To begin the preview of the SEC it only makes since to start the conversation off with the back to back National Champions, Alabama. The Elephants once again come into the season ranked #1 in almost everybody’s preseason polls and rightfully so. Time and time again Alabama sends a bulk of players into the NFL but follow up the next season with little to no drop off, and no one expects this season to be any different.
The Alabama Elephants return with their two time national champion winning quarterback AJ McCarron who will be looking to finish his senior year strongly, and surely has his eyes on a unprecedented third national title in as many years. While the Elephants return AJ they also have three new starters on the offensive line, two new defensive lineman, a top 10 pick in CB Dee Milliner and that will surely leave some growing pains for the Tide. A key position to watch for the Elephants this season is at running back where Yeldon will be expected to step in as the number one back and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the work load.
Ultimately Alabama’s fate will be decided in one crucial game, the trip to College Station against Johnny Manziel in week two could very well decide who wins the SEC West this season. The twelfth man will be loud and rocking as Alabama rolls into town and they will be looking to prove that last season was not a fluke. If Alabama is the dark empire than Texas A&M is the Luke Skywalker that must stop the powerhouse of the SEC West from having a 3-peat, because it is unlikely anyone else on Alabama’s schedule will be able to considering they basically own LSU for the time being.
Wins (percentage of a chance they’ll win):
Virginia Tech (85%)
Colorado State (98%)
Ole Miss (79%)
Georgia State (99.9%)
Mississippi State (80%)
Losses (percentage of a chance they’ll lose)
Texas A&M (51%)
Arkansas’ fans are excited for the new regime under new head coach Brett Bielema, the former head coach of wisconsin a consistently solid team over the past few years, and rightfully so. The razorbacks are in good hand with coach Bielema but the fans should be wary of having too high of expectations too soon. This team has been left void of any big name players, and the departure of Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis to the pros is a big loss for the hogs.
Fans of the razorbacks will be riding high after week four of the season when they are sitting pretty at a (4-0) record after confidence boosting games against Louisiana Rajun Kajuns, Samford, Southern Miss, and a slightly tougher opponent in Rutgers. However, the reality of playing in the league of Goliath’s known as the SEC West will quickly sink in for Arkansas and even coach Bielema himself. The following games against Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU (all in a row mind you) may prove to be too much for the razorbacks.
LA Kajuns (88%)
Southern Miss (80%)
Texas A&M (90%)
South Carolina (89%)
Ole Miss (70%)
Miss St (60%)
Like the razorbacks, Auburn has a fan base itching for the season to start after a decent hire in former Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn. However what really put life back into the Tiger’s fan base were the excellent hires that Malzahn made soon after taking over the reins of a (3-9) team. Malzahn brought in a staff that can take the talent of the top 10 recruiting classes Auburn has raked in over the past few seasons and possibly put a team on the field that reflects the amount of talent the Tigers have. Speaking of talent, a player whose former teammates are ranting about his natural abilities is now the starting quarterback at Auburn and his story is similar to another former QB for the Tigers who had a lot of success. Nick Marshall is the man for Auburn at quarterback and he is a JUCO transfer who was kicked out of Georgia for allegedly stealing money from a teammate and now has been given a second chance by the Tigers, chillingly similar to Heisman trophy winner Cameron Newton who polarized the entire nation in 2010. Marshall and Auburn have two tune up games to start off the season, and they are sorely needed for a team that needs time to mold before they face the SEC powerhouses looming in the latter part of the schedule. Both Washington State and Arkansas State are not push over teams, but the talent difference alone should be enough for Auburn to start off (2-0) and gain some momentum heading into consecutive SEC games against Mississippi State, LSU, and Ole Miss. The Tiger’s season can be predicted off of how they match up against their first opponent, Washington State, if Auburn can win that game definitively it could be a sign of things to come.
Although the Tigers only won three games last season there are some returning starters worth mentioning from the 2012-’13 team. Junior halfback Tre Mason was able to rush for 1,003 yards in the SEC, behind a porous offensive line, splitting carries with senior Onterio McCalebb, and with a incompetent offensive coordinator (Scott Loeffler). So that is quite a feat and with JUCO transfer running back, Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn will have quite a tandem in the backfield to help support Marshall while he learns to play at an SEC level. Former All-American fullback Jay Prosch is taking on his senior year in stride claiming he has found peace after last years turmoil of handling his mothers loss with the battle against cancer, and should prove to be quite a weapon under Gus Malzahn’s hurry up no huddle ground and pound offense.
Washington State (68%)
Arkansas State (75%)
Mississippi State (58%)
Ole Miss (50%)
Western Carolina (90%)
Florida Atlantic (88%)
Texas A&M (90%)
No team is as antsy as the Florida Gators are to get this new season started, undoubtedly the Gators must have a bitter taste in their mouth after the embarrassing drubbing they received from Louisville in the Sugar Bowl last season. The Gators begin the season against Toledo, who will undoubtedly be the victim of some misplaced anger, and then follow up the next week with a tougher opponent in Miami. Surprisingly the Hurricanes have avoided the swift hammer of the NCAA in the past few seasons, and they appear like a tough opponent for the Gators early on. However, the Gators are going to look to prove a point early on in the year that their goals are nothing short of winning the last BCS Championship.
Throughout their schedule Muschamp and the Gators have a lot of hurdles they will need to clear to get to the SEC Championship let alone the National championship. Florida plays LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and their arch rival FSU all towards the second half of their schedule. All of these teams have the talent and coaching to potentially win their conference and make it to the big game.
A question that Florida fans are going to wonder is how will the offense fair with quarterback Jeff Driskel leaving for the MLB after this season? While the team has stated otherwise, some players may be offended by Driskel leaving them behind after they struggled for so long to establish a starting quarterback. However, if the Gators can look past that Driskel could really shine with all of the talent and experience around him.
South Carolina (52%)
Georgia Southern (98%)
It is hard to ever count out the LSU Tigers, but this season may be rough for Miles and the fan base to stomach. The Tigers will have to face both Georgia and Florida from the opposite side of the conference as well as their usual competition in the SEC West. With this tough schedule and the loss of a lot of talent to the NFL last season it will be interesting to see if Les Miles can use his good recruiting classes to reload like he has in years past.
The bayou Tigers will need to replace defensive starters including: Barkevious Mingo, Eric Reed, Kevin Minter, Bennie Logan, Sam Montgomery, Tharold Simon, and Levar Edwards who were all taken in the NFL Draft. Fortunately for the tigers they have quite a few upperclassmen that have been with the team long enough they may be able to step in without much drop off.
On offense Zach Mettenberger will be entering his senior year with the Tigers, and will be looking to improve off of his solid performance last year. To assist Mettenberger against the defenses of the SEC, Odell Beckham Jr. is back as well and could possibly be the number one receiver in the SEC this season and the Tigers also have the majority of their running backs as well. The Tigers are going to need their offense to really produce if they want to win the SEC this season and if they aren’t able to than it could be a rough year for Les Miles.
Kentucky State (95%)
Mississippi State (80%)
Ole Miss (75%)
Texas A&M (50 %)