Christmas is just five months away. But with the college football season approaching much sooner, we examine what might be on some of the wish lists for each SEC team, and what could help them out for the upcoming season and beyond. Might as well get the shopping done early.
Alabama: An heir to the running back throne
The last five starting running backs for Nick Saban all went in the either the first or second round of the NFL Draft. Since Alabama’s rise to prominence, the Crimson Tide have had a star at running back. But with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake gone to the NFL, there are some questions at the running back position. Whether it be Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris, a great running back would help out whoever wins the quarterback job.
Arkansas: Some Brandon Allen hand-me-downs
At some point in his life, Arkansas QB Austin Allen has probably gotten something that previously belonged to his older brother, Brandon. Last year, Brandon threw for 30 touchdowns and helped lead the Razorbacks to eight games. In the spring, Austin was named the starter but he threw only three passes all of last season. If the Razorbacks hope to make the leap to the top of the SEC West, they’ll have to hope that Brandon passed down his abilities to Austin.
Auburn: A repaired Carl Lawson
A healthy Lawson could do wonders for the Auburn defense. After finishing second on the team in sacks his freshman year, Lawson missed all of his sophomore year and then another six games his junior year. When he’s been healthy, Lawson has showed flashes of NFL potential. If he can stay healthy and harass opposing quarterbacks, Auburn’s offense should have a lot less pressure on it.
Florida: One starting quarterback
The last time Florida had one quarterback start for an entire season was 2010. That was also Urban Meyer’s final year in Gainesville. There have been injuries, a suspension and sometimes just poor play. In 2012, when Jeff Driskel missed only one game, the Gators managed to win 11 games. Stability at quarterback could be huge for Jim McElwain in his second year. Whether it be Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby, just one quarterback is enough for the Gators.
Georgia: A healthy Nick Chubb
Georgia fans might want a Jacob Eason start more, but sometimes you can get two great gifts. Chubb might be the best running back in the country when healthy. He’s rushed for 2,294 yards and 21 touchdowns when healthy, averaging over 100 yards and just under a touchdown per game. A healthy Chubb makes the Georgia offense better, and could make life easy for a certain freshman quarterback.
Kentucky: A bowl game
The difference between a five-win season and a six-win season isn’t significant in terms of actual results. But it would be a huge change in perception for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats. At the very least, it would end the talk of Kentucky being close to getting to a bowl game. While Kentucky would much rather have a 10-win season, they’ll happily settle for six and a bowl game.
LSU: A win over Alabama
The Tigers are slowly starting to become the little brother in this rivalry. Since beating Alabama 9-6 in 2011, LSU has lost five straight to the Crimson Tide. With Alabama racking up national titles and Les Miles nearly getting fired last year, some balance is needed between these two SEC teams. Plus, don’t both teams have to win for it to be considered a rivalry?
Mississippi State: A new camera
Dan Mullen and Mississippi State took a big risk when they allowed defensive end Jeffrey Simmons to enroll. In March, Simmons was caught on video punching a woman. He was given only a one game suspension for his actions. Simmons and Mississippi State desperately need him to have a quiet year, and if that means he needs to be monitored 24/7 so be it. Or maybe Mullen could use the camera to practice answering some questions about Simmons.
Missouri: A better Lock
Aside from producing great defensive ends, Missouri has also produced some good college quarterbacks. From Chase Daniel to Blaine Gabbert to James Franklin, all helped lead the Tigers to new heights. Maty Mauk wasn’t great, but after he was kicked off the team last year freshman Drew Lock was even worse. He completed just 49 percent of his pass and threw twice as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (4). An improvement from Lock could do wonders for first year head coach Barry Odom.
Ole Miss: A book with all the answers
The longer the NCAA’s investigation at Ole Miss goes on, the worse it gets for Hugh Freeze and company. Eventually it will start to affect the Rebels on the recruiting trail and maybe even some of the Ole Miss players as they continue to field questions about how clean the Ole Miss program is. An answer and resolution on the investigation will be more beneficial to the program than another win over Alabama.
South Carolina: No strings attached for Will Muschamp
Part of Muschamp’s failure at Florida was that he was following a two-time championship winning coach and the huge expectations that were passed on from Meyer. When the Gators won 11 games in 2012, that only made things worse for Muschamp. Now he’ll be following another legend and at South Carolina, and he’ll need time to turn around the program. No expectations for Muschamp will allow him to show what kind of coach he really he is. South Carolina fans are probably hoping he’ll do a better job of following Steve Spurrier than the guy, Ron Zook, who did it at Florida.
Tennessee: A 2-point conversion chart
Al Pacino’s character in Any Given Sunday famously said “The inches we need are everywhere.” The Volunteers lost four games last year by a combined 25 points and they know that. Between the one-point loss to Florida and blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead to Oklahoma at home, those points are everywhere. While the Volunteers defense may improve under new coordinator Bob Shoop, it will be on the offense to find those points.
Texas A&M: A box set of run defenders
While the Texas A&M quarterback situation got a lot of attention last season, part of the reason the Aggies season came apart was that they ranked 108th in run defense in the country. There’s no good reason why a team with the likes of Myles Garrett, Daylon Mack and company should finish that low. It’s even more inexplicable when you consider that John Chavis was brought in last year to improve the defense. If the Aggies can improve that number, Trevor Knight’s play may not matter as much.
Vanderbilt: A 2009 Stanford season
This is a regift. In Jim Harbaugh’s first two seasons at Stanford, the Cardinal didn’t go to a bowl game. The same was true for Derek Mason and his first two years at Vanderbilt. But in year three for Harbaugh, his team won eight games, saw Toby Gerhart make a run at the Heisman and had Andrew Luck emerge as the quarterback of the future. If Ralph Webb can emulate Gerhart, and Kyle Shurmur shows signs of promise, maybe Mason can turn Vanderbilt into the Stanford of the SEC.