AL West Preview

After producing two playoff teams last season, the AL West is back with a World Series favorite and a few teams looking to surprise. Oakland came out of nowhere last season to capture a Wild Card spot as the Astros once again won the division crown and returned to the ALCS. Houston enters 2019 as the heavy favorites once again, but there are four other teams hoping to spoil the party.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels

2018 Record: 80-82; 4th AL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Cody Allen, P; Justin Bour, 1B; Trevor Cahill, P; Matt Harvey; P; Jonathan Lucroy, C

So long to: Garrett Richards, P; Blake Parker, P; Matt Shoemaker, P

2019 Forecast: There will be some new faces in the Angels clubhouse this season after an offseason rehaul of their pitching staff. Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey will look to stem the loss of Garrett Richards but it is unclear exactly what each have left in the tank. They did not land a highly coveted name like Machado or Harper in free agency but they did get superstar outfielder Mike Trout under contract for the long term, avoiding him hitting the market in two years. The Trout signing is by far the biggest news to come out of Angels spring training, but now the pressure is on management to build a team around the consensus best player in baseball. During Trout’s career to this point, the Angels have only managed one postseason trip, simply not good enough when you employ a generational talent like Trout. They are still buried under the Pujols contract but getting Trout under contract long term hopefully signals the franchise is serious about winning. That winning may have to wait one more season as the Astros remain the division front runners and the Athletics don’t plan on making 2018 a one year wonder. Things will have to fall right for the Angels to be in contention come fall.

Look out for: It would be a cop out to put Mike Trout here because he really is must-watch if you have an opportunity. Trout aside, the Angels lineup does not really jump off the page, but there is one player to keep an eye on. Last season, Shohei Ohtani made the lead from Japan to MLB and stole the show. He won’t pitch this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but he will be taking on the role of DH and he has shown plenty well just how good he is with the bat in his hands.

Erik Williams/USA Today

Houston Astros

2018 Record: 103-59; 1st AL West

Postseason: Lost in ALCS

Hello to: Michael Brantley, OF; Robinson Chirinos, C; Wade Miley, P

So long to: Dallas Keuchel, P; Charlie Morton, P; Brian McCann, C; Marwin Gonzalez, OF; Martin Maldonado, C

2019 Forecast: A year after winning the World Series, the Houston Astros again won the AL West and returned to the ALCS where they were eventually vanquished by the Red Sox. Over the winter, the Astros parted ways with Dallas Keuchel, Charlies Morton, Brian McCann, and Marwin Gonzalez, all integral parts of that 2017 title winning side. Those losses were alleviated through free agency, bringing in Michael Brantley, Robinson Chirinos, and Wade Miley. All three guys will be regulars in the 2019 Astros everyday lineup. With those holes filled, the Astros return almost all of their 2018 roster, most of whom contributed in 2017 as well. Their infield will still be one of the best in baseball with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the middle and Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel on the corners. Brantley figures to slot in nicely in left field and in the middle of an already potent lineup. George Springer and Josh Reddick round out the rest of the outfield. It remains to be seen how their rotation bounces back from losing Keuchel and Morton, both former All-Stars, but they still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole going 1-2. They’ll likely be fine. Entering the new season, the Astros face more turnover than they did last offseason, but until someone knocks them off, they remain top of the class in the AL West.

Look out for: Alex Bregman has asserted himself as one of the best third basemen in baseball after a stellar 2018 campaign. For his efforts, the Astros rewarded Bregman with a nice long term contract during spring training. He typically hit in the two-hole last season but based on what we saw in the spring, Bregman will slide down to the #3 spot behind Springer and Altuve. Last season saw him finish 5th in the AL MVP voting, a position which could easily improve in 2019.


Oakland Athletics

2018 Record: 97-65; 2nd AL West

Postseason: Lost in AL Wild Card Game

Hello to: Marco Estrada, P; Robbie Grossman, OF; Joakim Soria, P

So long to: Trevor Cahill, P; Jeurys Familia, P; Shawn Kelley, P; Jed Lowrie, 2B; Jonathan Lucroy, C

2019 Forecast: Moneyball seems to be alive and well in Oakland these days as the Athletics stunned the baseball world in 2018 by making a shock appearance in the playoffs. Their stay in October was short lived after falling to the Yankees in the Wild Card Game but they return in 2019 hoping to build on their success. On paper, the lineup returns almost at full strength, only needing to replace Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy. The biggest question for the Athletics will come on the mound where they will need to replace some faces from last year. Marco Estrada signed in the offseason and helps stem some of the free agent bleeding, but more work will need to be done to replicate the success of 2018. By the time this goes live, the Athletics will already have two games in the books since they opened their season in Japan with the Seattle Mariners. That trip came with more than just the two losses on the scoreboard as first baseman Matt Olson will miss at least a month with injury. The good news for the Athletics entering 2019 is most of the teams around them in the AL West either didn’t do much to improve or even got worse in some cases. While the Astros may still be the top dog, there is no reason the Athletics can’t replicate their 2018 success and make another run at a postseason berth.

Look out for: If you like the long ball (who doesn’t) then you will not want to miss Khris Davis in action for the A’s. Coming off three straight 40+ home run seasons, Davis kicked off his 2019 campaign with a bomb to centerfield during his first game in Tokyo against the Mariners. Since the A’s don’t get a lot of national television exposure it can be difficult to watch Davis work his craft, but he’s worth the effort to at least try if you can find the time.

