7. Texas A&M (7-6)
Preseason rank: 6th
The skinny: This was the Aggies’ fifth season in a row with at least four losses, and the clock ran out on Kevin Sumlin. Enter Jimbo Fisher. A&M has massive resources – financial and otherwise – and it’s up to Fisher to make good use of them.
6. South Carolina (9-4)
Preseason rank: 11th
The skinny: South Carolina finished off a better-than-expected season by rallying to beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks were 5-3 in the SEC this season; they had won just seven league games in the past three seasons combined.
5. LSU (9-4)
Preseason rank: 5th
The skinny: There is some angst on the bayou after Ed Orgeron’s first season. The only way to ease that angst? Get double-digit wins next season.
4. Mississippi State (9-4)
Preseason rank: 8th
The skinny: The Bulldogs showed some moxie in beating Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl with an interim coach and a backup quarterback. New coach Joe Moorhead arrives with a reputation as an offensive innovator, and he will have a lot of returning starters to work with next fall.
3. Auburn (10-4)
Preseason rank: 2nd
The skinny: Somehow, someway, Gus Malzahn and his Tigers beat both of their biggest rivals in the regular season – yet still had a disappointing season. Well, at least Malzahn got a raise and an extension out of it.
2. Georgia (13-2)
Preseason rank: 4th
b>The skinny: The Bulldogs were oh-so-close to their first national title since 1980, but suffered a gut-punch loss – make that a groin-punch loss – to Alabama in the national title game.
1. Alabama (13-1)
Preseason rank: 1st
The skinny: Alabama certainly was not a slam-dunk selection for the four-team College Football Playoff, but the Tide got in and made the most of it, winning its fifth national title in nine seasons. And there is no legit reason to pick against Alabama making it six in 10 next season.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
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