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Conference Story Lines: SEC

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As we draw nearer to the start of football, we anxiously await to see how the narrative of the college football plays season unfolds.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Most Uninspiring Redemption Story Ever

Last football season, Clemson gave America a glorious redemption story. In 2015, they they were an unlikely new kid on the block who not only made the playoff, and largely outplayed Alabama in the National Championship game, but fell short due to a few blunderous defensive busts and special teams mistakes.

In 2016, Clemson went on a crusade for redemption and overcame a 0-14 first half deficit and a 31-28 deficit in the final two minutes to claim a National Title before the departure of the program’s GOAT, Deshaun Watson.

Next, UNC basketball followed suit by adding another national title to their rich history after losing on a buzzer beater to Villanova the season prior. They mentioned a similar drive for redemption, but their story wasn’t nearly inspiring considering new stars led the way and the fan base had recently experienced an NCAA title.

Now, Alabama will try for the most uninspiring redemption story of all time. The Crimson Tide will attempt to avenge last season’s National Championship loss - Saban’s first defeat in such a game - but winning their fifth title in nine years. If they leave Atlanta 1-0 with a marquee win against Florida State, I’d bet on them to earn a #1 overall seed.

How Bad Will the NCAA Investigation Hurt Ole Miss?

One of the few teams that has had Saban’s number over the past few years may have cheated. In fact it seems highly likely.

A hacker revealed drug use by an Ole Miss player and then screen shots of a conversation with Ole Miss assistant coaches where he was asking for money and coaches seemed to be complaining about the amount increasing from previous payments.

After collapsing down the stretch, going 2-5 in their final seven games, they now enter the season with a bowl ban and more sanctions likely looming. Will they find motivation to keep the program afloat, or will they sink to the bottom of the SEC West?

Malik Zaire

Following three seasons (‘07-’09) of Tim Tebow’s producing at least 2,500 yards passing, 500 yards rushing, and 35 total touchdowns, the Gators have not enjoyed a full season of quality QB play since. They got a taste in 2015 when Will Grier played well for six games, but lost three of their final eight games after he was suspended for taking performance enhancing drugs.

Last year, Purdue transfer Austin Appleby did a sufficient job of game management, but was far from a dynamic player with his feet or his arm. Malik Zaire, the former Notre Dame QB who at one time started over DeShone Kizer, has transferred to UF after the SEC adjusted some rules to allow it. He will likely be the best - certainly the most exciting - QB the Gators have had since Tebow.

They lost a lot on defense so the offense will need to do more than they have the past two seasons if they are to win the SEC East again, but they finally have a QB, so their ceiling is much higher.

Time for Kirby Smart to Start Delivering

For Florida to win the SEC East, they’ll have to go through a tough UGA squad that returns 17 starters including QB Jacob Eason. Kirby Smart had a tough first year going 8-5, but losing to all of Georgia’s key rivals: Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia Tech. Richt was dismissed due to his inability to get over the hump and consistently beat Florida and contend for National Championships, but they had won more than eight games in 11 of Richt’s 15 years at UGA. In that span they went 13-2 against GT. Now they’ve lost two of the last three years to the pesky Yellow Jackets.

With a new coach and new QB, UGA fans were reasonably patient last season, but another year of sub-Richt era performance may make them wonder “what have we done?”

Their schedule is particularly tough as they face Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech all away from Athens.

Will Ed Orgeron Work in Baton Rouge?

It’s no secret that LSU wanted Tom Herman, but ended up keeping interim coach Ed Orgeron. Ending with Orgeron is a bit odd for a program of LSU’s stature, but I think it’s something most folks are happy with. LSU’s key competitors are likely glad Tom Herman’s not there while the rest of the college football world can enjoy Ed Orgeron in the spotlight. He retained DC Dave Aranda who did a great job at Wisconsin before doing a great job for Les Miles at LSU last season. OC Matt Canada will also join the staff at LSU after helping Pittsburgh’s offense finish 3rd in the S&P+ rankings (above Clemson) in 2016. They certainly have a chance to be very successful.