Joe Nicholson/USA Today

Seattle Mariners

2018 Record: 89-73; 3rd AL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Tim Beckham, SS; Cory Gearrin, P; Yusei Kikuchi, P; Hunter Strickland, P; Domingo Santana, OF

So long to: Robinson Cano, 2B; Nelson Cruz, OF/DH; Ichiro Suzuki, OF; Zach Duke, P

2019 Forecast: For the longest time last season, it appeared the Mariners were going to finally end their 16 year playoff drought. They were not only in playoff position, but pushing the Astros for the top spot in the division. That hope quickly faded last summer when the Mariners began to stumble and the Athletics became unstoppable. In the end, the playoff drought was pushed to 17 seasons and it looks like a few more may be added on to that after their offseason. Robinson Cano was sent east to the New York Mets and Nelson Cruz left in free agency. All signs now point to the Mariners entering yet another rebuild. There are some young, exciting faces on the roster but unless they all turn in career years, it looks like 2019 will be another lost season. This season could also spell a final end to the Felix Hernandez era in Seattle. Signs sprung up last season when Hernandez was sent to the bullpen at one point, and already this season he lost out on the opening day nod. Playing in a division against at least two sides who are clearly better while the Mariners got worse in the offseason means it will be another fall without baseball in the Pacific Northwest.

Look out for: One of the exciting faces we mentioned above is outfielder Mitch Haniger. An All-Star in 2018, Haniger is living up to the hype he created as a budding prospect in the Mariners system. Since making his debut in 2016, Haniger has shown marked improvement each season since. Any hope the Mariners have of competing in the tough AL West will rest on the shoulder of the young outfielder, and his continued growth as a player.


Texas Rangers

2018 Record: 67-95; 5th AL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Asdrubal Cabrera, INF; Jesse Chavez, P; Shawn Kelley, P; Lance Lynn, P; Jeff Mathis, C; Shelby Miller, P; Hunter Pence, OF

So long to: Robinson Chirinos, C; Matt Moore, P; Martin Perez, P; Adrian Beltre, 3B

2019 Forecast: Coming off two subpar seasons, the Rangers axed manager Jeff Banister and brought in Chris Woodward to replace him. Nothing the Rangers did in the offseason jumps out at you as particularly significant but they did bring in some recognizable names. Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller will provide depth on the mound, Asdrubal Cabrera is as solid as they come on the field, and Hunter Pence adds some experience. While notable, there is major concern how reliable some of these players still are at the major league level. Perhaps some good news for the Rangers is very little roster turnover in the way of players exiting the organization. Adrian Beltre decided to retire in the offseason but other than that things remained generally the same. Like the Mariners and Angels before them, competing this season in the AL West is going to be an uphill battle with the Astros and A’s reloading, but there may be a plan starting to form in Texas to get the Rangers back in the mix for a playoff spot sooner rather than later.

Look out for: Going along with Khris Davis, if you enjoy home runs then check out Joey Gallo at your earliest convenience. In two full MLB seasons, Gallo has clubbed a combined 81 dingers while managing to hit just .208 over that same span. Gallo is the textbook definition of an all-or-nothing player. He either hits the ball to the moon for just gets out. The good news for Rangers fans is Gallo has dedicated his offseason to retooling his swing in attempt to become an all around better hitter. If he can bump that average up a few percentage points without sacrificing power, he could become one of the better hitters across the league.


NL West Preview

The NL West was provided a bit of a shake up this offseason with Manny Machado heading to the San Diego Padres in free agency. This was a clear signal the Padres are serious about winning and will be a team on the rise starting now, but will it be enough to make the playoffs, or will the Dodgers and Rockies once again reign supreme out west?


Arizona Diamondbacks

2018 Record: 82-80; 3rd NL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Caleb Joseph, C; Adam Jones, CF; Greg Holland, P; Wilmer Flores, 2B

So long to: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; Patrick Corbin, P; AJ Pollock, CF; Chris Owings, 2B; Shelby Miller, P; John Jay, CF; Jake Diekman, P; Daniel Descalso, 3B; Clay Buchholz, P

2019 Forecast: When the roster subtractions greatly outnumber the roster additions you can formulate a pretty good idea where the Diamondbacks are headed this season. Coming off a season where they qualified for the playoffs and even won their Wild Card game, 2018 was quite the letdown for the Diamondbacks. Instead of reloading and taking another run at a playoff spot this season, the front office decided to take a step back and start a rebuilding process. They shipped All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt off to St. Louis for a pretty solid return, but had to watch free agents Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock leave the desert for nothing in return. To make things even worse for the Diamondbacks, they play in an already difficult NL West that only got better this offseason with the emergence of San Diego and the staying powers of Los Angeles and Colorado. A lot of things will have to fall their way if they hope to compete with the big dogs of the division, but right now it seems their focus is solely on rebuilding.

Look out for: It will not be easy to fill the hole left by Goldschmidt at first base but Jake Lamb will do his best after making the move over from third base this offseason. Lamb missed a significant portion of 2018 with injury but he was an All-Star in 2018 and the Diamondbacks will hope he can stay healthy and recapture that form in 2019.


Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 Record: 92-71; 1st NL West

Postseason: Lost World Series

Hello to: Joe Kelley, P; AJ Pollock, CF

So long to: Manny Machado, SS; Brian Dozier, 2B; Yasmani Grandal, C

2019 Forecast: Coming off their second consecutive National League pennant, the Dodgers are ready to take another run at a World Series appearance in 2019. A slow start to the 2018 campaign saw them on the outside of the playoff picture for a majority of the season but they turned it on down the stretch to win the NL West in Game 163 over the Colorado Rockies. They brought it free agent outfielder AJ Pollock in the offseason which is an immediate upgrade to their roster and Joe Kelley helps reinforce their already strong pitching staff. They missed out on resignined shortstop Manny Machado who came over at the trade deadline and they were the last team out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Those are two very big fish to miss out on but the Dodgers and well equipped to still win a lot of baseball games this season. One of the biggest additions or their roster will be the return of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager who missed most of last reason recovering from Tommy John surgery. If Seager can return to his 2017 form, missing out on Machado and Harper will be even less significant. There are some concerns about the health of Clayton Kershaw that will be worth keeping an eye on. Entering the new campaign, the NL West is getting stronger and the Dodgers window may be closing ever so slightly, but they are still the favorites.

Look out for: Max Muncy was the breakout star for the Dodgers in 2018 and one of the best stories in baseball. He was an All-Star and left an indelible mark on World Series history with his walk-off home run in the bottom of the 18th inning of Game 3. Muncy will be counted on once again to help boost the Dodgers lineup as their starting first baseman.


San Francisco Giants

2018 Record: 73-89; 4th NL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Drew Pomeranz, P

So long to: Hunter Pence, RF; Hunter Strickland, P

2019 Forecast: It’s hard to find a team that did less in the offseason than the San Francisco Giants. Outside of a slew of minor league deals, the only significant name they brought on board was free agent pitcher Drew Pomeranz. I guess you don’t need to sign too many players when most of your roster from last season remains in place. Longtime right fielder Hunter Pence left town but he’s 35 and at the tail end of his career. Bullpen arm Hunter Strickland also said his goodbyes and headed to Seattle. Generally, low roster turnover is a good sign but when you struggle like the Giants have the last few seasons maybe it’s better to bring in more fresh faces to help your team. Manager Bruce Bochy has already announced that 2019 will be his final season leading the Giants so maybe that will give his players a little extra motivation. Playing in the already difficult NL West that just seems to be getting better will do no favors for the Giants who look to be tracking towards another season without playoff baseball.

Look out for: Brandon Belt has emerged as one of the best first basemen in baseball over the past few seasons. He’s the cornerstone of a pretty solid Giants’ infield and will be relied upon to provide offense in the middle of an otherwise lackluster lineup.


San Diego Padres

2018 Record: 66-96; 5th NL West

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Manny Machado, SS; Ian Kinsler, 2B; Garrett Richards*, P; Adam Warren, P

*will miss 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery

So long to: Freddy Galvis, SS

2019 Forecast: The days of being the NL West doormat may soon be coming to an end for the San Diego Padres. Already boasting one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Padres went out and signed shortstop Manny Machado this offseason. Reeling in one of the biggest free agents on the market was just another sign that the Padres are getting serious about winning and doing so in the very near future. Last season they brought in Eric Hosmer in free agency then double-down this year by bringing in Machado. Phenom prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is expected to start the season in the minor leagues, but he could make his MLB debut as early as May. Tatis Jr. is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball and will pair well with Machado and the rest of that infield. They also agreed to a free agent deal with pitcher Garrett Richards but his debut will have to wait until 2020 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Without Richards available, the starting rotation could be what holds the Padres back from being a contender this season. Regardless, given the current state of the franchise and where they look to be headed, it’s not hard to envision 2019 being a huge step forward in San Diego.

Look out for: You won’t see him on the field right away in 2019, but once the Padres call-up prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. you will want to keep an eye on his development in the majors. Tatis Jr. is regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball and when he arrives in San Diego he will be working alongside Manny Machado on the infield.


Colorado Rockies

2018 Record: 91-72; 2nd NL West

Postseason: Lost in NLDS

Hello to: Daniel Murphy, 2B; Mark Reynolds, 1B

So long to: Carlos Gonzalez, OF; DJ LeMahieu, 2B; Adam Ottavino, P;

2019 Forecast: Consecutive playoff appearances have the Rockies hungry for more as they prepare to challenge the Dodgers for NL West supremacy in 2019. They did not do much in the way of free agency this offseason but they did not really need to given the talent already under contract. Their biggest move of the offseason was extending All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, preventing him from hitting the free agent market. Along with Arenado, the Rockies boast a lineup that includes fellow All-Stars Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Daniel Murphy comes over from the Cubs and will likely be the regular starter at first base while Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson platoon at second base, replacing DJ LeMahieu. From a pitching standpoint, the Rockies’ rotation boasts a strong veteran presence that finds a way to do well even at hitter friendly Coors Field. The biggest pitching question for the Rockies will be how they replace bullpen ace Adam Ottavino. Last season, the Rockies fumbled away the NL West in the dying weeks of the season and ended up losing out to the Dodgers in Game 163. They bounced back to win the Wild Card game over the Cubs before falling in the NLDS to the Brewers. After getting a taste of the postseason the last two years, the Rockies are hungry for more and will be a serious threat to not only the Dodgers in the West, but the National League as a whole.

Look out for: Coors Field is not your best friend if you happen to be a pitcher but someone has to do the job. The Rockies have a host of arms that can shut you down either at home or on the road and the emergence of German Márquez adds another weapon to their rotation. In the second half of 2018, Márquez ranked among the best pitchers in baseball and if that form carries over, the Rockies could have a dark horse Cy Young candidate on their hands.


