Not your regular SEC preseason predictions, 2014 edition

Once more into the breach, dear friends.  As I’ve done for several seasons now, I’m sticking with this format as follows:

Rather than give you my predicted records, I’ll list the schools in the order they finished in the conference last year, look at areas of potential improvement and decline and assess in what direction I expect each to go by comparison to 2010.

In other words, pure seat of the pants BS.

So starting with last season as the baseline (teams are listed in their 2013 conference order of finish), here goes nothing.

SEC WEST

AUBURN (12-2, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Coaching stability; great offensive system with good personnel; Nick Marshall; excellent recruiting
  • Cons:  Defense not dominant; reset on special teams; challenging schedule; can the good fortune continue?
  • Outlook:  Historically, Auburn doesn’t do well when it’s a preseason front-runner, but I don’t foresee a huge drop off from last season.  On the other hand, there’s got to be some regression to the mean, luckwise.  No worse than two, maybe three conference losses.

ALABAMA (11-2, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Skill position talent; team depth; Nick Saban; unparalleled program stability; dream schedule
  • Cons:  Less experience on defense; losses on the offensive line; inexperience at quarterback
  • Outlook:  Weirdly, I didn’t change a single word in the pros or cons from what I wrote last year, except to note the quarterback situation (and I’m not sure how much that’s gonna matter, to be honest).  If anything, Alabama’s schedule is even more favorable in 2014.  Let’s say the Tide will slip up and lose a regular season game, but there’s a reason everyone is putting them in Atlanta and the new CFP.  If they don’t make it, I’m blaming Junior.

LSU (10-3, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Solid personnel; coaching stability; Alabama at home
  • Cons:  Losses on defense; incredibly green at the offensive skill positions
  • Outlook:  My default position on Les Miles – pencil in two regular season losses – feels right.  This is a very talented team, but the Tigers have a lot of experience to replace, especially at the offensive skill spots.

TEXAS A & M (9-4, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Great recruiting; coaching stability; weak non-conference schedule
  • Cons:  Huge losses on offense; Auburn and Alabama on the road; shakiest defensive team in the SEC
  • Outlook:  I guess the question to ask is if TAMU is at the point where it reloads.  They’ll likely be okay on offense, but I’m still not thrilled with that defense.  I’m seeing a similar number of regular season losses in 2014.

MISSISSIPPI (8-5, 3-5)

  • Pros:  Rising talent level; lots of returning starters; coaching stability; defense; favorable cross-division games
  • Cons:  Still lack depth in comparison to top teams in West; special teams
  • Outlook: Defense should be excellent; offense, not so much.  With that schedule, I think Ole Miss is probably looking at a four-loss regular season.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-6, 3-5)

  • Pros:  Coaching stability; quarterback stability; one of the most experienced teams in the conference; favorable cross-division schedule; defense
  • Cons:  Mediocre special teams; Prescott needs to prove himself against top teams
  • Outlook:  I still think this is the hardest team to handicap in the SEC.  I can’t help but be impressed with what MSU brings on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense makes me nervous, mainly because of the quarterback situation.  If Mullen can coach Prescott up to the next level, the Bulldogs could be the surprise team of the West.  But I’m seeing four losses in the regular season at present.

ARKANSAS (3-9, 0-8)

  • Pros:  Offensive line; running backs
  • Cons:  Defense; special teams; schedule
  • Outlook:  Can it get better in Bielema’s second year?  It can’t get worse.  But I’m having a hard time figuring out where the Hogs grab that fourth win.

SEC EAST

MISSOURI (12-2, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Coaching stability; offensive line; schedule
  • Cons:  Losses at receiver and defensive end; questions in the defensive back seven
  • Outlook: The schedule shapes up to be Missouri’s biggest friend, with only three preseason ranked opponents.  Pinkel knows what he’s doing and Mauk is a promising quarterback.  But depth is a concern in several areas.  Four regular season losses wouldn’t surprise me, although I think three is a more likely result.

