I drive by two local high school football stadiums on a regular basis and each time I do so it reminds me of how close we are to a new gridiron campaign.

That has been especially true in recent days as a new season is just around the corner, literally weeks away. For those of you like myself it is certainly a welcome thing.

SEC Media days are just around the corner and are set for July with a return to Hoover, Ala. The annual spring meeting recently wrapped up in scenic, although brutally hot, Destin, Fla.

In less than three months now the new season will be here.

Here are some predictions for 2019 in the SEC reported without fear or favor.

•Alabama will win the West. This is not a bold statement per say but the Crimson Tide does have a tough conference schedule including a game at Texas A&M and its annual clash with LSU.

•Florida will win the East. Yes it will be the Gators in Atlanta and not Georgia.

•It won’t completely happen in 2019 but Jeremy Pruitt will continue to have Tennessee on an upward climb this fall.

•We will all continue to hear how great a coach Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M is. The Aggies will not overtake Alabama in the West though. Don’t look for it in 2020 either.

•LSU will be challenged deep into the second half by Georgia Southern in its opener.

•Arkansas will continue to struggle in 2019. The program has been a non-factor since the end of the Bobby Petrino era.

•Kentucky will once again start the season fast only to crash and burn by November. It will be the same song only a different verse for the Wildcats.

•This will be the final year for Gus Malzien at Auburn.

•Vanderbilt will continue to play solid defense but also continue to struggle on offense.

•UGA radio play-by-play man Scott Howard will continue to try to be a Larry Munson-style homer but only sound foolish, over-the-top and out of control in doing so. Note to Howard: it is not necessary to sound like UGA just won the national championship when in reality it was only a five-yard gain on offense. The same goes for UGA sideline reporter and Foghorn Leghorn imitator Chuck Dowdle.

•With Munson calling games in the great beyond, Alabama radio play-by-play announcer Eli Gold will continue to be the class of the SEC.

•Interesting week one matchup: Georgia at Vanderbilt.

•Interesting week one matchup, part two: Florida vs Miami (Fla.) in Jacksonville.

•Also worth taking notice of in week one: Alabama vs. Duke in Orlando, Missouri at Wyoming, Georgia State at Tennessee, Oregon vs. Auburn in Atlanta and Georgia Southern at LSU.

Finally, for those who are wishing against all odds that Alabama is somehow going to stumble after taking a pretty fair beating in the National Championship game can forget it. Clemson was clearly the better team that night, not necessarily the better program but certainly the better team.

No other team would have stayed within 17 points of Clemson that night. The Tigers will have a dominant offense this fall. One area talk show host said Clemson could easily score 70 points a game.

It’s a long season of course and injuries can and often do take a toll on teams. That happened to Alabama in 2018. It’s why depth is so vital for teams who want to legitimately have a chance to win it all or even be in contention.

Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for MainStreet Newspapers who attended his first college football game in 1979. He welcomes comments about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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