Will there be two new teams in the SEC Championship Game in 2020.
The LSU Tigers just finished off a 15-0 season that ended with a College Football Playoff National Championship victory over Clemson on Monday.
However, in the three days since, LSU has lost defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (Baylor head coach), passing game coordinator Joe Brady (Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator), who was credited with revamping the offense, and seven underclassmen that have declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. That does not included the loss of Heisman Trophy quarterback Joe Burrow, who is likely to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in April.
Needless to say, the defending national champions, who also won the SEC title over Georgia, will look a lot different next season. The roster and staff turnover, at LSU and elsewhere in the conference, has SEC Network analyst Peter Burns anticipating a crowded race for the SEC champion in 2020. Burns discussed the upcoming season while filling in for Paul Finebaum on Thursday's show.
"I do firmly believe that the SEC's as wide open as it's been in maybe in a decade," Burns said. "I'll get to Florida in just a moment, but you look at the West: you got (Texas A&M Jimbo Fisher) who had a bunch of young guys playing they're only going to get better, schedule's a lot easier in the West; Alabama loses (Tua Tagovailoa), but you got so many guys coming back, Najee Harris is back; Bo Nix and Auburn, they're losing a bunch, but he at least comes back as well. And you got Chad Morris whose going to be the offensive coordinator (at Auburn) that excites me; LSU is going to lose Dave Aranda. Dave Aranda is expected to be the next head coach over at Baylor. (LSU) is losing a bunch of players as well, so I think the West is wide open."
Georgia has won the SEC East under Kirby Smart for three seasons in a row, but Burns predicts that streak could come to an end in 2020. The Bulldogs will return the majority of their contributors to what was one of the best defensive units in the country last season, but they did lose top running back D'Andre Swift, four of its starting offensive lineman and three-year starter Jake Fromm at quarterback. Georgia hopes to soften the loss of Fromm with the addition of Jamie Newman, who has enrolled as a graduate transfer following his departure from Wake Forest.
"With how much Georgia lost last year, Florida's going to be the favorite in the SEC East next year," Burns said. "They will be the favorite, so, for me, how is (Florida head coach) Dan Mullen going to deal with that? Because Dan, going back to his time at Mississippi State, was all about that mentality of, 'Hey we're an underdog how do we go...' You're now going to be the hunted. And that's something that Dan Mullen always wanted to have between (quarterback Kyle Trask) and Emory Jones, that one-two punch.
"Now the most important thing for the Florida Gators is to not lose (defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham on defense. I know some people don't like him. I think he's a great fit with Dan Mullen. They worked well together. ... If Grantham is there next year, there's no reason that the Florida Gators can't win, by the way, not only the SEC East, not only the SEC, but could they potentially be the next College Football Playoff champion?"
In the past decade (2010-19), only four of 10 SEC Championship Games have featured a matchup that had a different team from the previous year representing both the West and East divisions. While it still won't be easy to dethrone Georgia or LSU, the other 12 SEC teams have to at least feel optimistic about their chances due to the roster turnover for the reigning division champions.