missouri 115.3 112.4 115.3 114.3
S. Carolina 114.0 112.2 113.9 113.4
Tennessee 112.6 111.6 111.1 111.8
Kentucky 109.5 107.5 108.3 108.4
Vanderbilt 104.3 103.3 103.4 103.7
 

 

West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 135.6 130.6 136.4 134.2
L S U 123.3 120.4 122.0 121.9
Texas A&M 118.6 116.6 117.0 117.4
Auburn 116.8 114.4 115.9 115.7
Mississippi St. 117.0 112.5 116.7 115.4
Ole Miss 102.0 101.1 100.7 101.3
Arkansas 100.0 100.5 99.3 100.0
 

 

SEC Averages 115.4 113.2 114.7 114.4

 

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.

 

Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.

 

PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss

 

East Division

Pos Team Conf. Overall
1 Georgia 8-0 12-1
2 Florida 6-2 10-2
3 Missouri 5-3 9-3
4 Tennessee 3-5 7-5
5 South Carolina 3-5 6-6
6 Kentucky 2-6 6-6
7 Vanderbilt 2-6 5-7
 

 

West Division

Pos Team Conf. Overall
1 Alabama 8-0 13-0*
2 LSU 6-2 10-2
3 Texas A&M 5-3 8-4
4 Auburn 4-4 8-4
5 Mississippi St. 3-5 7-5
6 Ole Miss 2-6 5-7
7 Arkansas 1-7 5-7
 

*

 

Alabama picked to win SEC Championship Game

 

Coaches That Could Be In Line To Get A Top 10 Job

Most of the coaches are already at a program that either is a top 10 job or has the potential to be.  However, there is one coach that could advance to a bigger program

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

 

Coaches on the Hot Seat

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Will Muschamp, South Carolina

 

Malzahn’s seat is considerably hotter than Muschamp’s seat.  If Auburn does not find a way to finish in the top three in the SEC West, there will most likely be a change on the Plains.

 

Top Quarterbacks

We have been showcasing three and sometimes four quarterbacks in the other conferences, but there is NFL Draft potential deep into the ranking of SEC quarterbacks.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Jake Fromm, Georgia

Feleipe Franks, Florida

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Kelly Bryant, Missouri

Jake Bentley, South Carolina

Joe Burrow, LSU

Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee

 

Best Offense

Alabama

Georgia

Missouri

 

Best Defense

Alabama

LSU

Florida

 

Coming Tomorrow:  It’s finally here!  This is week 0 of the NCAA Football season.  There are two games Saturday, and that means we will debut the full regular season ratings.  Look for our first weekly report tomorrow.

Here’s how we expect to release our information this year.

Mondays: Updated College Football Ratings and Spreads for the week’s FBS games

Tuesdays: Updated NFL Ratings and Spreads for the week’s games

Thursdays: Our PiRate Rating picks for the week’s college and NFL games

Very Important Reminder: The members of the PiRate Ratings do not wager on football games.  We issue our selections just for entertainment purposes only and remind you that they are presented free of charge.  You get what you paid for, so don’t go wagering your mortgage payment on our advice.

That said, the PiRate Picks have returned narrow overall profits for four consecutive seasons.  Our claim to fame is finding Money Line Parlays that return better than even money odds.  Thus, we can hit on just 40% of them and still turn a profit, because the average parlay has +150 to +180 odds.  This means that if you place $1 on a parlay at +180 odds, if you win, you will receive $2.80 back from the Nevada books (Your $1 investment plus a profit of $1.80 for winning the parlay).  If you win 30% of your wagers at +150, you will turn a profit of 5%.  If you can win one of every three parlays at an average of +150, your profit is 16.7%, more than the average return in the stock market over time.  Of course, over time, your chances of profiting in the stock market nears 100%, where in football wagering,  your chances of profiting remains at 47.6%, unless you have inside information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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