SOUTH CAROLINA (11-2, 6-2)

  • Pros:  Steve Spurrier; linebacking; offensive line; Mike Davis; Georgia at home
  • Cons:  Replacing Shaw and Clowney; cornerback; special teams
  • Outlook:  Hard to see the ‘Cocks doing worse from a win/loss standpoint than they did last season.  But will another two-loss regular season be enough to win the division?

GEORGIA (8-5, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Offense; skill position depth; renewed health; defensive front seven; Marshall Morgan; Todd Gurley
  • Cons: Secondary; offensive line; special teams; early season schedule; loss of Aaron Murray
  • Outlook:  The record will be improved because the Dawgs will be healthier, but the season will come down to competence in the secondary, on special teams and turnover margin improvement.  I expect this team to improve over the course of the season, but there will be two or three regular season losses, depending on how they get out of the gate.

VANDERBILT (9-4, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Respectable defense by SEC standards; improved depth; schedule
  • Cons:  Offense; loss of Jordan Matthews
  • Outlook:  People don’t realize it, but Franklin did Mason a big favor by redshirting a ton of kids from a very good recruiting class.  That’s going to help, although not as much as the softest schedule in the SEC will.  Vandy’s biggest problem is that the offense won’t be very good.  I can’t see anything close to another nine-win season, but bowl eligibility is certainly a realistic goal.

FLORIDA (4-8, 3-5)

  • Pros:  Defense; improved health; soft early season schedule
  • Cons:  Passing game; third offensive coordinator in four seasons; brutal cross-division schedule
  • Outlook:  Yes, the Gators will improve from last season’s record.  But with six preseason ranked opponents on the schedule, I’m looking at something in the neighborhood of 8-4.  And that’s only if Driskel stays on his feet.

TENNESSEE (5-7, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Receiver; improving talent base
  • Cons:  Quarterback; complete replacement of offensive and defensive lines; schedule
  • Outlook:  I’m having a hard time finding a sixth win on this team’s schedule.  But they upset South Carolina last year, so who knows?

KENTUCKY (2-10, 0-8)

  • Pros:  Improving talent base after a solid recruiting class; coaching stability; pass rush; early schedule isn’t too daunting
  • Cons:  Secondary; overall depth
  • Outlook:  As the Beatles once sang, I have to admit it’s getting better.  But not that quickly.  Overall win total can improve a little from 2013’s, but without Arkansas on the schedule, the ‘Cats are going to have to steal a win from the likes of Vandy or Tennessee to get off the conference schneid.
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35 Comments

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35 responses to “Not your regular SEC preseason predictions, 2014 edition

  1. Bama: 10-2
    Aub: 9-3
    LSU: 8-4
    Miss St: 8-4
    Ole Miss: 8-4
    Texas A&M: 7-5
    Arkansas: 6-6

    SoCar: 10-2
    UGA: 9-3
    UF: 8-4
    Mizzou: 8-4
    Tenn: 5-7
    Vandy: 5-7
    Kentucky: 3-9

    • Not bad. Only bone I might pick with you is that you’re way more optimistic about Arky than I am.

      I think LSU won’t lose four games, but I admit with all that youth, it’s within the realm of possibility.

      • I went back and forth between 5-7 and 6-6 for Arkansas. I think they beat someone they shouldn’t (UGA is a worry with how they’ll match up). Something is up with Bama. The fact Coker hasn’t nailed down the starting spot is a real concern.

        As for LSU, I have the same concern you have. New (or young) QB, new WRs, new RB (albeit god’s gift to the game, apparently). 8-4 could be asking a lot, but what the hell. Might as well gamble.

        • Honestly, I’m a little skeptical of the Cokermania. He wasn’t that highly ranked coming out of high school and he couldn’t win the starting job at FSU, but now he’s suddenly a major stud at a program he’s only been a part of for a month?

          • The fact Sims is starting should scare every Bama fan. There’s a reason they moved him to WR and RB at one point or another.

          • The fact that he didn’t win the starting job over the eventual Heisman Trophy winner isn’t a knock I’ll hold against him, but the fact that he’s coming off a major knee injury and didn’t even get a spring practice with Bama has always made me skeptical of how much of an initial impact he would make. To hear the FSU people tell it (my bro-in-law is one of them), Winston was only barely better than him. But it all kinda reminds me of the talk around Branndon Stewart, the guy who Peyton Manning “barely” beat out at Tennessee. Supposedly there were some people in the UT program who actually felt Stewart was better. So there was all sorts of hoopla when Stewart transferred to A&M, he was basically going to be Peyton Manning v2.0. And I mean he ended up being ok, but he lost the starting job twice during his tenure at A&M, and never approached anything Manning-like.

