As the season begins there are plenty of interesting storylines to track. Teams in Athens, Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, College Station, and Columbia (Missouri and South Carolina) will be breaking in new quarterbacks while Mississippi State and Ole Miss return dual-threat QB’s in Dak Prescott and Bo Wallace.
The talent in the quarterback crop may be down from last year, but the running back class is as talented as it has been in the last decade. Heisman candidates T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley, and Mike Davis highlight the veteran RB group while newcomers like LSU’s Leonard Fournette look to make their mark on the conference.
Last year was a wild one for the SEC. Auburn had its miracles late in the year against Georgia and Alabama. Missouri made a Cinderella run to the SEC championship despite losing starting quarterback James Franklin early in the season. Teams like Georgia and Florida struggled to meet expectations as injuries plagued both squads and of course, there was the always entertaining Johnny Manziel show at Texas A&M. The 2014 season is finally here, so let’s get to the predictions.
The East: Georgia will finish first, followed by Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and finally Vanderbilt
The East division has plenty of question marks, but I believe that, for the first time in a long time, this division is deeper than the West. One could easily make the case for any of the top four teams to come out of the East, but I still contend that it’s Georgia’s division crown to lose.
Most ‘experts’ believe that the SEC East crown will be decided in week three as Georgia travels to Columbia to face rival South Carolina, but I don’t see it that way. The so-called demise of the Florida football program has been greatly exaggerated this off-season. Sure, they struggled mightily last year in a season that was capped with a home loss to FCS opponent Georgia Southern, but don’t let that fool you, Florida is legit. There is a real possibility that the East title will be up for grabs when the Gators meet Georgia in Jacksonville on November 1st.
The West: Alabama will finish at number one following with Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and finally Arkansas.
Despite what you may read or hear in the coming days, the West is a two-team-race. Alabama and Auburn are the class of the division, and I don’t think it’s really that close. Mississippi State and Ole Miss have both been receiving tons of hype this off-season mostly due to the fact that they both return a majority of players, primarily their quarterbacks,but don’t buy into the idea that either of these teams will contend for a title this year.
In order to win the West, a team will likely have to beat either Alabama or Auburn OR hope that both of those teams have two SEC losses by the end of the season. I don’t see either scenario playing out on the field.
I like Auburn a lot, but I can’t bring myself to pick them over a loaded Crimson Tide roster. The Tigers success this year will ultimately depend on Nick Marshall’s ability to move the ball through the air. Losing Heisman candidate running back Tre’ Mason to the NFL Draft is a bigger blow than some fans might think. Marshall must show he can carry the load.
Alabama has question marks at the quarterback position as well, but they won’t depend on the position as much as other SEC teams because they have T.J. Yeldon and a stable of backs behind him. LSU is talented, albeit young, but they may surprise some folks, but not enough to compete for the conference crown.
My SEC championship pick is Alabama over Georgia. I predict Todd Gurley will win player of the year and Will Muschamp will surprisingly win coach of the year. LSU running back Leonard Fournette should win freshman of the year. My surprise team is head coach Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers and my letdown team is the Aggies from A&M without their precious Johnny Football.