Lindy’s Preseason Picks: The SEC Staff

July 08, 2023 at 11:29 am.

You know the storyline by now: Georgia is going for the trifecta – three national titles in a row – but no team in the SEC wants to make it easy for the Bulldogs.

Coach Kirby Smart’s team will have to aim for another title without the former walk-on-turned-Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Stetson Bennett, and an array of outstanding defensive players that were chosen in the NFL Draft.

The Dawgs will be just fine after losing 10.

Georgia lost an astounding 15 players to the NFL in the 2022 draft, but that didn’t stop last season’s undefeated run to the national crown, which culminated in a 65-7 thumping of TCU.

East Division

Georgia, which hadn’t won a national championship in over 40 years, now goes for three-in-a-row with Carson Beck likely at quarterback. He’ll have a solid group of running backs, the nation’s best tight end (Brock Bowers) and a strong collection of receivers.

The defense will be stout again, anchored by linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr., and defensive back Javon Bullard.

Tennessee hopes Joe Milton plays consistently at the level that earned him MVP honors in an Orange Bowl win over Clemson. He has size (6-5, 242) and a cannon for an arm. UT is solid at running back and receiver and has added talent to a defense that ranked nearly last in the nation in passing yards allowed.

Floria lost quarterback Anthony Richardson – a top-five pick in the NFL draft. The offense will be geared around running backs Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne.

Like Florida, Kentucky lost a talented quarterback (Will Levis). The Wildcats also lost 1,000-yard rusher Chris Rodriguez. Coach Mark Stoops brought in talented Devin Leary (NC State) to play quarterback, and re-hired offensive coordinator Liam Coen to resurrect the attack.

South Carolina came to life late as Spencer Rattler torched Tennessee and Clemson in upset wins. But the Gamecocks lost running back Marshawn Lloyd and defensive end Jordan Burch in the portal.

Missouri needs Brady Cook (3,324 total yards) and Vanderbilt needs AJ Swann to play at a high level to compete.

West Division

LSU surprised many by winning the West in head coach Brian Kelly’s first year, with the help of 15 transfers. Jayden Daniels was the key, setting an LSU quarterback record with 818 rushing yards. The proven quarterback play gives the Tigers a QB edge on rival Alabama, which may or may not have an elite quarterback.

Time will tell, of course, but Alabama coach Nick Saban has options to go along with potential concerns. Neither Jalen Milroe nor Ty Simpson played well in the Tide’s spring game, and Notre Dame’s Tyler Buchner joined the fray as a post-spring transfer. Bama might rely more on the run game, despite losing Jahmyr Gibbs.

Saban hired Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator after the unit had trouble stopping Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn.

It’ll be interesting to see if Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher completely turns over the offensive reigns to new coordinator Bobby Petrino. Quarterback Conner Weigman could be the key to the season.

Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson is one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, and Rocket Sanders is one of the SEC’s premier running backs, but the defense took a huge step back last season. Evidence: The Hogs beat Kansas 55-53 in a bowl game.

Mississippi State is somewhat ditching the Air Raid offense that Mike Leach perfected, despite Will Rogers’ return at quarterback. Offensive coordinator has the unenviable task of replacing Leach as the play-caller.

Ole Miss returns quarterback Jaxon Dart (2,613 passing, 548 rushing) but coach Lane Kiffin apparently wasn’t satisfied as he lured Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders and LSU’s Walker Howard to Oxford. Running back Quinshon Judkins led the league in rushing last season.

It was unclear after spring if Robby Ashford could run Hugh Freeze’s offense at Auburn, so Freeze added Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne in early May. The Tigers do have an elite rusher in Jarquez Hunter. A defense that allowed at least 39 points in six games lost two star players.

Our picks:

Champion: Georgia

Player of the Year: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU


East Division


  1. Georgia
  2. Tennessee
  3. South Carolina
  4. Florida
  5. Kentucky
  6. Missouri
  7. Vanderbilt

West Division


  1. Alabama
  2. LSU
  3. Ole Miss
  4. Arkansas
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Auburn
  7. Mississippi State


Full picks and team-by-team breakdowns are available in Lindy’s College Football 2023 National Preview.

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