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SEC remains loaded in season when little else is normal

Southeastern Conference (SEC)

The Southeastern Conference is trying to carry on its football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted: Sep 1, 2020 2:38 PM

The Southeastern Conference is trying to carry its football season on amid the COVID-19 pandemic while Georgia, Alabama and LSU forge ahead without their star quarterbacks.

In a precarious season when almost nothing feels normal, the SEC does feel like, well, the SEC — even without its most prominent passers. The powerhouse league approaches the delayed, shortened season with four teams ranked in the top 10.

No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Florida and others nurse championship hopes. However, the Crimson Tide must replace prolific passer Tua Tagovailoa, Georgia is without Jake Fromm and defending national champion LSU no longer has Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick Joe Burrow.

With the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences bowing out this fall because of COVID-19 concerns, that cuts the potential field of contenders for a “national” title down. But the SEC would have figured prominently on that list anyway.

And the league opted to continue working toward a season that will include just 10 SEC games with a Sept. 26 start. Alabama coach Nick Saban said that schedule under the circumstances will be good for the fans and players alike.

“I mean, I’ve been a guy that’s been wanting to play 10 SEC games for a long time, so this year we get to do that,” said Saban, whose team added games against Kentucky and Missouri. “I think it’s good for our players who get the opportunity to create value against 10 really quality opponents in our league. ”

The SEC does have seven teams in the preseason Top 25, a list that includes leagues that aren't playing. Auburn is No. 11 and Texas A&M is No. 13, with quarterbacks Bo Nix and Kellen Mond, respectively, returning. No. 25 Tennessee has 25-game starter Jarrett Guarantano back.

There's also the usual crop of elite NFL prospects hoping for another season to improve their draft stock and compete for titles.

“We’re the SEC,” Mississippi tailback Jerrion Ealy said. “We love our football and we’re going to play football no matter what.”

Not no matter what, necessarily. But if reasonably possible.

And COVID-19 is a factor coaches have to take into consideration, much like a rash of injuries. So the key players might end up being second- and third-teamers pressed into action.

“I think I’m very comfortable with the fact that it’s not going to go perfect as planned,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Who can handle those adjustments?

"Whose team can not get lost in worrying and concerning themselves with things they can’t control and really worrying about things they can?”

The biggest name to opt out of the season in the SEC is LSU All-American wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

THE FAVORITES

East: Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri, Vanderbilt.

West: Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Arkansas

TOP PLAYERS

DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, WRs, Alabama: The Tide lost two first-round NFL draft picks at receivers, but still has one of college football’s top tandems.

Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee: All-SEC guard returned for his senior season. Has started 31 of his 32 games playing for the Volunteers.

Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama: The leader of ‘Bama’s defense is back after missing last season with a knee injury.

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU: Became immediate star as a freshman, earning AP All-America and SEC newcomer of the year honors. Led SEC and ranked fifth nationally with six interceptions.

Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia: Led SEC with three fumble recoveries and had two of his four interceptions last season in the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor.

NEW FACES

Lane Kiffin, head coach, Mississippi; Mike Leach, head coach, Mississippi State: The hiring of these two big-name coaches with impressive offensive pedigrees brought some excitement to the Magnolia State. Now, how quickly can they bring wins?

Sam Pittman, head coach, Arkansas: Pittman, whose last head coaching job was at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College from 1992-93, takes over a program that has lost 19 consecutive SEC games.

amie Newman and JT Daniels, QBs, Georgia: The two former Power 5 starters — Newman at Wake Forest, Daniels at USC — are vying to replace Fromm. It’s a good problem to have since Newman was second in the ACC in total offense last season and Daniels was only the second freshman quarterback to start a USC opener two years ago. Smart said he opened preseason practices limited by the knee injury that ended his last season at USC.

Chad Morris, OC, Auburn: Sure, Morris bombed as head coach at Arkansas, but he has a much better track record as an offensive coordinator, including a stint at Clemson. He will take over play calling duties from his boss, head coach Gus Malzahn.

ON THE HOT SEAT

This list should come with a COVID caveat because the financial toll, league-only schedule and other factors besides the win-loss record could impact schools’ decisions.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina: The Gamecocks lost their last three games, including a defeat to Appalachian State and blowout losses to Texas A&M and Clemson. They scored just nine points in those final two games.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Mason has had his successes with the Commodores, but has also won just 10 SEC games in six seasons. Vandy was 3-9 last season.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20931250
Hinds19961410
Harrison17562303
Rankin13369277
Jackson13156243
Madison9950212
Lee9890170
Jones8310161
Forrest7542148
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6289144
Lamar613384
Lafayette6072117
Washington5291133
Bolivar4776129
Oktibbeha457197
Panola4458103
Pearl River4437141
Warren4299119
Marshall4286102
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4062132
Union404675
Neshoba4005176
Lincoln3886109
Hancock373385
Leflore3471124
Sunflower331589
Tate325384
Pike3215105
Scott311472
Yazoo305069
Alcorn299465
Itawamba297877
Copiah293965
Coahoma290479
Simpson289586
Tippah285168
Prentiss276659
Marion266279
Leake261773
Wayne261541
Grenada256484
Covington255280
Adams246982
Newton245761
George238547
Winston226081
Tishomingo222567
Jasper220048
Attala213673
Chickasaw205457
Holmes187172
Clay183254
Stone179733
Clarke177776
Tallahatchie176140
Calhoun165431
Yalobusha160136
Smith159334
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126534
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113832
Jefferson Davis105532
Tunica103225
Claiborne101330
Benton97525
Kemper95628
Humphreys94632
Franklin82923
Quitman78916
Choctaw73917
Wilkinson65128
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521623

Reported Deaths: 10739
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754061493
Mobile39067799
Madison34040496
Tuscaloosa25367444
Montgomery24019567
Shelby23186239
Baldwin20701302
Lee15589165
Calhoun14342311
Morgan14158271
Etowah13685346
Marshall11995220
Houston10404278
Elmore10011200
Limestone9852147
Cullman9503189
St. Clair9463234
Lauderdale9265228
DeKalb8757181
Talladega8115171
Walker7139275
Jackson6756110
Autauga6750103
Blount6519134
Colbert6229130
Coffee5424113
Dale4772111
Russell430038
Franklin420782
Chilton4101109
Covington4061114
Tallapoosa3907146
Escambia390174
Dallas3525149
Chambers3514122
Clarke347060
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295995
Winston273172
Bibb256059
Marengo248361
Geneva246075
Pickens233259
Barbour226455
Hale218575
Butler212967
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182644
Randolph177241
Monroe172540
Washington165238
Macon155648
Clay150155
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146741
Lamar139734
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124427
Bullock121640
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
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Tupelo
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Some spotty showers will move through our area this morning but should clear out by the afternoon. We should see some breaks in the clouds and temperatures reaching the mid to upper 60s.
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