SEC expert picks 2022: Most overrated and underrated teams, projected order of finish, bold predictions


Defending National Champion Georgia and College Football Playoff title game opponent Alabama enter the 2022 season as the top consensus teams in the SEC. No surprise there. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are powerhouses both on and off the field, but that’s where the similarities end with a new college football campaign coming up.

While Georgia lost countless championship-winning starters to the NFL in the off-season, Alabama saw 2021 as a rebuild. The Tide brings back not only Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, but CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year star Will Anderson Jr. as a formidable 1-2 punch on offense and defense, making Bama a favorite once again. is arguably the toughest conference in the sport to win.

Outside of those behemoths, however, there’s a lot of disagreement about how the SEC will shake out in 2022.

Texas A&M is riding high on a record-setting recruiting class, though it may need those players to mature before it’s ready to compete for the league crown. Florida and LSU are both in rebuilding mode after jettisoning coaches with experience in winning national championships (Dan Mullen as coordinator under Urban Meyer, Ed Orgeron as the lead man), but the Gators and Tigers hope to prove doubters wrong by instant bounce back campaigns.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and Tennessee have more hype in the SEC East than in recent history, while Arkansas hopes to continue its surprising rise from a year ago. Meanwhile, Lane Kiffin wants to prove that his offense will work at Ole Miss, despite the departure of his star quarterback to the NFL.

Our CBS Sports college football pundits have provided their picks and predictions for the SEC ahead of the 2022 season.

Most Overrated Team

Texas A&M: The Aggies start the year as No. 6 in the Preseason AP Top 25 and the consensus favorite to be Alabama’s top contender in the SEC West, having taken home the best recruiting class of all time. That said, an 8-4 record and fifth-place finish in SEC West last season doesn’t exactly scream a playoff contender. Granted, they lost Haynes King, the opening day starter, to a late-season injury in early 2021, but Texas A&M is the only team to finish in the top 12 preseason with fewer than 10 wins. The Aggies should be in proof mode, especially after the loss of their four All-SEC players to the NFL. — Shehan Jeyarajah (also Dennis Dodd, Barrett Sallee)

Tennessee: The AP voters have the Volunteers as the number 26 team in the country, and the coaches aren’t that far behind. That’s aggressive for a team that has a long way to go defensively, and even the 8.5 win total seems optimistic for a schedule that includes Alabama, Georgia and a game against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Is Tennessee in a place where it can be trusted to lead the table differently, winning against Kentucky, Florida and Pitt, while avoiding slip-ups in any position where the Vols are a firm favorite? This team just went 7-6 a year ago, so while I’m sure Tennessee is a dangerous team, it has one more step in development before flirting with double-digit wins. — Chip Patterson (also Tom Fornelli)

Ole madam: Lane Kiffin’s nickname “portal king” is accurate, but even the country’s No. 2 transfer class can’t replace what the Rebels lost with quarterback Matt Corral, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and defensive coordinator DJ Durkin. Corral was the soul of last season’s 10-3 team, and staff turnover will determine what this team can achieve in the sport’s deepest division. An easy non-conference list, plus the annual game with Vanderbilt, make it relatively easy to project a bowl’s suitability for Ole Miss, but this team will step back. — David Cobb

LSU: Things went south quickly for LSU since the Tigers won the national championship in 2019. The Ed Orgeron era ended with consecutive seasons of .500 or worse records. That’s the first time this has happened at LSU since coach Gerry DiNardo’s last two seasons in 1998-99. Brian Kelly was lured from Notre Dame to get things back on track, and while there is excitement surrounding the program, it will likely take some patience before we see LSU vying for division titles again. — Jerry Palm

Most Underrated Team

Florida: Expectations for the Gators seem rooted in last season’s 6-7 record, but that performance was hardly indicative of the possibilities given the team’s roster. Relative to everyone else in the SEC East except Georgia, Florida still has the most complete team. Motivation seemed to be lacking in 2021 when Dan Mullen’s tenure faltered and the team completely imploded. That shouldn’t be a problem this season with a new coach in Billy Napier and Defensive Coordinator in Patrick Toney, both of whom have proven their tracks of success. Cobb (also Jeyarajah)

Tennessee: Josh Heupel has a quarterback (Hendon Hooker). If you have that in the SEC, you have a chance. Squint and you’ll see the Volunteers win nine games, but they might as well go the other way. Still, Tennessee is clearly on the rise. — dodd

Ole madam: Too much has been made of Corral’s absence and not enough of the improved running back corps, versatile receivers/tight ends and a quarterback situation that is – at the very least – stable. With Kiffin at the helm, that stability is more likely to turn into excellence. I don’t care what the defense looks like on a consistent basis because Ole Miss will have a big click against pretty much any team it comes across. — sallee

LSU: It is almost impossible to judge this LSU team going into the season. What I can tell you is what the Tigers are not, which is the fifth best team in the SEC West. That’s where they ended up in the preseason media poll. Both the high-end level of talent and the depth of options at the receiver make nearly every other team in the league jealous of what Kelly inherits, and if the defensive line can stay healthy, that group can be very nasty in scrimmage. With multiple future pros at a wide receiver and a potentially dominant defensive front, LSU has two of the three or four most important building blocks for success in the modern college game. If Kelly can figure out the quarterback, the ceiling for this team will be much higher than many expect. — Patterson

Mississippi state: Has an SEC program this offseason flew further under the radar than Mike Leach’s Mississippi state? We’re talking about a Bulldogs team returning an accomplished quarterback who knows all the ins and outs of Leach’s playbook and nearly all production of a defense that was better than most realized last season. The Bulldogs will cause at least one big upset and finish higher in the SEC West than most expect. — Fornell

Kentucky: At the risk of offending coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky is definitely a basketball school. That’s the main reason his program flies under the radar. However, Stoops has taken Kentucky to six straight bowl games, including two Citrus Bowls, and has four straight bowl wins. The Wildcats may not be ready to compete with Georgia in the SEC East, but they are a good fit with everyone else. Not bad for a ‘basketball school’. — Palm

Bold Predictions

  • Dennis Dodd: Mark Stoops wins 10 in Kentucky, finds out he’s hit his ceiling in Lexington and will take the not-so-sudden open position in Auburn.
  • Tom Fornell: Every team in the SEC West will bowl, but only Alabama and Texas A&M will win more than eight games during the regular season.
  • Chip Patterson: Vanderbilt will reach his over-under win tally by the end of September.
  • Barrett Sallee: Ole Miss will take charge for the first two months of the season. The rebels begin their farewell week on November 5 with a battle against undefeated Alabama on November 12. If they can handle the turmoil, Coach Lane Kiffin’s squad could provide a legitimate push for the College Football Playoff.
  • Shehan Jeyarajah: After overwhelming division favorites Alabama and Georgia, no other SEC team will find their way into the top 10 after the season.
  • David Cobb: Year 1 of the Brian Kelly experiment will go badly as the ex-Notre Dame coach experiences the toughest division in the country for the first time. The Tigers will miss a bowl game, but still end up with a top-10 signing class.
  • Jerry Palm: The SEC will again place two teams in the College Football Playoff this season and have a third team in the top six.

SEC predicted order of finish

SEC champion

Alabama: There’s no reason to top the room here. The Crimson Tide has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Bryce Young, the best player in college football in EDGE Will Anderson Jr. and the sour taste of losing last season’s national title in their mouths. Young will have an even better season behind a significantly improved offensive line, the secondary will emerge as the best in the country and the schedule is looking good for coach Nick Saban to win his second consecutive conference title. — Sallee (unanimous)

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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