The first year of a playoff system in college football is upon us and the SEC is stacked with potential contenders looking to reclaim the crown that the SEC held for so long. In total there are 8 teams from the SEC that earned preseason rankings from AP poll lead by Alabama (2), Auburn (6), South Carolina (9), Georgia (12), and LSU (13). This season the top 4 teams will move on to the college football play offs and with 8 teams starting off in the rankings there’s a chance the SEC could claim two of those spots.
Thirteen seconds away from a National Championship, Auburn is looking for an encore performance in 2014. Long gone are top level talents Greg Robinson, Tre Mason, and Dee Ford all have moved on to the National Football League and the Tigers will be looking for their replacements to improve upon their success from last year. Fortunately for Auburn their dynamic combination between Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates returns to the Auburn with added help from stand out JUCO wide receiver D’Haquille Williams.
In order for Auburn to return to the big game this season Auburn is going to need to overcome away games at Georgia, Alabama, and even Mississippi State. Not to mention their home game against LSU is nothing to sneeze at and has proven to be a close game year in and year out. Ultimately I believe Auburn earns a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff.
Alabama Crimson Tide
There has been a crack exposed in the infallible Nick Saban’s armor. The Crimson Tide struggles against a hurry up offense and if it weren’t for an unexpectedly impressive offense last season their year would have been uglier. Alabama will try and follow their usual template of having an okay quarterback, solid offensive line, oversized running back, and a stellar defense. However, I don’t see Alabama “reloading” as well as they have in years past. Their recruiting has remained unbelievably impressive but the issue at quarterback seems to have fans a little worried as a back up from Florida State is Alabama’s last hope at quarterback and i’m not too sure if he will be able to get the job done. Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon will be monsters at running back but Alabama’s defense has shown some an obvious weakness to teams with hurry up offenses and a multiple threat quarterback.
The First four games will be a cake walk for Alabama and their first real challenge will come from Ole Miss, who doesn’t have the quarterback or the coach to turn the tide. All odds point towards Alabama heading into the Iron Bowl undefeated and whether they win or not it’s unlikely a one loss Alabama is snubbed a playoff spot.
During this offseason there were two coaches crying to the NCAA to try and tattle and possibly get their way. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was the louder of the two cry babies attempting to get a 10 second delay between plays in order to slow down hurry up offenses in order to “protect player safety”. Unfortunately for Bielema, every study that has occurred shows the exact opposite of what Bielema is trying to argue and ultimately leaves him looking like a fool. The 2014 season is going to do the same exact thing to Bielema unfortunately for the razorbacks. Without absolutely drastic improvement at quarterback and key losses along the offensive line leads to a rather negative year for Arkansas and anything more than a 3 win season would be overachieving for the Razorbacks.
The Bayou Tigers had a three loss season last year and they have lost a lot of crucial talent since then. To expect the Tigers to improve from last year would defy logic as they are being likely being lead by a freshman quarterback (Anthony Jennings) and a rushing attack that will be lead by a freshman back (Leonard Fournette) as well. While these two will show that there is a lot of potential for the future in Louisiana they will not quite be ready for the rigorous schedule that LSU is about to face in this upcoming season with a rough start against Wisconsin and a tough SEC slate I think LSU will finish fourth in their division.
There is a reason that many people scoff at the idea of preseason polls and teams like Texas A&M are a prime example as to why. While the Aggies had a tremendous recruiting class their defense was horrendous last year and there is a vert slim chance it will turn around fast enough for Texas A&M to have much of an impact on the SEC at all. An easy schedule should allow Sumlin to manage a minimal of 6 wins which isn’t a terrible finish considering their defense and the talent the team lost on offense including Manziel and Mike Evans.
The Bulldogs are loaded with heisman hopeful Dak Prescott, and experienced offensive line, and an entire defense boasting returning starters all adds up to a potential dark horse season for Dan Mullen’s team. It is very likely that the Bulldogs will shoot off to a (6-0) start before a home game against the Auburn Tigers. With a bye week before their game against the Tigers, and follow up games consisting of Kentucky and Arkansas, the Bulldogs will be putting all of their effort into winning this game and continuing a potential run at the SEC West title.
Unfortunately for the Rebels they are about to experience a rather common issue that many football teams have. They have a solid depth chart, a manageable schedule, but their quarterback is ‘meh’ at the absolute best. Bo Wallace is not a championship caliber quarterback and never really will be at this level of competition. Even if Wallace were an excellent quarterback he would be handicapped by the decision making of Hugh Freeze who can not quite match up against coaches like Nick Saban. Ole Miss should enjoy their continued success compared to years past but shouldn’t expect much more than an 8 win season.