Early 2015 Win-Loss Record Projections for Every SEC Football Team

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 2, 2015

Early 2015 Win-Loss Record Projections for Every SEC Football Team

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Spring practice is in full gear, which has given college football fans their first glimpse of their favorite teams in 2015. 

    In other words, this it the time of year when your team is a lock to go undefeated, win the national championship and your star quarterback—even if he isn't on campus yet—will undoubtedly win the Heisman Trophy.

    Ah, the optimism of spring.

    When fall rolls around, however, the cream will rise to the top and some fanbases that are full of hope in April will be searching for answers in November.

    How will the 2015 season shake out? Let's predict it with win-loss projections for every SEC team.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Alabama RB Derrick Henry
    Alabama RB Derrick HenryKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 11

    The defending SEC champs will boast one of the top front sevens in college football, with A'Shawn Robinson, D.J. Pettway, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen and a host of other monsters anchoring the defensive line, with Reggie Ragland solidifying an ultra-athletic linebacking corps.

    The big question is on offense, where just two of the 11 returning starters spend their time. Luckily for Alabama, two of those players are up front, where center Ryan Kelly and offensive tackle Cam Robinson will make like a little bit easier for the eventual winner of the quarterback battle.

    Who will that be? The smart money is on senior Jake Coker, but there's plenty of talent behind him including junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett. Derrick Henry will be back toting the rock, running back Kenyan Drake is the ultra-versatile piece that's imperative in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's offense and there are plenty of options at wide receiver including ArDarius Stewart, Chris Black, Robert Foster and others.

    There hasn't been a team run the table in the SEC since LSU did it in 2011, and that won't change this year. The Tide will, however, win the SEC West and play in the SEC Championship Game.

    Projected 2015 Record: 11-1 (7-1 SEC), with a loss at Texas A&M.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (left) and QB Brandon Allen
    Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (left) and QB Brandon AllenScott Halleran/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 7-6 (2-6 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 15

    Is Arkansas a contender or pretender?

    The return of dynamic running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, four starters on a massive offensive line, leading receiver Keon Hatcher, pass-catching tight end Hunter Henry and efficient quarterback Brandon Allen all suggest that the Razorbacks are contenders. The presence of new offensive coordinator Dan Enos—who's a pro-style coach who will still sling it around—only bolsters that argument.

    The big question, however, is on defense, where coordinator Robb Smith will have to deal with the departures of defensive tackle Darius Philon, defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Martrell Spaight. Can Taiwan Johnson and Bijhon Jackson solidify the interior? Who will become a force off the edge? Can anybody step in for Spaight?

    These are the biggest questions facing the Hogs. While they'll show flashes of brilliance, this team is more likely to take a small step forward rather than a gigantic leap.

    Projected 2015 Record: 7-5 (3-5 SEC), with losses at Tennessee, at Alabama, vs. Auburn, at Ole Miss and at LSU.

Auburn Tigers

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    Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
    Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 12

    When Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hired former Florida head coach Will Muschamp to run the Tigers defense, he created "Guschamp"—a formidable coaching monster that mirrors the one Alabama head coach Nick Saban created last offseason when he hired Lane Kiffin to run the Crimson Tide offense.

    Will Auburn have the same result and make the College Football Playoff?

    A lot of that depends on Muschamp's ability to create a pass rush, which was sorely lacking last year. Carl Lawson will return off of his ACL injury to give the defense a boost, Montravius Adams is a monster in the middle and the return of linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost give Coach Boom a solid foundation.

    The offense is short on starters returning but has a solid quarterback in Jeremy Johnson, a deep wide receiving corps led by D'haquille "Duke" Williams, plenty of options at running back and up front, and is led by Malzahn—one of the brightest offensive minds in college football.

    Auburn will dance around the playoff but will fall just short thanks to two November losses.

    Projected 2015 Record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC), with losses at Texas A&M and vs. Alabama.