It’s Time for the Best Dressed Game in Football

via CBS Sports

Each season, college football saves its final weekend of regular season football for one of the game’s most iconic rivalries. Dating back to 1890, the Army/Navy game has been a staple of the college football calendar, with the two sides meeting a total of 118 times. Navy leads the all-time series, but recently, Army has been the one celebrating victory between the United States most prestigious military academies.

There are several traditions surrounding the contest, many dating back decades that highlight this fierce rivalry. One of the most iconic traditions is following the conclusion of the game when both teams remain on the field to sing their respective alma maters. What makes this tradition noteworthy is the winning school always sings second, while the losing side goes first.

One of the more recent traditions that has become a staple of this century long rivalry has been the uniform battle between the sides. Every year, both Army and Navy release a special uniform set to be worn for the game, with the new threads honoring the history of the respective service academies. For example, last season Army honored the historic 10th Mountain Division while Navy paid tribute to the legendary Blue Angels flight team.

Today, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Army and Navy will meet on the gridiron for the 199th time. Those decades long traditions will all be on display from pregame to the alma maters at the end. Included in those traditions once again is the fashion matchup between the two prestigious institutions with each side bringing the goods for fans to enjoy.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what both Army and Navy have to offer when they meet on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.


Starting off with the designated visiting team, the Navy Midshipmen representing the Naval Academy from Annapolis, Maryland.

via @NavyAthletics

As the away side Navy will be wearing the standard road white color accented with the traditional blue and gold colors of the Naval Academy. You will surely notice their logo is prominently displayed on both the helmet and shoes. The uniform is a nod to “Bill the Goat” the official mascot of the Midshipmen.

Bill the Goat is also an actual goat that is housed on the Naval Academy campus and will in all likelihood be making the trip to Philadelphia for the contest. Bill is one of the marquee symbols associated with the Navy football program and it feels right that he is finally getting his due.

via @NavyAthletics

While the helmet and the shoes will be the most obvious places to look if you want to see the logo during the game, Navy will also place the logo on players’ gloves. Each glove will feature a part of the logo but when put together will display it in its entirety.

This uniform set is a great tribute to one of the most iconic symbols associated with the Naval Academy but the uniform still contains several other more traditional elements of the Navy football program. Along the the traditional Navy colors,  the Navy “N*” is visible on the shoulders with the globe and anchor logo being placed on the left hip.

via @NavyAthletics

Bill the Goat has a long history, dating back well over 100 years, outdating the rivalry itself. His story and how he came to be a symbol of the Navy is best explained by the Academy itself.

“The Navy Goat mascot came to be in 1893 when officers from the USS New York, a United States Naval transport ship, gifted a goat named El Cid to the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy appointed this goat the honorary mascot for the fourth-ever Army-Navy game, in which Navy beat Army in a momentous victory. To commemorate the win, the goat was appointed team mascot and became a valued symbol of the Navy football program.”

To find out more history about Bill the Goat or the uniforms themselves, you can head on over the Navy Athletics website where they have a good explainer on the mascot and what went into the making of this year’s uniform design.


Switching sidelines, we turn our attention to the Army Black Knights representing the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

via @GoArmy

Black is a traditional part of the Army football color scheme but red is most certainly not. However, there is a very good reason for it being a prominent part of this year’s Army uniforms.

Known as the Big Red One, the Army 1st Infantry Division was the first permanent division of the United States Army and played a vital role in helping end the First World War a century ago. Honoring the legacy of the 1st Infantry Division and their efforts in ending the Great War, Army will wear these special Big Red One uniforms when they take on Navy later today in Philadelphia.

The most distinguishable part signifying the Big Red One on the uniforms is the division insignia located on the crown of the helmets in the form of a red colored “1” along with the words “BIG RED ONE” on the right side of the chest.

via @ArmyWP_Football

On the both shoulders of these special Army uniforms you can see a black lion type design that is given a high gloss effect to stick out from the normal black the uniform consists of. This symbol is highly significant to the 1st Infantry Division as it pay homage to the “Black Lions of Cantigny” who were the first United States regiment to win a decisive victory during the country’s involvement World War I.

Another nod to the Division’s efforts during WWI can be seen on the back of the helmets being worn against Navy, where a WWI era flag decal will be featured. This flag features 48 stars, the number of states at the time of the conflict in 1918.

via @ArmyWP_Football
via @ArmyWP_Football

In total, seven regiments making up the 1st Infantry Division will be honored with special emblems are branch insignia worn by the players on the field. These emblems can be seen on the neckline of the Army uniforms.

It took almost three years of fighting before the United States became involved in the Great War, but when President Woodrow Wilson made the decision to send troops to Europe to fight, the Big Red One was formed.

“President Woodrow Wilson promised the Allies he would send “a division” to France immediately, but the Army had no such divisions. The United States quickly ordered four infantry and three artillery regiments from the Mexican border in Texas to Hoboken, N.J., to board transports to France. That group of seven regiments joined together to officially form the “1st Expeditionary Division,” later the 1st Infantry Division, under Brigadier General William L. Sibert on June 12, 1917.  With more than 28,000 men, the “Big Red One,” as the division was later nicknamed from its shoulder sleeve insignia, was twice the size of either the allied or German divisions on the Western Front.”

To unveil the uniforms, Army dropped a slick video recreating a battle scene from the trenches of World War I in France.

To learn more about the 1st Infantry Division and the uniforms created to honor them, Army created an entire website dedicated to the Big Red One, detailing the history and significance of America’s first permanent military division.

When Army and Navy meet later this afternoon in Philadelphia, it will mean much more than just who wins and who loses. The young men playing will someday be fighting on the front lines to protect all that we hold dear as Americans.

