When Tony Barnhart talks, SEC football fans usually listen.
On Tuesday, the SEC Network analyst who is dubbed “Mr. College Football” gave his prediction for the order of finish for the SEC East in 2018. And, surprise! He has the defending SEC champions returning to Atlanta with a 7-1 conference record.
Here’s a look at how things shake out in Barnhart’s mind:
2018 SEC East: Tony Barnhart’s predicted order of finish
1. Georgia (7-1)
2. S. Carolina (6-2)
3. Florida (5-3)
4. Tennessee (4-4)
T5. Kentucky (2-6)
T5. Missouri (2-6)
7. Vanderbilt (1-7)
Barnhart went on to explain his predictions and give a game-by-game breakdown on how the SEC East should shake out in an article for TMG College Sports.
Here are some takeaways from his breakdown of the SEC East:
- Barnhart believes Georgia will repeat as SEC East champions, but will do so with a loss against SEC East rival South Carolina.
- Barnhart is predicting the Gamecocks will get the best of the Bulldogs in what many see as a key to the division this fall, but he doesn’t think that will be enough for Will Muschamp to reach the conference title game. He’s predicting road losses at Ole Miss and Florida for South Carolina.
- Barnhart must really believe in Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. He’s predicting that the Vols recover from an 0-8 conference effort in 2017 to finish .500 in the league during the former Alabama defensive coordinator’s first season as a head coach. Barnhart sees wins against Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt on the Tennessee schedule.
- Likewise, Barnhart is predicting a bounce-back season for Florida with the addition of former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen in Gainesville. However, he’s predicting that the Gators fall to Mullen’s former team along with key losses to division rivals Georgia and Tennessee.
If you have ever taken a close gander at the predicted order of finish from SEC Media Days and compared it to the actual order of finish in late November, it’s pretty clear that the league’s media is far from perfect in making predictions on what will happen between the lines.
But give Barnhart credit for putting himself out there on a game-by-game prediction basis so early in the offseason. It certainly gives SEC fans something to talk about in late May.