            I do think Coker probably starts at some point this year, and will have a chance to be pretty good in 2015. But I think all the expectations on him were way out of line.

            Of course, now that I’ve said all that, Sims will struggle, then Coker will come off the bench and throw 4 TD’s on his way to an All-American season. :)

            • Mayor

              All they need at QB for Bama is the proverbial “game-manager.” Coker will hand off to the backs and throw deep when the safeties come up for run support. A McCarron clone with similar results for Bama.

            • Um, I don’t think it was major knee surgery.

              (Of course, major surgery is any surgery on me and minor surgery is surgery on everyone else.)

              • Ah, for some reason I had it in my head that it was an ACL. Just went back and saw it was a meniscus. I agree it wasn’t “major” then, but he’s still coming off of knee surgery, got no reps at all in the spring (I’m pretty sure he did not participate in FSU’s spring), and hasn’t been on campus very long in T-town. I still say expectations were way out of line as far as immediate impact, but like I said above, I do expect him to be the starter at some point this year and I think he has the potential to be REALLY good in 2015.

          • I think the Cokermania has cooled somewhat (at least that’s the feeling I get from BOL).

            I think it says a lot that a guy that has been around for so long can’t nail down the starting job (not that Saban would announce it anyway). The competition will stay open until Coker proves he can hit Cooper on third down (and Sims proves he can’t). Then we’ll move on to Coker.

  2. PansyTheDawg

    I apologize for my lack of pessimism, but I think if our secondary has become close to competent, I think we will go 11-1. If we beat South Carolina, we’re championship caliber. Until the injuries last year, our offense was so potent that they could have won every game they had last year, despite the defense and special teams. We might be missing Murray’s downfield miracles, but Huston Mason has shown competency and consistency. We have Todd Gurley, and our defense should be better.
    Also, maybe it’s me, but I have no faith in a Will Muschamp coached team. The offense nearly gives more points to the other team than they score. That 11-1 season of theirs was a miracle. 6-6 for Florida is generous.

    • Moe Pritchett

      I’ll have another one of those please sir.

    • siskey

      My 2 Cents: The defense will be better if that manifests itself only in being able to tackle and not being befuddled 5+ times every game. The offense will miss Murray. He always made me nervous because I am pessimistic Dawg fan but after re-watching select games over the past 3-4 seasons I was very impressed at the amount of plays that he made to bail us out. I think that Mason will be a solid player but if he attempts to make those same throws then I think it will hurt

    • Mayor

      FWIW I agree with Pansy. If the O is about the same as last season and the D is just competent, Georgia could run the table. We’ll know more about what we have after Saturday.

    • Kevin

      Why does most everyone have South Carolina on such a high pedestal? They have had 2 of the best years in the life of the program. We should win that game. My guess is that SOS is their coach, and get in our heads.

      Mr. Blutarsky, I think you are underestimating our team. Perhaps I am deep into the Kool Aid, but I think we go 11 and 1. We will score points on everyone and our D will be better.

      • It’s not just those of us on the blog that overrate USuC. They seem to be the chic pick to come out of the east every year lately. With the press hacks it’s just because Spurrier is an easy interview, is good for quotes, and lots of writers are lazy. That’s why they kiss his ass so freaking much.

        I’ve decided this season that I won’t read any writer that calls the douche by any of his self made up nicknames. I see anything in a story that has ball coach behind it and I’m going to another site.

  3. sUGArdaddy

    I just don’t see it for South Carolina. They lost a ton. That front four lost 3 studs, one of them the best player in the country. They lost a first down machine and best QB is school history. I don’t think Dylan Thompson is DJ Shockley. Their secondary is a mess.