Florida Gators

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    Florida head coach Jim McElwain
    Florida head coach Jim McElwainRob Foldy/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 10

    New Florida head coach Jim McElwain has quite a rebuilding job on his hands in Gainesville, dealing with lingering quarterback woes, unproven wide receivers save for Demarcus Robinson and a wildly thin offensive line. The biggest question is whether dual-threat returning starting quarterback Treon Harris will keep his job, or redshirt freshman Will Grier—who's more of a pro-style option—will win over the new coaching staff.

    The defense, led by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and a deep defensive line, will keep Florida in games, and the Gators have enough firepower—particularly running backs Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane—to win some of them.

    Just not all of them.

    Projected 2015 Record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC), with losses at Missouri, at LSU, vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville) at South Carolina and vs. Florida State.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Georgia RB Nick Chubb
    Georgia RB Nick ChubbScott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 12

    Georgia navigated a bizarre 2014 season that included a four-game suspension and subsequent ACL tear to star running back Todd Gurley to reach the 10-win plateau for the ninth time under head coach Mark Richt. Running back Nick Chubb was the biggest reason why. The freshman burst onto the scene with 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns and will lead a talented running back corps that includes veteran Keith Marshall and the electric Sony Michel.

    A veteran offensive line will help ease the transition for new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but the Bulldogs lose their top two receivers and have to replace former starting quarterback Hutson Mason—who threw 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions last year. Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park are all vying for the top spot on the depth chart, but there's a ton of uncertainty right now.

    Second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has a complete overhaul on the defensive line on his hands and must replace both starting middle linebackers. Luckily for Pruitt, outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter return, and his most pressing issue is figuring out how to keep both of them on the field with super-sophomore outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. Expect Jenkins to drop down and put his hand in the dirt at times to create a terrifying front seven.

    Georgia will be in the mix, but the presence of Alabama on that schedule combined with some tough road trips will keep the Bulldogs out of the SEC Championship Game for the third straight season.

    Projected 2015 Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC), with losses vs. Alabama, at Tennessee and at Auburn.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Kentucky RB Jojo Kemp
    Kentucky RB Jojo KempJohn Sommers II/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 14

    Kentucky looked like it was on the brink of breaking through last year, when it rushed to a 5-1 record with the only blemish being a triple overtime loss to Florida, which was a somewhat controversial loss thanks to a Gator touchdown when the play clock was winding down. Six straight losses to close the season, however, sent head coach Mark Stoops to the offseason looking for answers.

    Patrick Towles and Drew Barker are embroiled in a heated quarterback controversy and there are questions at wide receiver, but new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has a dynamic running back duo in Stanley "Boom" Williams and Jojo Kemp—both of whom have performed well this spring, according to Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal.

    The defense has to replace stars Za'Darius Smith and Alvin "Bud" Dupree, but massive defensive tackle Matt Elam should become a force inside for Stoops' defense.

    Kentucky will dance around bowl eligibility again but will fall just short. The Wildcats will, however, be a tough out for every SEC team—even the big boys.

    Projected 2015 Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC), with losses at South Carolina, vs. Florida, vs. Missouri, vs. Auburn, at Mississippi State, vs. Tennessee and at Georgia.

LSU Tigers

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    LSU QBs Brandon Harris (left) and Anthony Jennings (right)
    LSU QBs Brandon Harris (left) and Anthony Jennings (right)Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 15

    It seems like a scene out of Groundhog Day, but here we are in the offseason discussing LSU's quarterback problem yet again. There aren't any changes to this cast, which would be a good thing if this were Hollywood, but unfortunately it could lead to a box-office bust in Baton Rouge.

    Anthony Jennings completed just 48.9 percent of his passes last year but managed to keep his job over then-true freshman Brandon Harris save for one ill-fated Harris start on the road at Auburn. Can Harris earn the confidence from the coaching staff to win this job in 2015? Will Jennings become more consistent? Can offensive coordinator Cam Cameron adjust his play-calling to his dual-threat quarterbacks?