For 60 minutes, they will do battle with one another while dressed to honor those who came before them. Someday in the near future, the battle will no longer be amongst one another, but against an enemy who wishes to bring only harm to them and their country.

These young men are the future military leaders of our great country and will be sacrificing their lives to protect our freedoms, they earned this day. That’s what makes this game so special. Consider taking even a small amount of time during your Saturday afternoon to tune in and check out one of the greatest sporting spectacles the game of football has to offer.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM and the game will be broadcast live on CBS.

Best of luck to both the Cadets and Midshipmen. May the best Academy win. Don’t forget, winner sings second.


College Football Preview: Big Ten


College football season is right around the corner and that means it is time to preview the year. The Bat Flip’s 2018 college football preview will feature several different conference previews along with a comprehensive preview looking at the entire season. If the past few seasons are any indication, 2018 should be filled with drama and chaos until the very end when Alabama wins another National Championship.

Check out our full college preview episode of the FlipCast right here.

Oftentimes, the Big Ten is the butt of a lot of jokes across the college football world. The conference has a long standing reputation of being more about playing hard nose, grind it out football than the splashy, fast paced modern version of the game.

For the most part, Big Ten teams have adapted to the modern game where the skill positions are more valuable than ever. On the flip side of that, the conference has done a great job at still holding on to aspects of the game that sets it apart from other conferences. While Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and even Wisconsin (to a point) move forward, there are still teams like Iowa and others who bring that certain charm to Big Ten football.

None of that is a knock on the conference or any of its 14 teams, it’s just a character trait that makes it more endearing to many college football fans and an easy target for its detractors.

Whatever your personal thoughts are on Big Ten football, it provides more than enough excitement to keep fans tuned in and produces perhaps the most difficult division in all of college football. Entering 2018, the Big Ten East will include FOUR teams ranked in the Top 15 of the preseason AP poll and all four could make a case to make the College Football playoff.

In the West division, Wisconsin still looks the favorite to reign supreme but several teams will be improved and licking their chops to knock the Badgers off their pedestal.

This is shaping up to be an incredible season of Big Ten football. You won’t want to miss a second.

The Teams


Fourteen schools makes up the Big Ten conference with teams being split into two divisions of seven schools a piece. The divisions are as follows:

East: Indiana Hoosiers, Maryland Terrapins, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

West: Illinois Fighting Illini, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers

Each team will play everyone in its division along with three teams from the opposite division for a total of nine conference games during the 2018 season. Once the regular season ends, the winner of the East division will take on the winner of the West division in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

East Division

Indiana Hoosiers

  • Official Name: Indiana University
  • Head Coach: Tom Allen (2nd season)
  • Location: Bloomington, Indiana
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten), 6th in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: Playing in the Big Ten East is not easy for any of the seven teams in the division and it is especially difficult if you are not one of the traditional powers. That’s the case for Indiana but these are not your grandpa’s Hoosiers. Consecutive bowl trips in 2015 and 2016 should have this squad hungry to make another postseason appearance after taking a step back last season.


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Maryland Terrapins

  • Official Name: University of Maryland
  • Head Coach: D.J. Durkin (3rd season), Matt Canada (acting head coach)
  • Location: College Park, Maryland
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (2-7 Big Ten), 7th in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: Maryland was not supposed to be this bad in 2017 but such is life in the Big Ten East. To make matters worse, the Terrapins open the 2018 season in complete disarray. Head coach D.J. Durking is still on administrative leave while the school completes its investigation into the death of a player from earlier in the summer. An upset of Texas was the highlight of last season, but it is difficult to imagine Maryland doing much of anything this year.


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Michigan State Spartans

  • Official Name: Michigan State University
  • Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (12th season)
  • Location: East Lansing, Michigan
  • 2017 Recap: 10-3 (7-2 Big Ten), 2nd in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: A disastrous season in 2016 was quickly forgotten by the Spartan faithful thanks to a bounceback 2017 season that saw Sparty win 10 games, including victories over Michigan and Penn State. Now back in the national conversation, Michigan State will be a major factor in the hotly contested Big Ten East division. Anything less than another 10+ wins will be seen as a disappointment for the Spartans, especially with Ohio State and Michigan both traveling to East Lansing.


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Michigan Wolverines

  • Official Name: University of Michigan
  • Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (4th season)
  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • 2017 Recap: 8-5 (5-4 Big Ten), 4th in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: For all the hype Michigan receives you would expect them to have a few Big Ten titles under their belt. That has not been the case through Jim Harbaugh’s three seasons as head coach and the task is not getting any easier. An opening test against Notre Dame will be a good measuring stick for a team looking to finally break through and win the Big Ten. Should they fall flat once again, a coaching change could be in store for the Wolverines.


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Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Official Name: The Ohio State University
  • Head Coach: Urban Meyer (7th season)
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
  • 2017 Recap: 12-2 (8-1 Big Ten), 1st in Big Ten East, Big Ten Champion

2018 Outlook: Ohio State is another Big Ten program under heavy scrutiny as the 2018 season kicks off. Head coach Urban Meyer is suspended the first three games of the season for his involvement in the Zach Smith scandal and once he returns questions will still linger. As always, the Buckeyes have the talent to win a national championship but it remains to be seen how the scandal effects the players going forward.


