The SEC East is collectively not good. You can even argue it’s the worst Power 5 division.
On Dec. 3, one SEC East team will be the blood sacrifice Nick Saban demands on his altar in the conference title game. The options are a Tennessee that the Tide have already straight dominated or a Florida that wouldn’t know competent offense if it walked up and kicked ’em in the gonads.
So, if commissioner Greg Sankey wants to improve the quality of a lopsided SEC Championship, he’ll have to get creative. Let’s have the entire dang division play Bama. I’m gonna draft myself an SEC East All-Star Team.
(Also, great minds think alike. Our friends at Red Cup Rebellion had a similar Bama-vs.-the East idea this week.)
Head coach: Will Muschamp, South Carolina
I can’t believe I just wrote those words, but bear with me. If Slick Willy has turned over a new leaf and can leave the offense alone, maybe we have a chance. This is a single-game thing, and less about big-picture program building. I need to stop Alabama on one Saturday, and Muschamp gives me a better shot than any other coach in the division.
Offensive coordinator: Eddie Gran, Kentucky
My team is going to have to run the ball, and it’s going to need to do so in a less-than-conventional fashion. UK is a close No. 2 behind Missouri in the SEC East in yards per play and has developed a run-first style that better fits our personnel.
Defensive coordinator: Geoff Collins, Florida
The defensive talent I’ve put together is good enough to get any job done, but I need players to buy in on the idea that we can beat Bama by doing what we do. Collins can do that. His defense is currently top five in a bunch of metrics.
Quarterback: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
I can’t run a pro-style offense against Bama. Think back to the last pro-style offense that beat Alabama. Still thinking? I’ll give you some more time.
Standing like a statue in the pocket is a recipe for disaster. Three yards and a cloud of dust is not going to work. Dobbs’ running ability is the only way we’d have a chance on offense. Dobbs didn’t run very well against Bama as a senior, but did go for 75 yards on the ground against the Tide as a sophomore.
Also, there’s no other option in the division, unless we wanted to use an underclassman like Georgia’s Jacob Eason.
Running back: Boom Williams, Kentucky
You might expect me to take Nick Chubb, but I’m not running between the tackles. I need speed (yes, Bama’s got that in spades, and running outside seems almost equally hopeless, but humor me). Among the 17 SEC backs with 110 or more carries, Williams is No. 1 in yards per carry, with 7.37.
I also would attempt to give Alabama some different looks with the wildcat formation, something Williams runs with UK. What’s the benefit there? I’ll let him explain:
“You get one guy out of the box, and then as soon as you get the ball as the running back, you get to pick your hole,” said Williams, who ran for 3,333 career yards at UK, second most in school history.
“Sometimes when you take the handoff, the quarterback — there’s probably a nicer way of saying it — is in the way of your vision to the left,” he continued. “When you get the snap directly, you can see everything.”
Wide receivers: Jauan Jennings, Tennessee; Antonio Callaway, Florida; and damn near all of Mizzou’s WR corps, standing on each others’ shoulders
Callaway is my general playmaker and the only significant threat in Florida’s passing game. He’s not the fastest guy, and he’s not the biggest. But he just makes plays and is the SEC East’s No. 2 receiver in yards per game.
Jennings is my deep threat, 6’3 and a former basketball player. Go up and get the ball when I need you to on a 50-50 ball.
At slot receiver, the Tigers’ strong passing game essentially has four of the same under-six-foot guy: Johnathon Johnson, Chris Black, Ray Wingo, and Richaud Floyd. They almost cancel each other out because you can’t have them all on the field at the same time ... or can you?
Tight end: Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
As a Rob Gronkowski type and the SEC’s No. 2 tight end in yards per game, the 6’5 Hurst helps me stretch the seams. The ol’ too fast for a LB, too big for a safety type, at least against most teams.
He’s a former professional baseball player, and in the interest of giving the Tide a different look, he can do stuff like this:
A little throwback action to Dobbs? Yeah, I can dig that.
Offensive line: I mean, what’s the point of even listing guys?
To be honest, just gimme five guys to try and get in the way of Jonathan Allen. You wanna scheme up a way to block this? Didn’t think so.
I’ve got a QB who can make plays with his legs, but Bama’s already showed it can hold him in check. That’s why I built my group in the interest of guys who have some different skill sets. It may be unsound to rely on gadget plays, but nothing about attacking the Tide conventionally leads me to believe I could win otherwise.
Defensive ends: Charles Harris, Mizzou and Derek Barnett, Tennessee
I need to get Alabama QB Jalen Hurts rushed. Hurts is not a polished passer. He probably will be, and when that day comes, we’re all gonna die. For now, he’s a freshman.
Bama does some things in protection to get him on the move, because he’s not a set-and-throw guy. I need talented pass rushers to counter that. Potential first-rounders Harris and Barnett are those guys.
Tackles: Nifae Lealao, Vanderbilt and Joey Ivie, Florida
I’m not so concerned with pass-rushing prowess on the inside. I need anchors against the run and dudes to spill things outside to sound perimeter defenders. If Harris and Barnett are going to force Hurts to step up inside, then we have to hold the point of attack and stay in rush lanes, so he can’t just take off.
Also, someone’s gotta do something with Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. It may look fancy, but Alabama will still run at you with its running backs, not necessarily around you (that’s where Hurts comes in).
And when they do use Hurts up the middle, I need something other than this to happen.
Vandy’s defense is No. 17 in Stuff Rate, thanks in part to its 312-pounder, and the 301-pound Ivie is part of one of the country’s all-around best fronts.
Linebackers: Jarrad Davis, Florida and Zack Cunningham, Vanderbilt
We’re gonna play nickel (five defensive backs) essentially the whole time, so I’m listing only two linebackers. I thought about Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter instead of Davis, for maximum athleticism, but I need an exceptional run defender on the second level and someone to captain the defense. As tough as they come, he will set the tone.
Cunningham is someone you should have heard of by now and a good coverage guy at linebacker. Someone has to deal with Bama TE O.J. Howard. SEC tackles leader Cunningham’s got 6’4 length and athleticism for days.
And, uhh, there’s this too:
Cornerbacks: Jalen Tabor, Florida; Quincy Wilson, Florida; Aarion Penton, Mizzou
Tabor and Wilson are my physical, ball-hawking perimeter corners, the prototypes for the modern corner.
But with the 5’10 Penton, I’ll gamble that whichever WR he lines up against will probably be taller. I like Penton’s ability to play the ball, and I hope that’ll cancel out the Tide’s height advantage. He leads the conference in interceptions and is seventh in the nation in passes defended.
Safeties: Marcus Maye, Florida and Dominick Sanders, Georgia
Thought about picking Quincy Mauger here and just going with both Georgia safeties. But Maye and Sanders combine to pack a punch in the run game, which you typically sacrifice with nickel personnel. I also think my corners are good enough to not need exceptional safeties in pass coverage.
I’m pleased with my defense, and I’m confident it would stand up to Alabama, which is stoppable on offense if you’ve got the horses (see: LSU). The problem is that, just like the Tigers, my SEC East Voltron is going to have a hard time scoring. LSU’s D only had three or so busts in the game two weeks ago, and they lost because of it.
Would this team be favored against Bama?
Here’s Bud Elliott:
Alabama would currently be a favorite of nine points over LSU on a neutral field, according to pregame.com:
While this All-SEC East team does not have Leonard Fournette, it does have a tremendous defense, probably the best in college football. And it has a much better passing game, and presumably a better offensive line. It's also a team of almost all upperclassmen, which is rarity in college football.
I think this matchup would be very even. A pick ’em in the Georgia Dome would be fun.