Last year’s SEC schedule coincided with the Chicago Cubs meeting the Cleveland Indians in baseball’s all-time bad luck World Series. Either way, a historic streak was going down. The Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, but had a few things gone the other way, the Indians would have won their first since 1948.
Maybe 2017 will be the SEC’s year to see some streak busting. Here are half a dozen likely candidates.
1) Kentucky ends 30-year losing streak to Florida
OK, so it’s not as dramatic as the Cubs. But with a 30-year streak, there are Kentucky fans who have never seen a win over Florida, and some of those who do remember it aren’t quite as spry as they once were. But this year’s game is in Lexington, and for once, Kentucky doesn’t seem to have a drastic personnel disadvantage. Last time in Lexington, it was 14-9. This could be Kentucky’s year.
2) East ends West’s SEC title run
For eight years in a row, the winner of the East has gone home from the SEC title game with its tail tucked between its legs. Frankly, with the exception of 2012’s Alabama-Georgia battle, these haven’t been football games as much as exercises in humiliation. How could it change in 2017? Well, Georgia — assuming they can put away their own curse against winning the East — has enough talent to make the annual match-up with the Crimson Tide not look silly. If the Bulldogs could hit some big plays in the passing game, it might buy them enough offensive mojo to pull off an upset. Of course, given the luck of the East, Vandy will win the division before Georgia actually plays up to its potential. But the possibility is there.
3) Auburn ends two-decade drought on 3,000-yard passers
Auburn has had one — yes, ONE — 3,000-yard passing season in the history of the program, which was by Dameyune Craig in 1997. Jarrett Stidham, given the massive amount of ground support available, can break that 20-year dry spell. Obviously, if the Tigers could upend Alabama for the West title, the job gets that much easier (3,000 yards divided by 14 games is barely over 200 yards per game). But even if Auburn doesn’t pull that upset, Stidham is good enough — and important enough — to crack the 3K barrier.
4) Gators end decade of sub-400 yards per game futility
You have to set the calendar back to 2009 for the last time that Florida managed a respectable 400 yards per game of offense. How respectable is that? Well, in 2016, here are some teams that easily passed the 400 mark: the entire SEC West (LSU at 423 yards per game was lowest in the division), Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. That’s 10 of the 14 SEC teams. Florida has been well below that level for the entire 2010s decade — topping out at 368 yards per game in 2014. What changes? Well, between Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks, Florida has two possible big-play QBs, and Jordan Scarlett is one of the better backs of the last decade in Gainesville. The Gators may lose the East, and get upset by Kentucky, but they’ll reach 400 yards per game.
5) Ole Miss’s 1,000-yard rushing drought ends
The Rebels have the league’s longest drought without a 1,000-yard rusher, back to Dexter McCluster in 2009. Jordan Wilkins will give that a run in 2017. For one, Matt Luke will want to run a more conventional attack than pass-crazy Hugh Freeze. For another, much of Ole Miss’s talent is on the offensive side of the ball, so expect the Rebels to scheme to keep the defense off the field as much as possible. This would create an opening for Wilkins, or possibly QB Shea Patterson, although the guess here is that the Rebels try to avoid running Patterson.
6) The streak of two SEC teams not in the CFP ends
But who is the other team? Georgia? Auburn? Maybe LSU? Hey, that’s why they play the games. The Big Ten has had two teams in, and that league will be too top heavy to place two in this year. Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama … and who? Washington won’t be back. Willie Taggart isn’t close yet at Oregon. The Big 12 is one team bolting away from total chaos. This will be the SEC’s year, mark it down.
Source: Saturday Down South