While the ACC is two weeks into its schedule, the SEC and Big 12 officially kick off their conference slates this weekend.
In the final installment of a three-part preview series looking at the Power 5 conferences beginning their seasons this month, theScore examines seven questions heading into SEC action.
What will Alabama's offense look like without Tua?
Best guess? A lot of Najee Harris. He likely would've been Alabama's offensive focal point the last couple seasons if it weren't for all-world quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The talented running back figures to rocket up draft boards this year. Should the opposition shut down the running game, the Crimson Tide boast one of the best receiver duos in the country with DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Whether it's Mac Jones or highly touted newcomer Bryce Young throwing the passes, Alabama has plenty of weapons to keep its high-scoring ways going with Tagovailoa in the NFL.
Which new Mississippi coach will make more noise on - and off - the field?
The state of Mississippi might not have any national title contenders, but it will have the attention of the entire college football world. Shortly after Ole Miss grabbed national headlines by hiring Lane Kiffin as head coach, Mississippi State countered by bringing in Mike Leach from Washington State. Both men are known as much for their high-powered offenses as they are for their antics and colorful press conferences. Leach likely has the stronger returning outfit, adding Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello at quarterback, but how Kiffin uses the duo of Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee under center will be highly entertaining.
Is Florida truly a national title contender?
Florida's defense is worthy of national title hype thanks to its returning players from a very talented unit last season. Whether the offense is up to the test will heavily depend on Kyle Trask's continued development. The 22-year-old senior finished 10th in the country in total QBR last season after taking over the starting job. His top two receivers may be gone, but tight end Kyle Pitts leads a talented group that will give him plenty of options. Barring a major improvement in the running game, it will be up to Trask to keep the Gators' offense on the field, as the rushing attack finished second-last in the conference in 2019.
How does LSU handle massive roster turnover?
One more congratulation to LSU for claiming the national championship in January. The Tigers now embark on their quest to repeat having to replace more than 34 players and staff members, including:
Needless to say, it's not going to be easy in Baton Rouge. Ed Orgeron has done his usual incredible job recruiting, but the amount of roster turnover is going to be a significant challenge for the Tigers amid a competitive SEC West.
Can JT Daniels get Georgia back in the CFP?
Georgia has been an absolute juggernaut since Kirby Smart took over in Athens, but the Bulldogs aren't satisfied with SEC East titles. They last made the College Football Playoff during the 2017-18 season, losing in overtime in the national title game. If Georgia returns to the playoff this season, USC transfer JT Daniels will be a major reason why. Daniels made the move east even though Jamie Newman had already signed on with Georgia, which worked out after the Wake Forest transfer opted out to prepare for the NFL draft. It's now Daniels' show and he's blessed with some solid skill-position talent around him in receivers George Pickens and Demetris Robertson, and running backs Zamir White and James Cook. If the talented 20-year-old can replicate his passing success from his freshman season with the Trojans, expect Georgia to be back in national title contention in 2020.
Can Jimbo take a third-year leap at Texas A&M?
Those supplying the funds for his 10-year, $75-million contract sure hope so. Fisher previously led Florida State to a 12-2 record and victory in the Orange Bowl in his third season with the Seminoles. The Aggies would definitely be pleased with that sort of jump from Fisher this season after a 17-9 record in his first two years with Texas A&M. Kellen Mond has all the makings of a star at the quarterback spot, but he needs improved offensive line play to give him time to work. Expect the Aggies to make the leap with a number of key defenders returning and compete with the best in the SEC West this season.
Which third-place team is ready to move up?
Tennessee became a completely different outfit after an incredibly ugly start to the 2019 season, ripping off six straight wins to finish the slate and end up third in the East. Jeremy Pruitt has officially made his mark on the Volunteers' defense, which allowed just 15 points per contest during their six-game winning streak. It will take more consistent quarterback play out of Jarrett Guarantano to see the Volunteers challenge the likes of Florida and Georgia, but Tennessee is well on its way to getting back on the national stage.
A bowl loss to Minnesota took some shine off Auburn's upset of Alabama in the season-ending rivalry game, but there's plenty to be excited about for the Tigers this season. With Bo Nix back at quarterback for his sophomore season and a full array of talented skill-position players returning as well, expect some big numbers from the Tigers' offense. The defense once again projects to be one of the conference's best, and with LSU dealing with massive roster turnover, Auburn could challenge Alabama for the West crown.