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Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Official Name: The Pennsylvania State University
  • Head Coach: James Franklin (5th season)
  • Location: State College, Pennsylvania
  • 2017 Recap: 11-2 (7-2 Big Ten), 3rd in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: Consecutive 11 win seasons have Penn State back in the upper echelon of college football and in the discussion to make the College Football Playoff. Saquon Barkley is gone along with a host of big time playmakers from past years, but Trace McSorley returns with Heisman aspirations. A turnover at the offensive coordinator position has some worried, but there is still enough talent to push the Nittany Lions to another double digit win season.


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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Official Name: Rutgers University
  • Head Coach: Chris Ash (3rd season)
  • Location: Piscataway, New Jersey
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (3-6 Big Ten), 5th in Big Ten East

2018 Outlook: Overall, Rutgers finished with a worse record than Indiana but ahead of them in conference. Don’t let that fool you however, Indiana blasted Rutgers 41-0 in their meeting last year and Rutgers was still badly outscored for the whole season. This year’s schedule actually works in their favor to begin the season but turns into a nightmare with the final four games being against Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State. Expect a return to the Big Ten East basement for the Scarlet Knights.


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West Division

Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Official Name: University of Illinois
  • Head Coach: Lovie Smith
  • Location: Champaign, Illinois
  • 2017 Recap: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten), 7th in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: The Big Ten West is much less daunting that its counterpart to the east but that won’t matter much for the Illini this year. Bowl-less since the 2014 season, the Illini are still in a full on rebuild under Lovie Smith and appear to be a year away from sniffing the post season once again. It’s a young squad who should improve and even break its conference losing streak.


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Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Official Name: University of Iowa
  • Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (20th season)
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa
  • 2017 Recap: 8-5 (4-5 Big Ten), 3rd in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: There have been few teams as consistent as Iowa over the years but that consistency usually results in between six or eight wins every year. Twelve wins in 2015 sent the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl but for the most part Kirk Ferentz has delivered slightly above average performances. A relatively favorable schedule means they only face Penn State out of the East and an upset over Wisconsin could put them in the West drivers seat. You can easily conceive a scenario where Iowa wins nine or ten games this season and plays in a New Year’s Day bowl game.


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Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Official Name: University of Minnesota
  • Head Coach: P.J. Fleck (2nd season)
  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten), 6th in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: A 3-0 start last season quickly turned to 3-3 then worse for the Golden Gophers in P.J. Fleck’s first season as head coach. A tough three game stretch in October sees Minnesota play Iowa, Ohio State, and Nebraska but if they can walk away still in one piece a bowl could be waiting for them in December. Still young in terms of experience, the biggest goal this season will be showing positive improvement from last year.


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Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Official Name: University of Nebraska
  • Head Coach: Scott Frost
  • Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (3-6 Big Ten), 5th in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: A once proud program, Nebraska has gone through some lean years since joining the conference but looked poised for a rebirth under new head coach Scott Frost. An immediate turnaround may be a little too much to ask (schedule features Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State) but fans will just be looking for any hope that the future is as bright as its past once was. Simply returning to bowl play should be the target for Frost and Co. this season.


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Northwestern Wildcats

  • Official Name: Northwestern University
  • Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (13th season)
  • Location: Evanston, Illinois
  • 2017 Recap: 10-3 (7-2 Big Ten), 2nd in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: Northwestern ended 2017 on an eight game winning streak* that featured victories over No. 16 Michigan State and SEC foe Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. This also marked the second time in three seasons that Northwestern won 10 games in a season, quite a feat for the former basement dwelling side. The schedule will not be easy but the Wildcats are an experienced team and could be a real threat to win the West division.

*Northwestern defeated Purdue 31-27 on Thursday night to extend its winning streak to nine games.


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Purdue Boilermakers

  • Official Name: Purdue University
  • Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (2nd season)
  • Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-5 Big Ten), 4th in Big Ten West

2018 Outlook: Back in the postseason after four years away, Purdue exceeded expectations under first year coach Jeff Brohm in 2017. They may find the road back to the postseason a little more difficult in 2018 with a difficult schedule but most major matchups will on their home turf. If the Boilermakers can pull a few upsets like last season, a second straight bowl trip may be on the horizon.


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Wisconsin Badgers

  • Official Name: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Head Coach: Paul Chryst (4th season)
  • Location: Madison, Wisconsin
  • 2017 Recap: 13-1 (9-0 Big Ten), 1st in Big Ten West, Big Ten runner-up

2018 Outlook: No team better encapsulates Big Ten football than the Wisconsin Badgers and they make it work in a way that produces results. A loss in the Big Ten Championship game kept them out of the playoff but they took their frustrations out on Miami in the Orange Bowl. The schedule is a little more difficult for the Badgers this season but they are a safe bet to notch a fifth consecutive double-digit win season and book a return trip to Indianapolis for the third time in four years.


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All schedules courtesy

Five Games to Watch

Michigan v. Notre Dame (September 1st): If Michigan wants to be considered a national contender then they will need to make a statement on opening weekend with a victory in primetime against the Fighting Irish.

Penn State v. Ohio State (September 29th): A game that could very well decide the Big Ten East division and it will be a White Out night in Happy Valley. This will mark Urban Meyer’s first road game/Big Ten game following his three game suspension.

Michigan State v. Michigan (October 20th): This game is always a fun inter-state rivalry but it carries more importance than ever given the national implications at play. This matchup is a sandwich game between a showdown with Penn State for both sides.

Penn State v. Wisconsin (November 10th): By the time this game rolls around, the Big Ten picture should be taking shape. Depending on how things fall as the season progresses, this showdown could very well be a preview of the Big Ten Championship scheduled to take place just three weeks later.

