Josh Kendall

Where will SEC writers rank USC heading into 2019? Here’s our prediction for the East

It may not feel like it, but football season is not far away.

In fact, SEC Media Days, the unofficial start of the season for media members who cover the sport, starts July 15 in Hoover, Alabama. With that in mind, here’s a look at how the media might pick the SEC East finish.

First place

Writers’ Pick: Georgia. My Pick: Georgia

This won’t be unanimous because some joker(s) will always want to be different, but the Bulldogs are the clear choice this season. Joe Cool quarterback Jake Fromm is back for his third season, the offensive line is probably the best in the country and there are still plenty of NFL-caliber running backs. The defense might actually create some quarterback pressure this year, too.

Second place

Writers’ Pick: Florida. My Pick: Florida

The Gators won 10 games in Dan Mullen’s first season, leading to some speculation they can challenge Georgia this year. That feels a little optimistic, but Florida is feeling like a force again. Feleipe Franks developed into a very good quarterback last season, and the Gators held onto defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in the offseason.

Third place

Writers’ Pick: Missouri. My Pick: South Carolina

The addition of Clemson quarterback transfer Kelly Bryant and a surprisingly competent first year out of offensive coordinator Derek Dooley in 2018 have led to some optimism about the Tigers, who will be paced by underappreciated tailback Larry Rountree III. I’ve got the Gamecocks here, though, because of a veteran and potentially explosive offense and a defense that will be better than it has ever been under Will Muschamp on the line and in the secondary.

Fourth place

Writers’ Pick: Kentucky. My Pick: Missouri

This is the year we learn if Mark Stoops’ steady building of the Wildcats program was the most important element in their relative recent success or whether it was about running back Benny Snell and linebacker Josh Allen. I’m betting it was about Snell and Allen, and I’ve got the Tigers here because I think Rountree III is that good.

Fifth place

Writers’ Pick: Tennessee. My Pick: Kentucky

There will once again be some people picking the Volunteers to make a big jump this season. I’m not sure those people have been paying attention. Tennessee hasn’t been good for a while. In fact, the team has been bad for quite some time. In the Volunteers’ final two games last year, they lost to Missouri and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 88-30. Still, they’ll be picked higher than they should be.

Sixth place

Writers’ Pick: South Carolina. My Pick: Tennessee

The regional and national media will be scared of South Carolina’s schedule, and that’s not a crazy take. The Gamecocks probably have two losses in their crossover games with Alabama and Texas A&M, which puts them playing catch-up against some teams in the East already. Still, South Carolina has made enough progress to deserve more credit than it’s likely to get at SEC Media Days.

Seventh place

Writers’ Pick: Vanderbilt. My Pick: Vanderbilt

There was no turnover among SEC head coaches this year. That won’t be the case next year because Derek Mason won’t be able to save his job.