Early SEC Football Rankings For 2016

    Early SEC football rankings for 2016. We preview which team is the perceived best heading into next season.

    January 15, 2016

    How good are the Southeastern Conference teams going into the 2016 season? It’s too early to know what’s going to happen or to make any definitive calls, but with the 2015 campaign just ending, here’s way-too-early SEC football rankings for 2016.

    Early 2016 SEC Football Rankings

    1. LSU

    The Tigers have the foundation in place to rise up and have one of those seasons that Les Miles comes up with every once in a while. Leonard Fournette is the bright shining star for a running game that returns every yard produced last season, while the receiving corps could be the best in the country if QB Brandon Harris progresses in his third year. The defense is loaded up front, and while the secondary needs some help, it’s LSU – there are more good defensive backs ready to shine.

    2. Alabama

    The hope is for the defending national champion to rebuild in a big hurry. The backfield has to undergo an overhaul, and while there might be great running backs ready to step up, replacing Jake Coker – yes, that Jake Coker – really will be an issue. The receiving corps and O line will be strong, but the defensive front gets gutted. The depth is good enough to be more than fine, but there are just enough losses on both side of the ball to be the difference between 11-1 and possible SEC champ to 10-2 and also-ran.

    3. Tennessee

    Once again, Tennessee should be in for a breakthrough year. Only this time, it really should happen with Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd leading a nasty backfield working behind a veteran O line. Most of the defensive front returns intact with Kahlil McKenzie ready to rise up and become a superstar anchor for the line. Tennessee looks to be the early leader from the East in the SEC football rankings.

    4. Arkansas

    QB Brandon Allen has to be replaced, and the running game has to find new stars, but the defense should be the best by far in the Bret Bielema era with 11 of the top 12 tacklers returning. The front seven should be a brick wall, while the offensive line will be its normal big, bruising self.

    5. Florida

    Can Jim McElwain find an offense in his second season? Can Purdue transfer Austin Appleby be the answer at quarterback? The defending SEC East champs need help in the secondary, but most of the top tacklers are back including several of the key parts up front. But the offense … it’ll be a bit better. The receiving corps is going to be terrific as long as someone can get it the ball.

    6. Georgia

    Kirby Smart has already dominated on the recruiting trail, and he also gets to walk into a wonderful situation offensively if the quarterback situation can be settled right away. The receiving corps is great, the running backs are superstars, and the secondary is among the most experienced in the nation. The defensive front seven will need some work, but it’s hardly a disaster.

    7. Auburn

    All the lumps taken in an uneven 2015 should pay off in 2016. The Tigers have a good quarterback situation, all the top running backs return, and the O line should be fabulous with most starters returning. The defense has a few losses, but the line is experienced and the secondary has plenty of playmakers. Now a few stars have to emerge on both sides of the ball.

    8. Ole Miss

    How quickly can Hugh Freeze rebuild? Chad Kelly is a superstar quarterback in the making, but other than TE Evan Engram, most of the key playmakers are gone. The offensive line is the biggest issue with just one starter returning, while the defense has to replace big name after big name including anchor Robert Nkemdiche.

    9. Mississippi State

    Is there life after Dak? The star quarterback is done, but the running game should be stellar with all the top backs returning behind a decent line. The receivers are in place, too. There’s more than enough experience back for the defense to be stronger, especially up front with six starters back to what should be a great run D.

    10. Texas A&M

    Call this the SEC’s wait-and-see team. There’s a dizzying array of talent at wide receiver, and the O line should be fine, but who’s the new star quarterback? Where are the big-time running backs? The defense isn’t as much of a concern with Myles Garrett leading a veteran crew that should be more consistent.

    11. Missouri

    What does new head coach Barry Odom have to work with? The defense will be the star with everyone returning on the front four and with enough speed and athleticism in the back seven to come up with another fantastic season. Offensively, the disaster of last year might not be fixed right away with just one starter back up front and without any sure-thing playmakers among the veterans.

    12. Kentucky

    The experience is there, but will the production follow? The running backs are nice, the top receivers are all back, and four starters return to the O line. The secondary has veterans, and they’re going to have to shine with a shaky front seven returning. The key will be the quarterbacks with Patrick Towles off to Boston College and Drew Barker the main man – for now.

    13. South Carolina

    It’s not that Will Muschamp is walking into a disaster, it’s that it might take a little while to turn the ship back around. His defense will be fine with most of the top tacklers back lead by a good-looking secondary, but offense was the problem for Muschamp at Florida and it’ll be a huge concern early on. The line returns just two starters, top receiver Pharoh Cooper is off to the NFL, and a leader has to emerge at quarterback.

    14. Vanderbilt

    No surprise at the bottom of the SEC football rankings. The situation is improving overall, but will Vandy finally have some sort of an offense? Ralph Webb leads an excellent group of running backs working behind a decent line, but the passing game will take center stage with nothing to rely on. The defense that was so good throughout last year will be a rock in the secondary and with just enough good talent returning in the front seven to get by.

    MORE: Way-Too-Early Top 25 College Football Rankings

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