As we approach the end of another season of college football, it’s time to start looking ahead to the future.
The SEC is set to undergo some major changes in the coming years with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, and the 2023 season will (very likely) be the last under the format we’ve grown accustomed to.
It can be hard to project what a team will look like this far in advance, as the transfer portal has entirely changed the way roster building works in college football. Now, you can turn a roster around much quicker than was previously possible.
Still, we’ll try our best to project how things will look in 2023. Here are our future SEC power rankings including Texas and Oklahoma, though both will remain in the Big 12 next season.
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It was an undeniably successful 2022 season for the Commodores, who came up just short of a bowl game at 5-7 but won two SEC contests after going winless in conference play last season — including the first win over Florida in Nashville since 1988. Vanderbilt returns a young, promising quarterback in AJ Swann, but every other team on this list just has more to be excited about.
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It was a fairly mediocre Year 3 on the whole for coach Eli Drinkwitz in Columbia, but the Tigers are going bowling thanks to an upset win over Arkansas to close out the season. There’s a lot to work on here, and this team has already lost one of its top receivers to the portal in Dominic Lovett. Quarterback Brady Cook will need to play better next year to maintain his job with four-star redshirt freshman Sam Horn waiting in the wings. There’s some potential here, but it’s hard to be too excited about Mizzou’s trajectory.
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It may be a bit surprising to see the Wildcats this low, given how consistently competitive they’ve been over the last few years. But this team disappointed in 2022, finishing just 7-5, and it’s set to lose quarterback Will Levis and likely running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., as well. Coach Mark Stoops is one of the SEC’s best, and he’ll be sticking around after signing an extension this offseason, but it seems we may be looking at a down UK team in 2023.
Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser
Auburn’s two-year nightmare is now at an end, but after hiring disgraced former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, it could be looking at a new set of difficult circumstances. There are more than a few character concerns when it comes to Freeze, but from a purely football-focused perspective, he should be able to turn things around here fairly quickly with the use of the portal. Just don’t expect a Gus Malzahn-esque Year 1.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
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This program seems to have a pretty hard ceiling with coach Mike Leach’s air-raid scheme, and the Bulldogs simply feel overmatched against more talented teams. Still, given the depths this program has been in, that ceiling is still pretty high. The Bulldogs are coming off an 8-4 season with an Egg Bowl victory, and star quarterback Will Rogers will likely be back to helm one of the nation’s best passing attacks once more.
South Carolina Gamecocks
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If I had to pick the team I think is most capable of out-performing its placement on this list, it’s South Carolina. Coach Shane Beamer ended Year 2 on a massive high note, notching back-to-back top 10 wins over Tennessee and Clemson — the Gamecocks’ first over the latter since 2013. Spencer Rattler seems to be figuring things out and assuming he’s back next year, this team could make some noise next year.
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Coach Sam Pittman has undoubtedly made this program more competitive since arriving in Fayetteville, but a 6-6 follow-up to a breakout nine-win season last fall is disappointing. Still, the Razorbacks could be solid once again next year as they will likely return veteran quarterback KJ Jefferson and star running back Rocket Sanders, who is just a true sophomore.
Texas A&M Aggies
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Aside from getting to play spoiler against LSU, there were very few positive moments to take away from a 5-7 season in 2022. The Aggies were a preseason top-10 team, but coach Jimbo Fisher may have found something down the stretch in true freshman quarterback Conner Weigman. We’ll see if a change at offensive coordinator helps, but regardless, this team should improve next year, barring a massive exodus in the transfer portal.
Syndication: The Oklahoman
We’ve finally reached the first of the new teams, but this is almost certainly not where Oklahoma wanted to be this season. A 6-6 finish in Year 1 for Brent Venables is the worst in recent memory for this program, and the Sooners have a lot to get right before they join the SEC. Venables still has time to fix things, but I would certainly be concerned if I were an OU fan.
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Coach Billy Napier worked all offseason to set realistic expectations for this program in Year 1. Perhaps we should have listened to him. An upset over Utah in Week 1 probably set the expectations way higher than they ever should have been, and the Gators regressed to the mean over the course of the season, finishing 6-6 with no marquee wins in SEC play. Napier has an elite recruiting class coming in, though, and there’s reason to think this team could take a leap in Year 2, even if Anthony Richardson has played his last snaps at Florida.
Ole Miss Rebels
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Speaking of raising the ceiling at a historic conference bottom-feeder, how are we feeling about Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss? The Rebels went 8-4 this season, squandering a great start with losses in three of their final four games. Kiffin publicly flirted with the Auburn job but ultimately chose to return, and given his bona fides in the portal, he should be able to put together a competitive roster once again next year.
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This was one of the hardest teams to place. You could have talked me into putting Texas anywhere from No. 3 to No. 7. We’ll split the difference here when discussing coach Steve Sarkisian’s squad. The Longhorns improved on a disappointing 5-7 finish this fall but didn’t quite reach their full potential, finishing 8-4. Though this team will likely lose the most talented running back in college football in Bijan Robinson, it should return Quinn Ewers and Xavier Worthy. If the ‘Horns don’t take a big step forward, it could be panic time.
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Fresh off a disappointing loss to Texas A&M that ended this team’s playoff hopes, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees when looking at LSU’s progress in Year 1 under Brian Kelly. Still, that loss shouldn’t take away from a team that took down Alabama already and won the West. With fantastic recruiting classes in 2023 and 2024, LSU should be in position to be one of the SEC’s top teams in the new era of the league.
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Another team that was a bit tricky to place, the existential question for the Vols will be just how plug-and-play this offense is at quarterback. If Joe Milton’s performance in a 56-0 blowout over Vanderbilt is any indication, the answer is “fairly.” The real question for Tennessee will be whether it can replenish talent on the outside, but I don’t see any reason to think this team won’t be dangerous for years to come.
Alabama Crimson Tide
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The fact that we discussed this team in 2022 as if it were down — despite finish with 10 wins and an outside shot at the playoff — is peak Alabama. The Tide will enter a question-mark filled 2023, however, with the likely departures of Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr. and others. Still, when you recruit the way the Tide have, the drop-off is never going to be very far.
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We’ll see if anyone has the juice to knock off Georgia and keep the Bulldogs from winning back-to-back national titles. I suspect the answer is no. Georgia has built a machine that even rivals that of Tuscaloosa’s, and given the fact that Saban’s remaining time at Alabama will be limited, it seems like Kirby Smart is building this program into the league’s next major powerhouse. It will look different next year, though, as Stetson Bennett IV will be moving on.