On Monday, the SEC released its full schedule for the 2020 season. There are now bonafide matchups for us to chew on and debate. With 39 days remaining until the SEC takes the field, there is plenty of time to discuss the Week 1 schedule. Who is on upset alert? Take a look at the two teams who better watch their backs when September 26 rolls around.
When the MLB and the NBA resumed play, there was conjecture as to how factors relating to the pandemic would affect the outcomes of games. Would the lack of fans be an equalizer for lesser-talented teams? How would the extended break affect performance? Would game results be predictable or unpredictable? The answers to these questions in college football won’t be answered until the teams take the field, but without spring practice and an abnormal fall camp, inexperienced players will have to learn fast because an all-SEC schedule is unforgiving.
LSU only returns eight starters from last season’s national championship team, but only three return from a prolific offense that averaged 48.4 points per game. The loss of quarterback Joe Burrow and offensive coordinator Joe Brady is immeasurable. Junior quarterback Myles Brennan will step in for Burrow, but he has limited game experience. Combine that with a change at offensive coordinator and one returning starter on the offensive line, and LSU’s offense is going to be unrecognizable.
While Mississippi State isn’t oozing with talent and experience, the Bulldogs do have veteran leadership at quarterback in Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello. In 29 games at Stanford, Costello threw for 6,151 yards and 49 touchdowns. He will join the third-leading rusher in the SEC in 2019 (1,350 yards, 10 touchdowns) in senior running back Kylin Hill. It’s no secret that first-year head coach Mike Leach knows how to get production from his quarterbacks. If this game comes down to an offense needing to make a late-game score to break a stalemate, Costello is the better bet.
Kentucky is still waiting on a decision from the NCAA on quarterback Joey Gatewood’s transfer waiver to see if he will be eligible to play in the 2020 season. Gatewood announced his decision to transfer from Auburn midway through last season when it was clear his playing time would be limited while behind starter Bo Nix on the depth chart. Gatewood committed to Auburn early in his recruitment and stayed with the Tigers throughout the process. Now, if eligible, he returns to Auburn wearing a different shade of blue with a point to prove.
Auburn is having to replace four starters on the offensive line, the major contributions of defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, and four starters from the defensive backfield, including lockdown corner and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene. Running back JaTarvious Whitlow transferred from the program, and the Tigers have yet to establish a pecking order at the position. Auburn has a lot to figure out and little time to do it. Kentucky sneakily had an eight-win season, and there is excitement in Lexington about the Wildcats building on last year’s success.