College football is back, and unlike last year, this time we’re playing a nonconference schedule and actually starting this thing on Labor Day weekend.
We’ve talked enough about Vanderbilt, but let’s take a look at what the rest of the SEC has been doing since January.
The Quarterback Battles
Alabama: Officially, Nick Saban hasn’t named a starting quarterback for the 2021 season, but he did say out loud that sophomore Bryce Young has secured NIL deals in the high six figures, which, uh, probably doesn’t happen if people don’t think he’s the starter.
Arkansas: It sounds like redshirt sophomore KJ Jefferson will take over as starter for the departed Feleipe Franks, but Arkansas may have a package for athletic redshirt freshman Malik Hornsby as well.
Florida: Dan Mullen still hasn’t named a starter, but it’s expected to be redshirt junior Emory Jones — though Anthony Richardson is apparently making noise.
Georgia: Yeah, JT Daniels locked down the starting job so hard that reporters are asking the offensive coordinator who the backup is.
Kentucky: Penn State transfer Will Levis was named the starter two weeks ago.
LSU: The expected competition between fifth-year senior Myles Brennan and sophomore Max Johnson ended at the start of fall camp when Brennan suffered an injury, meaning the job went to Johnson by default (true freshman Garrett Nussmeier apparently wasn’t a factor.)
Missouri: Connor Bazelak.
Ole Miss: Matt Corral.
South Carolina: Hoo boy. With Luke Doty possibly out for the season opener, well, South Carolina actually got a grad assistant to take advantage of the free year of eligibility and suit up as a player.
Tennessee: Nobody’s been named the starter yet, but Michigan transfer Joe Milton is the “favorite” as of last week.
One immediate thing that jumps out at me is that we’re five days away from the season opener (three if you’re Tennessee) and a bunch of SEC schools haven’t actually named a starter, and that includes some who you’d think would be fairly obvious. It seems like by game week, you’d want your starter to be exclusively taking reps with the ones in practice, so why they continue to hold off naming one is really strange.
Oh, right, realignment
Yeah, in case you hadn’t heard, Oklahoma and Texas are coming to the SEC. At the latest, they’ll join the league in 2025, but I’m guessing they’ll work out a deal to leave their Big 12 grant of rights sooner than that (no pun intended), because there’s no way the rest of the Big 12 will just put up with that. Severance packages! Exit fees!
Current Betting Lines
In the lone Thursday night game — one of just two Thursday night games for an SEC team all season (the other is the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night) — Tennessee is a 34.5-point favorite over Bowling Green. Before you ask, Bowling Green is one of the worst teams in FBS.
Newcomer Oklahoma ironically opens its season with former SEC school Tulane in New Orleans (Ed. note: it’s been reportedly moved to Norman for obvious reasons), and the Sooners are a 26.5-point favorite. Kentucky is favored by 29.5 over UL Monroe, who is coached by Terry Bowden. Arkansas is a 19.5-point favorite over Rice, which... seems a little low? That’s only a point more than Alabama is favored over Miami in what’s supposed to be one of those marquee Week 1 neutral-site games.
In lines that indicate potentially more interesting games, Missouri is favored by 13.5 over Central Michigan and Texas is favored by 8 over UL Lafayette, the latter in Steve Sarkisian’s first game as the Longhorns’ head coach. Oh, right, Texas fired Tom Herman to replace him with Steve Sarkisian, or:
Firing Tom Herman to hire Steve Sarkisian is like driving past a Chili’s and pulling into the parking lot at Applebee’s— Dan Lucero (@danluceroshow) January 2, 2021
Anyway, Mississippi State being favored by 23.5 over Louisiana Tech seems to be mostly a reminder that LaTech sucked last year. Auburn’s favored by 37 over Akron... snore.
And finally we come to the one SEC team that’s not favored in its opener and it’s... Georgia? Yeah, the Bulldogs open with Clemson in Charlotte and are a 3-point underdog. Florida’s favored by 24 over FAU, Texas A&M by 29.5 over Kent State, and LSU by 3.5 over UCLA, and that last game is at UCLA.
No lines yet on Eastern Illinois-South Carolina and East Tennessee State-Vanderbilt, the two SEC-on-FCS games in opening week.