Stetson Bennett (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Can Alabama and Georgia both recharge in 2022?
Alabama is no stranger to having to reload every season after several of its players were drafted. 2022 is no different, as the Tide returns just five starters on offense and seven on defense. As we mentioned, Young is back on offense and Nick Saban has done a good job with the transfer portal filling in the holes at receiver and running back.
Defensively, Alabama appears to have one of the best linebacking corps in the nation. Defending Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner Anderson Jr. is back, along with leading tackle Henry To’oTo’o. Bama also secures the return of defensive end Byron Young, who lost 7.5 tackles last season. Both Tide starting safeties are back, along with cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry.
Georgia, meanwhile, will look to use Alabama’s plan to recharge after completing a national title season. The Dawgs return just three starters on defense from the unit that finished first in scoring defense in 2021. Georgia will likely rely on veteran linebacker Nolan Smith, who had 56 total tackles and 3.5 sacks a last season, to lead the unit.
Offensively, quarterback Stetson Bennett and a handful of talented receivers return. The Dawgs return seven starters on offense in total. But if the Georgian defense takes a step back this season, can Bennett and the offense win games by consistently scoring points?
What does Lane Kiffin’s third year look like?
Ole Miss is coming off a historic season, winning 10 regular season games for the first time in school history. But Lane Kiffin needs to replace a lot of talent in 2022. The Rebels are only returning five starters on offense, and star quarterback Matt Corral is gone. Kiffin made a few splashes in the transfer gate landing USC quarterback Jaxson Dart, TCU running back Zachary Evans and linebackers Troy Brown and Khari Coleman. Kiffin even was called the king of the transfer portal this offseason.
Will his transfers be enough to lead the Rebels to another nine- or 10-win season? Ole Miss gets a tough SEC West draw this year, including back-to-back trips to LSU and Texas A&M in late October. The Rebels then have a bye before a home game against Alabama. We’ll see how the Portal King fares in his third season at Oxford.
Which new head coaches can have the biggest impact?
Two former powerhouses from LSU and Florida will start over with new head coaches in 2022.
LSU has signed longtime Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to a 10-year, $95 million deal. Kelly went 113-40 at Notre Dame, and he will no doubt have access to more talent and resources at LSU. Making the Tigers a national title contender — and beating Alabama — is what he was hired to do.
Florida, meanwhile, just hired its fourth new head coach since Urban Meyer left in 2010. Billy Napier, a former assistant to Nick Saban, went 40-12 in four seasons as coach. -head of Louisiana Lafayette. He will seek to restore Florida to its place as a national power.