Ohio State v. Michigan (November 24th): Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would love nothing more than for this game to have conference and national implications riding on it. One of the biggest rivalries in all of college football could decide much more than just bragging rights.

2018 Big Ten Predictions

It would not be a preview post without making some season predictions that will surely be wrong before the calendar hits October. Here is the Bat Flip’s official 2018 Big Ten football predictions.

Projected Order of Finish

East: Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers

West: Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois

Big Ten Championship Game

Penn State def. Wisconsin, 38-30

Individual Awards

Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year: Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year: Nick Bosa, DL, Ohio State

Big Ten Coach of the Year: James Franklin, Penn State

That’s a wrap on our 2018 Big Ten football preview. Stay tuned for more college football coverage throughout the 2018 season and you can check out our full college football preview episode of the FlipCast right here.

College Football Preview: SEC


College football season is right around the corner and that means it is time to preview the year. The Bat Flip’s 2018 college football preview will feature several different conference previews along with a comprehensive preview looking at the entire season. If the past few seasons are any indication, 2018 should be filled with drama and chaos until the very end when Alabama wins another National Championship.

Depending on who you talk to, college football begins and ends with the Southeastern Conference, better known as the SEC. To many fans, the SEC is the premier conference in college football and it’s very hard to argue against that claim. Since 2003, 11 of the 15 schools who won the National Championship have come from the SEC. Led by Alabama (five titles since 2009), the SEC has produced a laundry list of great teams over the last few years.

As the 2018 season prepares to kickoff in the coming days, the SEC looks poised once again to have a team or two in the College Football Playoff come January. Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia lead the pack of early national title contenders from the conference but once the games begin, it becomes anyone’s game.

Most of the strength in the SEC comes from the West division that includes Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU. Defending SEC champion Georgia enters the season the heavy favorite in the East division but everyone else will be gunning for the Bulldogs this year.

In this preview you will find a full breakdown of everything you will need to know about the SEC this coming season from the teams, to the players, to who will be crowned conference champion in Atlanta.

Let’s get started shall we.

The Teams


Fourteen schools comprise the SEC with the teams being split evenly into two divisions of seven schools a piece. The divisions are as follows:

East: Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores.

West: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, Texas A&M Aggies.

Each team will play everyone in its division along with two sides from the opposite division for a total of eight conference games during the 2018 season. Once the regular season ends, the winner of the East division and the West division will face off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

East Division

Florida Gators

  • Official Name: University of Florida
  • Head Coach: Dan Mullen (1st season)
  • Location: Gainesville, Florida
  • 2017 Recap: 4-7 (3-5 SEC), 5th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: A turbulent 2017 season saw Florida change head coaches and bring in Dan Mullen from Mississippi State in the offseason. This will be Mullen’s second stint at Florida following a successful run as offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008. The Gators are returning 19 starters from last year and should be much improved with Mullen at the helm.


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Georgia Bulldogs

  • Official Name: University of Georgia
  • Head Coach: Kirby Smart (3rd season)
  • Location: Athens. Georgia
  • 2017 Recap: 13-2 (7-1 SEC), 1st in SEC East, 2017 SEC Champion, National Runner-Up

2018 Outlook: You cannot come any closer to a national championship without winning one than Georgia last season. Leading in the fourth quarter over fellow SEC side Alabama in the National Championship game, the Georgia defense could not hold at the Bulldogs ultimately fell in overtime. Some big names left for the NFL but Kirby Smart and his staff should have the Bulldogs back in Atlanta as the class of the East division.


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Kentucky Wildcats

  • Official Name: University of Kentucky
  • Head Coach: Mark Stoops (6th season)
  • Location: Lexington, Kentucky
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 3rd in SEC East

2018 Outlook: You never quite know what you will be getting with Mark Stoops and Kentucky year in and year out but they manage to put a respectful team on the field for the most part. They will not be a favorite to win the division but it is possible they could put a scare into some teams. Beating Florida will be the main goal which has not happened in over three decades.


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Missouri Tigers

  • Official Name: University of Missouri
  • Head Coach: Barry Odom (3rd season)
  • Location: Columbia, Missouri
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 4th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Missouri is another unspectacular team from a weak East division of the SEC. The Tigers returned to bowl play last season and look to be a team on the rise under head coach Barry Odom but it is hard to see them pushing Georgia for the East division crown this season. Another season of improvement in 2018 will show the Tigers are on the right track.


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South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Official Name: University of South Carolina
  • Head Coach: Will Muschamp (3rd season)
  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (5-3 SEC), 2nd in SEC East

2018 Outlook: If there is any threat to Georgia in the East it may reside right here in Columbia, South Carolina with the Gamecocks. A solid showing in 2017 was capped off with an impressive Outback Bowl victory over Michigan and gave the school momentum heading into 2018. Entering the season, South Carolina only has two ranked opponents on the schedule in Georgia and Clemson. Avoiding an inexplicable loss to a fellow East side could see the Gamecocks back in a New Year’s Day bowl.


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Tennessee Volunteers

  • Official Name: University of Tennessee
  • Head Coach: Jeremy Pruitt (1st season)
  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (0-8 SEC), 7th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Good news for the Volunteers? Things cannot get much worse than last year. Bad news? Their 2018 schedule features Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama all in a row. First year head coach Jeremy Pruitt enters with a lot of pressure to resurrect a once proud program. It will not happen overnight, but there needs to be signs of improvement or the fans will be restless once again.


