The 2016 college football season is here, and it's time for conference previews and predictions. Here is Stewart Mandel's projected SEC standings for 2016. READ MANDEL's SEC PREVIEW: Why Alabama and LSU will both make the playoff.
Vasha HuntVasha Hunt
SEC West No. 7: Mississippi State (6-6, 2-6 SEC)
It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs don’t slip a little post-Dak, though this would be Dan Mullen’s lowest finish in eight seasons. Last year: 9-4, 4-4, beat NC State in Belk Bowl.
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SEC West No. 6: Auburn (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
Gus Malzahn should have his best defense to date, but uncertainty at quarterback and running back is not a good sign. Last year: 7-6, 2-6, beat Memphis in Birmingham bowl.
Michael Chang/Getty Images
SEC West No. 5: Ole Miss (7-5, 4-4 SEC)
A turbulent offseason combined with big personnel losses on defense contribute to the Rebels taking a small step back in 2016. Last year: 10-3, 6-2, beat Oklahoma State in Sugar Bowl.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
SEC West No. 4: Arkansas (8-4, 5-3 SEC)
Many are overlooking the Razorbacks, but new QB Austin Allen will surprise people while an experienced defense noticeably improves. Last year: 8-5, 5-3, beat Kansas State in Liberty Bowl.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY SportsMarvin Gentry
SEC West No. 3: Texas A&M (9-3, 5-3 SEC)
Oklahoma transfer QB Trevor Knight just needs to avoid turnovers, while Myles Garrett and the defense emerge as one of the SEC’s best. Last year: 8-5, 4-4, lost to Louisville in Music City Bowl.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
SEC West No. 2: LSU (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
The Tigers ride Leonard Fournette and a defense that new coordinator Dave Aranda will mold into one of the nation’s best. Last year: 9-3, 5-3, beat Texas Tech in Texas Bowl.
Getty ImagesMichael Chang
SEC West No. 1: Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
New year, same script: The Tide show some cracks early, then turn it on late thanks to another dominant defensive front. Last year: 14-1, 7-1, beat Clemson in national championship.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
SEC East No. 7: South Carolina (4-8, 1-7 SEC)
Now-retired Steve Spurrier left the cupboard mostly bare for his successor, former Florida boss Will Muschamp. Last year: 3-9, 1-7, no bowl game.
Getty ImagesLance King
SEC East No. 6: Missouri (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
New coach Barry Odom will have a talented defense to work with, but the offense will remain a work in progress. Last year: 5-7, 1-7, no bowl game.
Getty ImagesKyle Rivas
SEC East No. 5: Kentucky (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
While QB Drew Barker is promising, he’s going through yet another offensive coaching change under Mark Stoops. Last year: 5-7, 2-6, no bowl.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley
SEC East No. 4: Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
Led by LB Zach Cunningham, Vandy’s defense will look a lot like coach Derek Mason’s staunch units from his Stanford days. Last year: 4-8, 2-6, no bowl game.
SEC East No. 3: Georgia (7-5, 4-4 SEC)
New coach Kirby Smart will likely be relying on a true freshman QB (Jacob Eason), not an ideal scenario in the SEC. Last year: 10-3, 5-3, beat Penn State in Taxslayer Bowl.
SEC East No. 2: Florida (8-4, 5-3 SEC)
Jim McElwain overachieved by winning 10 games in Year 1; QB Luke Del Rio won’t be enough to avoid an evening out. Last year: 10-4, 7-1, lost to Michigan in Citrus Bowl.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
SEC East No. 1: Tennessee (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
The Vols are talented and experienced across the board, especially on the D-line, and should start winning more big games. Last year: 9-4, 5-3, beat Northwestern in Outback Bowl.
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SEC championship: Alabama over Tennessee
The Vols break through in Butch Jones' fourth year in Knoxville to reach the SEC title game, but the Crimson Tide still run the league. They take home another conference championship and return to the College Football Playoff to defend their national title.