    Those are massive questions, and it's hard to trust that any of the answers can be "yes" after last season's debacle. Luckily, running back Leonard Fournette and a talented offensive line can at least make the offense one-dimensional. That won't win a ton of games, though.

    Up front, LSU has to find a way to improve upon the 19 sacks it had last year and must do it without starting defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter. Can Tashawn Bower be a force? The ability to generate pressure with four will be what makes or breaks the defense.

    LSU will be in plenty of games, but it's hard to trust that offense at this point.

    Projected 2015 Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC), with losses at Mississippi State, vs. Auburn, at Alabama and at Ole Miss.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
    Mississippi State QB Dak PrescottWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 9

    Was 2014 a flash in the pan or the start of a trend for Mississippi State? Head coach Dan Mullen will answer that in 2015, when he returns Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott at quarterback, monster wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson and ultra-athletic defensive tackle Chris Jones.

    That's the good news.

    The bad news is that running back/bowling ball Josh Robinson is gone, three starting offensive linemen must be replaced and there are only two returning starters in the tough front seven. That will be too much for Mullen's crew to overcome in an SEC West that's only getting better.

    The final record will look like a major regression, but the Bulldogs will be in every game and could gain an extra win or two with a couple of breaks along the way.

    Projected 2015 Record: 6-6 (2-6 SEC), with losses at Auburn, at Texas A&M, at Missouri, vs. Alabama, at Arkansas and vs. Ole Miss.

Missouri Tigers

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    Missouri RB Russell Hansbrough
    Missouri RB Russell HansbroughTodd Bennett/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 11-3 (7-1 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 13

    Here's Missouri, just cruising along under the radar as the two-time defending SEC East champs despite massive roster turnover—as was the case last offseason.

    Are you a believer yet?

    Missouri will contend for the division title again in 2015, but winning it may be a bit more challenging thanks to quarterback Maty Mauk's inconsistencies (particularly during the first three quarters of games), a wildly inexperienced wide receiving corps (10 total catches) and a defensive line that has to replace Shane Ray and Markus Golden.

    There are bright spots, however, including underrated running back Russell Hansbrough and defensive lineman Harold Brantley. If head coach Gary Pinkel can plug-and-play new pieces again, Missouri will be in the mix; however, late losses to Tennessee and Arkansas will keep the Tigers out of the Georgia Dome in early December.

    Projected 2015 Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC), with losses at Georgia, vs. Tennessee and at Arkansas.

Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche
    Ole Miss DT Robert NkemdicheKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 16

    Ole Miss flirted with the College Football Playoff late in October, when it earned the No. 4 spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings. Injuries took their toll, though, and the Rebels stumbled down the stretch, losing four of their last six.

    Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell should be back and leading a ultra-athletic group of wide receivers, Laremy Tunsil should come back to anchor the left side of a veteran offensive line, Robert Nkemdiche leads a deep and experienced front seven, and "huskie" Tony Conner will lead a talented secondary. 

    Quarterback is a concern, but Chad Kelly has the tools to be a star in head coach Hugh Freeze's offense as long as he can stay out of trouble. If he doesn't win the job, that means either DeVante Kincade or Ryan Buchanan took it—which is a good thing. 

    If Ole Miss can find a running game between the tackles, look out SEC. Unfortunately, it won't be consistent enough for the Rebels to jump into the College Football Playoff.

    Projected 2015 Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC), with losses at Alabama, at Florida and at Auburn.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
    South Carolina head coach Steve SpurrierTyler Smith/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 12

    South Carolina went from the penthouse to the outhouse in 2014, finishing 7-6 after being picked to win the SEC East at media days prior to the season. Was that the anomaly or the start of a trend?

    Unfortunately for head coach Steve Spurrier, it's the latter.

    The threats that quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney posed during the glory years of 2011-2013 benefited the entire program and can't be replicated with anybody on the current roster.

    Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. are talented defensive linemen, and Marquavius Lewis has potential, but are they going to generate pressure with four and take some pressure off the secondary? Not consistently. Can Connor Mitch step up and become a weapon at quarterback? We don't know yet, and considering running back Mike Davis is gone and the offensive line has some holes, it's hard to trust the Gamecocks right now

    Projected 2015 Record: 6-6 (3-5 SEC), with losses at Georgia, at Missouri, vs. LSU, at Texas A&M, at Tennessee and vs. Clemson.

Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd
    Tennessee RB Jalen HurdSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 18

    This is the year for Tennessee. No really, it is.

    The Vols will return to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2007, thanks to a dynamic offense led by dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs, the addition of Alvin Kamara to a backfield that already includes Jalen Hurd and a deep, talented and healthy wide receiving corps. The only question on offense is up front, but the Vols return four starters on the offensive line, and Dontavius Blair has been fighting for playing time at left tackle in spring practice.

    "Last year, he was more fighting the practice more than the guys in practice in terms of the technique, the fundamentals and the scheme," offensive line coach Don Mahoney said in March, according to UTSports.com. "He was battling his own physical condition. Now, he is in better shape and is stronger. His sense of urgency is great."

    Defensive end Derek Barnett will lead a defensive line that returns seven of eight players on the two-deep and get a talent injection with freshmen Shy Tuttle, Kyle Phillips, Kahlil McKenzie and Andrew Butcher. The linebacking corps is solid and Cam Sutton will lead a veteran secondary.

    The only objection to Tennessee seems to be "because it's Tennessee." That's not good enough for me. The Vols will win the SEC East.

    Projected 2015 Record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC), with losses at Florida and at Alabama.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen
    Texas A&M QB Kyle AllenKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 15

    Texas A&M got a little too pass-happy last season with young quarterbacks, which was a big reason why it finished with a sub-.500 record within the conference. Now that sophomore Kyle Allen has experience under his belt, that approach will work in 2015.

    The gun-slinger from Arizona has a talented group of receivers to work with, including Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones, amongst others. Tra Carson and Brandon Williams are both capable of being every-down backs, and if we've learned anything about Texas A&M since it joined the SEC, it's that the Aggies will find a left tackle every year.

    The question is on defense, but head coach Kevin Sumlin took a huge step toward fixing the problem when he dismissed Mark Snyder and replaced him with former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. He has a tremendous foundation to work with, including monster defensive end Myles Garrett, linebacker Otaro Alaka and safety Armani Watts. Plus, considering the offense A&M runs, the defense doesn't have to be great, it just has to be adequate. 

    It will be. 

    Don't be surprised if the Aggies are dancing around SEC West contention in November.

    Projected 2015 Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC), with losses vs. Arkansas (in Arlington, Texas), at Ole Miss and at LSU.

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary
    Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCraryMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

    Returning Starters: 18

    Vanderbilt was gifted four wins last year thanks to a remarkably forgiving out-of-conference schedule, but one of those presents was "returned to sender" after the Commodores lost on opening night to Temple. In 2015, the 'Dores get Western Kentucky at home and Houston on the road—both of which are incredibly tough out-of-conference matchups considering where the Vandy program is at this point.

    Patton Robinette's early retirement means that Johnny McCrary should become the full-time starting quarterback in Nashville, but if last year was any indication, head coach Derek Mason isn't afraid to employ a quick hook on his signal-callers. Ralph Webb is a solid running back, but a weapon outside has to materialize in order for the offense to get going.

    Defensively, Caleb Azubike is a force off the edge, but will he make life easier for the rest of the cast on defense? That's a lot to ask.

    It will be another struggle for Mason in Year 2.

    Projected 2015 Record: 2-10 (0-8 SEC), with losses vs. Western Kentucky, vs. Georgia, at Ole Miss, at South Carolina, vs. Missouri, at Houston, at Florida, vs. Kentucky, vs. Texas A&M and at Tennessee.

    Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

    Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings and all returning starter information is courtesy of PhilSteele.com. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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