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Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Official Name: Vanderbilt University
  • Head Coach: Derek Mason (5th season)
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (1-7 SEC), 6th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Historically, Vanderbilt is bad at football. They have been somewhat more respectable in recent seasons with former head coach James Franklin bringing the program out of obscurity. Since Franklin left, the Commodores have taken a step back with only one bowl appearance since 2013. An improving East division could spell trouble if the Commodores fail to improve.


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West Division

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Official Name: University of Alabama
  • Head Coach: Nick Saban (12th season)
  • Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • 2017 Recap: 13-1 (7-1 SEC), 2nd in SEC West, National Champion

2018 Outlook: It is very hard to win consistently in college football. It is even harder to win at the rate Alabama has one since Nick Saban took over as head coach. The Crimson Tide have been the class of the SEC and college football over the past decade and are the preseason favorites to lift another national championship trophy. It almost feels like a given to pencil them in for the College Football Playoff.


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Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Official Name: University of Arkansas
  • Head Coach: Chad Morris (1st season)
  • Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (1-7 SEC), 7th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: A wasted year in 2017 brought about a much needed coaching change for the Razorbacks. Seventeen starters are returning to this year’s squad but a stacked SEC West will make it hard to compete right off the bat for Chad Morris. The schedule is favorable with only three SEC road games and a rather bland non-conference slate. A return to bowl play is not out of the question.


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Auburn Tigers

  • Official Name: Auburn University
  • Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (6th season)
  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • 2017 Recap: 10-4 (7-1 SEC), 1st in SEC West, SEC Championship Runner-Up

2018 Outlook: Based on what they showed last season, Auburn should be a favorite to win the SEC and possibly the National Championship. There is no doubt the talent is there for the Tigers, but the 2018 schedule is an absolute gauntlet. Road games at Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama in the second half of the season will decide where Auburn ends up. They also kick off against No. 6 Washington in Atlanta. If they can find some big wins on the road, the Tigers should be in mix at the very end.


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LSU Tigers

  • Official Name: Louisiana State University
  • Head Coach: Ed Orgeron (2nd season)
  • Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (6-2 SEC), 3rd in SEC West

2018 Outlook: Another SEC West powerhouse that could easily play for a national title or settle for a middling bowl depending on how things shake out. They will open the 2018 season against No. 8 Miami where a win could go a long way come December. They will have to face Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama in a three week span but all three games will be taking place in Death Valley. That stretch will likely determine the Tigers’ fate in 2018.


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Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Official Name: Mississippi State University
  • Head Coach: Joe Moorhead (1st season)
  • Location: Starkville, Mississippi
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (4-4 SEC), 4th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: Head coach Dan Mullen bolted for Florida so the Bulldogs went out and poached Joe Moorhead from his offensive coordinator position at Penn State to replace Mullen. Moorhead comes to Starkville having turned Penn State into an offensive powerhouse and has the weapons to do the same in Starkville. Winning in the SEC is never easy, but if one side is poised to play dark horse it could be the Bulldogs under the leadership of Moorhead. Seventeen starters, including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, will be returning.


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Ole Miss Rebels

  • Official Name: University of Mississippi
  • Head Coach: Matt Luke (2nd season)
  • Location: Oxford, Mississippi
  • 2017 Recap: 6-6 (3-5 SEC), 6th in SEC East, Postseason ban

2018 Outlook: Regardless of record, Ole Miss will not be participating in a bowl game this season due to a self imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations. Head coach Matt Luke did a fine job last season after taking over in late spring to lead the Rebels to a 6-6 record. Their hardest conference games are all on home soil so that will be going into their favor. If Luke can inspire this group once again with no postseason to play for, the Rebels could cause some issues among the SEC West elites.


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Texas A&M Aggies

  • Official Name: Texas A&M University
  • Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (1st season)
  • Location: College Station, Texas
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 5th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: The biggest SEC recruitment this past offseason wasn’t a player, but a coach. Jimbo Fisher left Florida State and headed west to College Station, Texas where the former national championship winning coach will take over the Aggies program. It won’t be instant success for Fisher at A&M but he has the chance to make an early statement with games against Clemson and Alabama in the first month of the season. Any step forward for the program is positive for recruiting and this time next year A&M could be a national favorite.


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Five Game to Watch

Auburn v. Washington (September 1st): One of the marquee games of the opening weekend of the college football season. Should be a good measuring stick for two sides with dreams of a playoff berth.

Texas A&M v. Clemson (September 8th): This will be Jimbo Fisher’s first chance to make a real impression with the Aggies and it comes in primetime against a familiar for for Fisher.

Mississippi State v. Auburn (October 6th): If things go right, Mississippi State should enter this game 5-0 and close to the top 10 in the rankings. To this point, the schedule is light for the Bulldogs so this could be a major statement game.

Florida v. Georgia (October 27th): It’s hard to predict just exactly where these teams will be sitting at the end of October but this could game could play a very large role in determing the SEC and the national championship picture.

Alabama v. Auburn (November 24th): When both sides are on top of their game, the “Iron Bowl” just feels a little more special. Auburn got the win last year but Alabama took home the ultimate prize with another national title.

2018 SEC Predictions

It would not be a preview post without making some season predictions that will surely be wrong before the calendar hits October. Here is the Bat Flip’s official 2018 SEC football predictions.

Projected Order of Finish

East: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

West: Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas

SEC Championship Game

Alabama def. Georgia 42-38

Individual Awards

SEC Offensive Player of the Year: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

SEC Coach of the Year: Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State

That’s a wrap on our 2018 SEC football preview. Stay tuned throughout the week for more conference recaps along with a special college football preview episode of The FlipCast coming later in the week,