The SEC is the most dominant conference in college football year in and year out. That will not change in 2014. The league loses a plethora of top-notch names including Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Jadeveon Clowney, Aaron Murray, and Tre Mason. However, the next line of players have been waiting in the wings to make their own impact in the conference. Alabama has a new quarterback (only the fourth different one to start under Nick Saban in his tenure in Tuscaloosa). Will Jacob Coker be the answer? Can he thrive under first year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin with the endless amount of weapons surrounding him? Can the Bama defense bounce back from the disappointing ending of the 2013 campaign?
Defending SEC Champs, the Auburn Tigers, bring back most of the nucleus that took them only a few seconds short of the national title. Quarterback Nick Marshall is back and for the first time in his head coaching career, Gus Malzahn has a quarterback 2 seasons in a row. Can the offensive line that was the heart and soul of the 2013 Tigers offense be just as effective? Can the Tiger defense do enough to win back-to-back SEC championships?
The SEC West from top-to-bottom could be as good as ever in 2014. With the exception of Arkansas (who could be be very much dangerous) the division is up for grabs. I believe Texas A&M takes a step back without Manziel, but the Aggies offensive style of play can jump up and bite any team any given weekend. Ole Miss and Mississippi State bring back two of the most experienced quarterbacks in the SEC in Bo Wallace and Dak Prescott, respectively. Could this be the year one of the Mississippi schools seriously contends for the division?
The Missouri Tigers came out of nowhere last year to claim the SEC East. Quarterback James Franklin is gone, but Matty Mauk got some serious playing time last year and I believe he is a top 5 quarterback in the SEC. Can the Tigers take the East again or does South Carolina, Georgia, Florida or Tennessee? South Carolina loses a lot of talent, but quarterback Dylan Thompson has played in some big time games for Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Will the defense that lost Clowney have enough to win the division? Georgia has the talent and a good quarterback in Huston Mason, but does the defense has what it takes? Florida will try to bounce back from an awful 5-7 campaign in 2013. The defense is there, but will the offense under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper be explosive enough? And will Vanderbilt and Kentucky vie to not be in the cellar of the SEC East or will one come out of nowhere and make some noise?
Predictions for the SEC are tough. Just look at last season when Auburn and Missouri were both picked 6th and 7th in the preseason. This conference is good enough to be surprising every year. That is what makes it the best. A team can beat any team on any day. That is life in the SEC.
I predict Alabama to bounce back and win the West and the conference as a whole this year. The talent is there and I believe Jacob Coker will do what is needed. I also believe the defensive line will be as dominant as any in the Saban era which will take pressure off of the secondary unlike in 2013. I have South Carolina taking the East in 2014. Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis will lead a good offense and the USC defense is still very much solid. They will do just enough to get back to Atlanta where they will ultimately lose to the Crimson Tide.
My two darkhorse teams in the SEC in 2014 are:
WEST – OLE MISS
EAST – TENNESSEE
OLE MISS (9-3)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4)
TEXAS A&M (7-5)
SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2)
2014 SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
ALABAMA over SOUTH CAROLINA
2014 SEC CHAMPION