SEC Expert Picks 2022: Most Overrated and Underrated Teams, Predicted Order of Finish, Bold Predictions

Defending national champion Georgia and College Football Playoff title game rival Alabama enter the 2022 season as the consensus top teams in the SEC. There is no surprise. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are powerhouses both on and off the field, but that’s where the similarities stop as we approach another college football campaign.

While Georgia lost several championship-winning starters to the NFL in the offseason, Alabama saw 2021 as a rebuild. The Tide brings back not only Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young but star forward Will Anderson Jr., CBS Sports’ preseason player of the year, as a dominant 1-2 punch on offense and defense that Bama will once again favor. The toughest conference in sports.

Beyond those behemoths, though, there’s plenty of disagreement about how the SEC will shake out in 2022.

Texas A&M is riding high from a record-setting recruiting class, though those players will need to mature before they’re ready to vault into contention for the league crown. Both Florida and LSU are in rebuilding mode after jettisoning coaches with national championship-winning experience (led by Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen as coordinator, Ed Orgeron as head man), but the Gators and Tigers hope to prove doubters wrong with immediate bounce-backs. Campaigns.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and Tennessee have more hype in the SEC East than in recent memory, while Arkansas hopes to continue its surprising climb from a year ago. Meanwhile, Lane Kiffin aims to prove his offense at Ole Miss despite the departure of its star quarterback to the NFL.

Our CBS Sports college football experts provide their picks and predictions for the SEC ahead of the 2022 season.

The most overrated team

Texas A&M: The Aggies begin the year as No. 6 in the preseason AP Top 25 and the consensus favorite to be Alabama’s top contender in the SEC West after returning to the top recruiting class of all time. That said, an 8-4 record and fifth-place finish in the SEC West last season doesn’t exactly scream playoff contender. Granted, they lost opening-day starter Haynes King to a season-ending injury early in 2021, but Texas A&M is the only team in the preseason top 12 to finish with fewer than 10 wins. The Aggies should be in proving mode, especially after losing four of their All-SEC players to the NFL. — Shehan Zerajah (Dennis Dodd, Barrett Sully)

Tennessee: AP voters have the Volunteers as the No. 26 team in the country, and the coaches aren’t far behind. That’s offensive for a team that still has a long way to go defensively, and even an 8.5 win total looks promising for a schedule that includes games against Alabama, Georgia and LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Is Tennessee in a place where it can be trusted to run the table otherwise, with wins against the likes of Kentucky, Florida and Pitt avoiding slip-ups at each position the Vols favor? This team went just 7-6 a year ago, so while I’ll certainly admit that Tennessee is a dangerous team, it took another step in development before it flirted with double-digit wins. – Chip Patterson (also Tom Fornelli)

Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin’s “Portal King” nickname is accurate, but even the nation’s No. 2 transfer class can’t replace what the Rebels lost in quarterback Matt Corral, offensive coordinator Jeff Laby and defensive coordinator DJ Durkin. Corral was the soul of last season’s 10-3 team, and staff turnover will determine what this team can accomplish in the sport’s deepest division. An easy non-conference slate, plus the annual matchup with Vanderbilt, makes it relatively simple for Ole Miss to project bowl eligibility, but this team will take a step back. — David Cobb

LSU: Things quickly went south for LSU when the Tigers won the national championship in 2019. The Ed Orgeron era ended with back-to-back seasons of .500 or worse records. It’s the first time this has happened at LSU since coach Gerry DiNardo’s final two seasons in 1998-99. Brian Kelly was lured away from Notre Dame to get things back on track, and while there is excitement surrounding the program, it will take some patience before we see LSU competing for division titles again. — Jerry Palm


The most underrated team

Florida: Expectations for the Gators seem rooted in last season’s 6-7 record, but that performance is not indicative of the potential on the team’s roster. Relative to everyone in the SEC East except Georgia, Florida still has the most complete team. Motivation seemed to be lacking in 2021 after Dan Mullen’s tenure didn’t end, and the team was completely bogged down the stretch. That shouldn’t be an issue this season with a new coach in Billy Napier and defensive coordinator in Patrick Toney, both with proven track records of success. Cob (also Zeirah)

Tennessee: Josh Heupel has a quarterback (Hendon Hooker). If you have it in the SEC, you have a chance. Squint and you can see the Volunteers won nine games, but they could have easily gone in the opposite direction. Still, Tennessee is clearly on the rise. — Dodd

Ole Miss: Much has been made of Corral’s absence and not enough of an upgraded running back corps, versatile receivers/tight ends and a quarterback position that is — at least — stable. With Kiffin at the helm, that consistency is more likely to turn into excellence. I don’t care what the defense looks like on a consistent basis because Ole Miss is going to click in a big way against every team it faces. — Sally

LSU: It’s almost impossible to rate this LSU team entering the season. What I can say is the Tigers are not, and that is the fifth best team in the SEC West. That’s where they came in the preseason media poll. Both the high-end talent and depth of options at receiver make almost any other team in the league jealous of what Kelly inherited, and if the defensive line can stay healthy, that group could be really bad at the line of scrimmage. With several future pros at wide receiver and a potentially dominant defensive front, LSU has three or four of the most important building blocks for success in the modern college game. If Kelly can figure out a quarterback, the ceiling for this team is much higher than many expect. — Patterson

Mississippi State: Has any SEC program gone further under the radar this offseason than Mike Leach’s Mississippi State? We’re talking about a Bulldogs team that returns a veteran quarterback familiar with all the ins and outs of Leach’s playbook and nearly every production from a defense that was better than last season. The Bulldogs are going to pull off at least one big upset and finish higher in the SEC West than many expected. — the stove

Kentucky: At the risk of offensive coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky is definitely a basketball school. This is the main reason why his show flies under the radar. However, Stoops has led Kentucky to six consecutive bowl games, including two Citrus Bowls, and has four straight bowl wins. The Wildcats may not be ready to compete with Georgia in the SEC East, but they match up well with everyone else. Not bad for “basketball school”. — Pam


Bold predictions

  • Dennis Dodd: Mark Stoops will have 10 wins at Kentucky, hit his ceiling at Lexington and will take the open spot at Auburn if not suddenly.
  • Tom Fornelli: Every team in the SEC West will bowl, but only Alabama and Texas A&M will win more than eight games in the regular season.
  • Chip Patterson: Vanderbilt will reach its over-under win total by the end of September.
  • Barrett Sallee: Ole Miss will run the schedule through the first two months of the season. The Rebels will have a bye week on Nov. 5 against undefeated Alabama on Nov. 12. If they can spring an upset, coach Lane Kiffin’s team could make a legitimate push for the College Football Playoff.
  • Shehan Zeraja: After divisional favorites Alabama and Georgia, no other SEC team found its way into the postseason top 10.
  • David Cobb: Year 1 of the Brian Kelly experiment will be a rough one as the ex-Notre Dame coach experiences the nation’s toughest division for the first time. The Tigers will miss a bowl game but still end up with a top-10 signing class.
  • Jerry Palm: The SEC will again place two teams in the College Football Playoff this season, with a third team in the top six.

The SEC predicted the order of termination

SEC Champion

Alabama: There’s no reason to try and think outside the box here. The Crimson Tide have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Bryce Young, college football’s best player in EDGE Will Anderson Jr. and the sour taste of losing last season’s national title game. Young will have an even better season behind a significantly improved offensive line, the secondary will emerge as one of the nation’s best, and the table is set nicely for coach Nick Saban to win a second straight conference title. –Sally (unanimous)

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