The South Eastern Conference is the power house of college football. The conference has put a team in the National Championship in every one of the last 8 years, only losing once to another conference in Auburn’s loss to FSU in 2013. However, with scores running past 100 total points, SEC defense’s are becoming less and less effective, as a majority of the games are becoming shootouts. Anything can happen in any given year in the SEC. Just ask Auburn. Auburn went from 0-8 in the SEC in 2012 to 2013 SEC Champions and a bid to the BCS National Championship.
So the question is, what will the SEC look like in 2014?
Alabama has held the Number 1 spot in the nation for most of the last 5 years. But they experienced back to back upsets to finish the season in the form of a miracle against Auburn (seen below), and a case against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl where they seemed to just not care. But they are hungry to get back on top, and have extremely high expectations. Each and every year as of late, if Alabama doesn’t win the National Championship their season is considered a failure. Although there are questions on wether Alabama’s Quarterback, Jacob Coker, will be an elite college QB, they are in good shape. With elite offensive weapons like Amari Cooper at WR and TJ Yeldon at RB, Alabama will have no problem moving the ball down the field.
A destiny-driven 2013 season for the Auburn Tigers ended in the last seconds of the National Championship game. The Tigers pulled off a miracle against Georgia on a 4th and 18 in the final minute of the game and another miracle against Alabama, returning a botched field goal for a touchdown with the clock showing 00:01. But can they do it again? They lost Tre Mason, star RB to the draft, and Nick Marshall has had some off-the-field issues with Marijuana, receiving a “suspension”, which is barely a suspension at all, being only removed from the starting lineup for the opener. Auburn has the pieces to make it back to the SEC Championship, but it is an uphill battle for them in 2014.
Georgia had title hopes in 2013 after a narrow 2012 SEC Championship lost to Alabama. But as the 2013 season went on, injuries just decimated this squad. UGA’s Number 1 receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, tore his ACL on the first offensive play of the year by celebrating Todd Gurley’s touchdown run. This should paint a picture of how unlucky Georgia was last year. As the year went on, they lost many key players. Along with Mitchell, the likes of Michael Bennett, Justin Scott-Wesley, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and even Aaron Murray were lost for multiple games on offense. That’s 6 potential NFL players. For 2014, relatively all of the returning players are healthy. They have a potential superstar in Hutson Mason at QB, Todd Gurley, the best RB in the country, an elite receiver corps and a much-improved defense, with high-end linebackers and defensive ends. Not to mention 2 5-star Running Backs in case anything were to go wrong with Gurley and Marshall again. Watch out for the Dawgs.
Behind senior Quarterback Dylan Thompson, the Gamecocks are poised for a shot at the SEC East. Running Back Mike Davis is among the best in the country, and will without doubt be the focal point of this new South Carolina offense in 2014. But they will have a very tough job filling the gap that 1st overall pick Jadeveon Clowney left on the Defensive Line. His 130 tackles, 24 sacks and 9 forced fumbles will be extremely difficult to replace. They have other pieces to replace on this defense as well, in the secondary. The monster matchup against Georgia in Week 3 will likely determine the SEC East Champion.
The teams that are looming in the SEC and have a chance to make a leap to the top. Defense’s in the SEC have become rather redundant, with scores in some games running over 100 total points in a game. In the SEC Championship last year, Auburn beat Missouri by a stunning 59-42. Florida and LSU are teams that can take away from these high-powered SEC offenses with their strong defense. And if there defense holds, they will have a chance to capitalize. It seems like everyone is sleeping on LSU this year, with the losses of QB Zach Mettenberger and WR Odell Beckham Jr. among others. But with much of their defense returning, I wouldn’t count them out. Will Muschamp is on the hot seat, look for him to possibly deliver.
Missouri is a team that also presents a case to be considered among the top of this conference. After all, they are coming off an SEC Championship appearance in 2013. They have a talented QB in Maty Mauk who had great stats in his field time in 2013. They also have key defensive players returning, specifically Markus Golden at Defensive End.
Ole Miss looks ready to make the jump in the SEC West, and it starts with their monster of a defense. This defense causes turnovers, and the secondary will cause problems for receivers all over the SEC. They have a revamped backfield that will take some pressure off the QB Bo Wallace.
Tennessee is my final contender for the SEC in 2014. My basis for this spot for Tennessee is that both of the Tennessee Quarterbacks are mobile, capable players. The winner of the QB battle, Justin Worley and Joshua Dobbs, will have a chance to carry this team. We will see.
Texas A&M will suffer greatly with the loss of Johnny Football, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans in the first round of the draft. No question about it. Not to mention their garbage defense. The glory days are over for the time being in A&M.
Vanderbilt is just outside of the Contenders group, we will see how the new coach fares.
Mississippi State needs more pieces on both sides of the ball to be effective in this conference.
Arkansas did not get a single win in the SEC last year and they may not again.
Kentucky didn’t either, and are frankly in the wrong conference.
South Carolina 10-2
Ole Miss 8-4
Texas A&M 6-6
Mississippi State 4-8
SEC Champion: Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia 34- Alabama 27
In a rematch from the 2012 SEC Championship, the Bulldogs take the SEC in a fantastic game behind Hudson Mason and Todd Gurley. Georgia reigns as SEC Champions and earns the Number 1 or 2 spot in the Playoff. Alabama will still be in the running for the Number 4 spot, depending on how the rest of college football turns out. The Georgia Bulldogs are your 2014 SEC Champions!