DME ranks the SEC: Teams No. 3 to No. 6 selected

Georgia comes in at No. 4

The Daily Mountain Eagle continues its rankings of SEC football teams this week with the scheduled start of the season less than two months away.
Publisher James Phillips, Sports Editor Johnathan Bentley, Sports Writer W. Brian Hale and New Media Coordinator Jeffery Winborne look at teams 3 through 6 today with all four releasing their top two teams on Friday.
Here is a look at Phillips’ and Winborne’s predictions.
James Phillips
No. 3 Auburn
2020 Prediction (11-1, 7-1)
Nobody is talking Auburn. The Tigers are predicted by most to finish behind Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M in the SEC West. Usually when people are sleeping on Auburn is when the Tigers sneak up and surprise people. Maybe Gus Malzahn is tired of hearing he’s not an elite coach. I think he figures some things out this year and the Iron Bowl will be quite meaningful in 2020. We all need something good to happen this year. Having two dominant teams in our state would be nice for football fans.
No. 4 Georgia
2020 Prediction (9-3, 5-3)
Georgia has an unproven offensive line that will run into a much improved Alabama defense in Week 3. That early matchup will tell us a lot about both teams. I feel like the Bulldogs have lost a step. They will be a good team, but losses will come against Alabama, Auburn and Florida, changing the landscape atop the SEC East standings.
No. 5 LSU
2020 Prediction (9-3, 5-3)
LSU fans are riding high after 2019’s Tigers proved to be as good as any team ever. Unfortunately, those fans will wake up from that dream season to a 2020 that feels like most everyone else’s 2020 has felt. I am predicting losses to Florida, Alabama and Auburn. There is more inexperience on this team, and trips to the Swamp and Jordan-Hare will be too tough for this LSU team to handle.
No. 6 Texas A&M
2020 Prediction (9-3, 5-3)
Texas A&M has plenty of returning starters and a much easier schedule in 2020, but I can’t see the Aggies beating the top three teams in the SEC West, which will be Alabama, Auburn and LSU. They could win one of those three games, but the Aggies have something to prove after some lackluster seasons so far under Jimbo Fisher.
Jeffery Winborne
3. LSU
2020 Projection (10-2, 7-1) 
LSU fielded perhaps the greatest single season team ever in 2019. Joe Burrow came out of nowhere to dominate everything in his path en route to a Heisman Trophy and National Championship. But, with Burrow gone, the real test for Ed Orgeron begins. Replacing a talent like Burrow will come with some growing pains as Orgeron and Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger try to rebuild the offense. LSU’s defense will be stout as always, but the Tigers will come up short of another trip to Atlanta. 
4. Georgia
2020 Projection (10-2, 6-2) 
The resemblances between Kirby Smart’s time at Georgia and Mark Richt’s are uncanny. Perhaps the Bulldogs truly are cursed. Regardless, like others across the conference, Smart is looking to replace QB Jake Fromm, who is now headed to play for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Georgia returns 10 starters from a year ago, but the losses of Fromm and D’Andre Smith to the NFL and a host of seniors graduating means a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs, making way for another team to secure the SEC East.
5. Auburn
2020 Projection (9-3, 5-3)
Predicting Auburn every year seems like a gamble. The only thing consistent about the Tigers is inconsistency. Quarterback Bo Nix was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019, compiling 2,542 yards and 16 touchdowns with an additional seven scores on the ground. But even with Nix returning at quarterback, it can not be overstated just how much Malzahn’s offenses have struggled at times over the years. The defense under Kevin Steele will again be what wins games for the Tigers, but with losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama, Malzahn will likely find himself on the hot seat again by the end of the season.
6. Tennessee
2020 Projection (8-4, 5-3)
Jeremy Pruitt is slowly building a powerhouse in Knoxville. His recruiting successes have even started internet whispers that he might be up to replace Nick Saban at Alabama one day. The thing about recruiting, however, it takes time to develop that talent to compete in the SEC at a high level. The Vols knocked off Auburn two years ago, but hasn’t showed much promise on the field since then. Jerrett Guarantano returns for what seems like his 15th season in Knoxville. He has shown some promise, but inconsistency has plagued his college career.  2020 will be the year that we start to see the recruiting pay off, but Tennessee is still at least a year away from taking a big step forward in the win-column.