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Just days away from the 2022 season, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Tennessee are the three SEC teams that have burning questions in need of an answer.
Does Kentucky Have Enough Bark To Make Georgia Nervous?
The hype for the Wildcats heading into the 2022 season is at an all-time high. But, is it justified? Kentucky definitely has the roster to make their November game with Georgia interesting. Whether they get out of ‘The Swamp’ with a win is the question. And the answer is yes.
Kentucky should beat Florida and be 4-0 heading into a pivotal game with Ole Miss on the opening weekend of October. Getting past the Rebels, then taking care of South Carolina at home could make for a pretty big matchup with Tennessee to close out the month.
Mark Stoops is building momentum in Lexington. But will it be enough to make the Georgia matchup in November an East division knockout game? These are the questions that make me nervous about Kentucky — especially not dropping a game they should win on paper. It’s time for Kentucky to take the next step. If they’re up for the challenge.
Can Texas A&M Be A True Contender In The SEC West?
It all comes down to the quarterback for Jimbo Fisher. It’ll be either Haynes King or Max Johnson taking snaps for the Aggies. Both signal callers realize the time is now for Texas A&M to enter the conversation as SEC Championship contenders.
A&M’s first real test comes when they close out September against SEC foe Arkansas. Yes, I know they play Miami in week three, but the Aggies should beat the Hurricanes and setup a pivotal game in Arlington. Over a three week span, Jimbo Fisher will have to navigate his team through Arkansas, Mississippi State and then Alabama (In Tuscaloosa) – which won’t be easy.
The Aggies could be sitting at 3-0, or possibly 1-2 during this stretch. That should make folks nervous in College Station. It’s not that I don’t trust the talent that Jimbo’s put together. I just can’t trust the team as a whole until they do it. Last season Texas A&M lost a few games that should’ve been wins, including the Mississippi State game.
So call me crazy for being a bit hesitant on thinking this could be the year. The month of November contains games with Florida, Auburn and LSU. Making the most out of October is massive for this team. The schedule lines up for a potential 10-2 season, but let’s pump the brakes until after the second week of October.
Will Tennessee Surprise Folks This Season?
The obvious answer should be yes. I think the offense will continue moving in the right direction behind QB Hendon Hooker. But their game against Pittsburgh will be the telling point for the Vols in 2022.
For the sake of momentum, Josh Heupel needs to win this game. Not only because it would set the tone, but also because Florida comes to town two weeks later. As we’ve all seen in the past with Tennessee, it’s hard to pick the Vols to beat the Gators after so many letdown performances. Maybe this year is different? The three-game stretch of Florida, LSU and Alabama will give us a full opinion on the Vols by mid October.
The offense won’t be the problem for Heupel. It will come down to whether his defense can bring enough heat. Last season we saw a group that struggled with depth, but this shouldn’t be a major concern, at least from a bodies standpoint. Sure, the secondary needs to solidify a group of ballhawks, but bringing pressure from the interior defensive line is my main concern for this team. Take care of business on defense and this Tennessee team has a chance at nine wins in 2022. That would register as a massive step in the right direction for the program. Remember, keep your eye on the Pittsburgh game (Sept. 10th).
I expect Arkansas to cause a bit of chaos this season behind K.J Jefferson. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they defeat the Aggies in Arlington. Also, keep an eye on the obvious quarterback situations at South Carolina, Florida and Auburn. If Spencer Rattler, Anthony Richardson and (most likely) TJ Finley, don’t deliver – it could be a long season for all three teams.Though I expect the Gamecocks to continue an upward trajectory overall.
Full SEC predictions will be coming your way next week. So stay tuned to OutKick.