5 SEC questions: Can anyone take down Alabama?

With less than 100 days to go before the schedule begins, it’s officially appropriate to start asking questions about the upcoming college football season.

Since the SEC likes to pride itself as the No. 1 conference in the country, let’s begin with five questions from the south.

Anybody gonna take down Alabama?

The easy answer to this based on history is a resounding “No.” Nick Saban has absolutely taken over the SEC with Alabama, not to mention all of college football as well, and the Crimson Tide will be looking for their fourth straight SEC title in 2017. With Jalen Hurts, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Calvin Ridley all returning, the offense will likely be just fine without the leadership of Lane Kiffin. The defense suffered massive personnel losses to the NFL, but with a number of five-star prospects stepping into starting roles, it will likely be Saban’s crew holding the trophy at the end of the season yet again.

Will Jarrett Stidham keep Gus Malzahn employed?

After storming onto the scene with a 12-2 record and a national championship game appearance in his first season, the romance between Auburn fans and Gus Malzahn is on the rocks. The Tigers are just 23-16 in the three years since, and Malzahn’s job status has been called into question. Auburn’s running attack has been as potent as ever the past two seasons, but the Tigers have finished 111th and 112th in the country in passing during that span. That one-sided approach has caused problems against top-level defenses, but Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham offers hope as he nears his program debut. The Texas native is a threat in the run game, but excels in the passing attack, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns in his time with the Bears. If Stidham can bring that production to the Tigers’ offense, Malzahn could topple Alabama and write himself a big ol’ extension check in the process.

Can anyone in the SEC East play quarterback?

Outside of Joshua Dobbs at Tennessee, the quarterback play in the SEC East in 2016 could generously be referred to as underwhelming. Five of the top seven pivots in the conference resided in the West, and offensive play in the weaker division was unwatchable at times. Despite the struggles, there’s reason for optimism at South Carolina and Georgia especially, as both Jake Bentley and Jacob Eason enter their second seasons under center. Florida‘s quarterback play in recent years has been as ugly as any major program in the country, but the future looks bright with highly touted redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. If the talented crop of youngsters take the next step, the SEC East will solve its quarterback issues. If not, then the slopfest from the past couple of seasons will rear its ugly head once again.

With Fournette gone, will Derrius Guice crack the 1500-yard mark?

Leonard Fournette got all the hype at LSU the past couple of years, but with the Jacksonville Jaguars scooping him up with the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft, it’s Derrius Guice‘s time to shine. Despite a platoon system, Guice took full advantage of Fournette’s injuries to lead the SEC in rushing with 1,387 yards in 2016 on just 183 carries. At an absurd 7.6 yards per attempt, the junior is poised to pile up the stats in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system. Don’t be shocked if Guice cracks the 1,500-yard mark and earns himself an invitation to the Heisman ceremony in December.

Will Tennessee finally win something other than the “Championship of Life?”

Everybody laughed when Butch Jones declared Tennessee the “Champions of Life” last season, marking the only title the Volunteers have won since 2007 when they captured the SEC east division. With Joshua Dobbs and Alvin Kamara gone to the NFL and Jalen Hurd leaving via transfer, the rebuilding offense will have a tough time matching 2016’s output. Since Jones apparently is the decider of who wins the “Championship of Life,” the Volunteers might repeat with that title, but it will be the only trophy they win in 2017.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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