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Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. (Photo Tony Walsh/ UGA Sports Comm)

Each week of the 2020 season, The Red & Black football writers will rank the teams of the SEC. This week, The Red & Black gives our conference rankings ahead of Week 1 SEC competition.

Tier one: Alabama, Georgia, Florida 

The Gators return the most experience on offense with quarterback Kyle Trask, wide receiver Trevon Grimes and a combined 88 career starts among the offensive line, making for a trendy pick to dethrone the Bulldogs atop the SEC East. All three tier one members open the season inside the AP preseason poll top 5, with Alabama at No. 2, Georgia at No. 4 and Florida at No. 5. Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones officially received the starting nod Monday, leaving Georgia as the only team in the top tier with its starting quarterback position in question heading into Week 1. — Austin Roper

Tier two: LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M

The reigning national champions LSU Tigers have lost more than 30 players from their championship roster, including Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow and 13 other 2020 NFL draftees. The Tigers have certainly lost a significant chunk of last year’s 15-0 team, but it shouldn't be difficult for them to reload especially facing Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in weeks one and two. No. 8 Auburn’s season opener at No. 23 Kentucky is an intriguing matchup. While the Tigers and sophomore quarterback Bo Nix are pushing to be legitimate SEC West contenders, it lost four offensive lineman. Texas A&M will host Vanderbilt in week one. Dual threat quarterback Kellen Mond will be returning, but top reciever Jhamon Ausbon and starting linebacker Anthony Hines recently opted out for the 2020 season. Despite setbacks, Texas A&M is still favored by 30.5 points. — Gillian McIntyre

Tier three: Tennessee, Kentucky

Tennessee stumbled out to a 1-4 record over its first five appearances in 2019, including an upset loss to Georgia State in the season opener. Bouncing back, the Volunteers embarked on a six-game winning streak to finish at 8-5 overall. Tennessee brings a veteran team into the season despite losing top receiving target Marquez Callaway to the NFL draft. The offense will be led by senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano who threw for 2158 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019. Kentucky also finished 8-5 last season. Starting quarterback Terry Wilson is returning from a torn patellar tendon that sidelined him for last season’s final 11 games. On Saturday, he’ll spearhead a run-first Kentucky offense that rushed for 3624 yards and 36 touchdowns last year. — Griffin Callaghan

Tier four: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Missouri

Tier four is crowded, but there are plenty of chances for these four teams to move up throughout the season — just maybe not this week. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Missouri may have some of the toughest week one opponents in the SEC. Mississippi State travels to defending national champion LSU, the Rebels host an up-and-coming Florida squad and the Tigers are getting a visit from the Crimson Tide. South Carolina, however, could have a chance against fifth-year senior Jarrett Guarantano’s Volunteers. The Gamecocks once again bring a tough defense to the field with two former five-star recruits along its defensive line. — Augusta Stone

Tier five: Arkansas, Vanderbilt

Coming off its second straight 2-10 season, Arkansas is banking on a coaching staff overhaul and a quarterback import to find its SEC legs once again. The Razorbacks’ offensive strength lies in top 5 conference running back Rakeem Boyd, but they’re four-touchdown underdogs heading into Week 1 against Georgia. Vanderbilt, which hasn’t seen a winning season since 2013, also cleaned house after a disappointing 2019 campaign, hiring six new assistant coaches. The Commodores lost their top wideout, tight end, running back and starting quarterback, so they’ll have to rely on an upperclassmen-heavy defense to hang around with Texas A&M and LSU in their first two weeks. — William Newlin

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