    I see them at 9-3 or 8-4. TAMU, UGA, Florida, Auburn, UT, Mizzou, Clemson. I don’t think they go 5-2 vs. that slate. Our game with them, obviously, is massive.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agree 100%. scu has a lot of holes to fill. But knowing how to win is a big factor. So 3 or 4 losses looks on target.

      Seems everybody is on autopilot and writing scu in at 10-2. But other than davis, nobody ever mentions a player that’s expected to step up and carry part of the load clowney, shaw, those DLs, WRs, & DBs left behind.

  4. Scorpio Jones, III

    Picking postponed till Monday. :)

  5. RocketDawg

    Is it possible that we lose 2-3 regular season games (Clemson, S Carolina, Auburn)? Sure it is possible but I honestly don’t see it happening. I think that we beat Clemson on Saturday and I think that the S Carolina game is a toss up right now (we’ll know more about the Chickens in a couple of weeks). Auburn scares me only because that offense is hard to defend (a la the Nerd Bone triple option), but I think with a year of tape on them and by that time a much improved defense I think it is a toss up as well (at least right now). Injuries and suspensions can change all of that for sure.

  6. Auburn – unless Marshall improves his passing, d-coordinators will catch up with the Gus Bus, and Marshall isn’t $Cam. 10-2 at best.
    Alabama – if one of the QBs is functional, they will go 12-0. If not, 10-2 at worst because they will have trouble with LSU and may lose to AU
    LSU – other than Alabama, they still have the most raw talent on the LOS, but agree Miles will make a decision that will lose a game or two – 10-2
    TAMU – Sumlin eventually has to figure out how to stop people and JFF was a once in a generation player – 8-4 at best
    Ole Miss – still doesn’t and likely will never have the depth to go toe to toe yearly with the top 4 – 8-4 and maybe worse
    MSU – agree that they’re difficult to handicap because no one ever seems to see them other than on espn3 or now the SEC Network – 6-6
    Arkansas – Bert finds out how tough the SEC can be but I admit I’m nervous about Little Rock – 4-8

    Mizzou – who is Mauk going to throw to? He doesn’t have the redwoods at WRs. D-line could be better than people think – 9-3 is the high side
    USCe – not sold on Thompson but definitely sold on Davis. The defense has too many holes on the LOS and in the back end – 10-2
    UGA – praying for regression to the mean and better defense but we’re going to lose a couple – 10-2
    Vandy – no way they win 9 because they won’t have 1 gift-wrapped for them. Mason is going to find out Vandy is a long way from Stanford – 4-8
    UF – schedule is too tough and Roper won’t be able to mask personnel deficiencies – 8-4 at best w/Driskel – 5-7 or worse if he goes down
    UT – Butch doesn’t have the LOS to compete right now. They’ll be fortunate to get to bowl eligibility but I don’t see it – 5-7 at best
    UK – nowhere to go but up but not this year. How long does Stoops give this before he realizes UK will always be a basketball school? – 2-10

  7. Mayor

    I think UT beats FU and both end up at 6-6. More $ for the conference as both will be “bowl eligible.” Hopefully both will lose their bowl games. The team everyone seems to be overlooking is Mizzou. Look at the schedule. If the Tigers can beat Georgia in Columbia Mo, they can lose to the Dicks….er…Cocks and still win the East if Georgia and Auburn beat South Carolina. I think this is a very plausible scenario.

    • Salient point re: Missourah. Plus, they’ve got an open week before the UGa game & the Dawgs will be cruising into their 5th straight contest. Gonna need far more personnel than were available in the ’13 game.

  8. Studawg

    UGA 12-0

    There, I said it. :)

  9. W Cobb Dawg

    Bama: 11-1 (saban defense, Derrick Henry & Amarlo Cooper)
    LSU: 9-3 (chavis defense keeps them in every game)
    Aub: 8-4 (SECW too tough to keep winning at last year’s clip)
    Miss St: 8-4 (18 returning starters!)
    Texas A&M: 7-5
    Ole Miss: 7-5
    Arkansas: 5-7

    UGA: 11-1 (The OL, D & ST coaching improves, because it can’t get any worse)
    SoCar: 9-3 (lot of talent left, but knowing how to win is important)
    UF: 8-4 (muschamp can coach a D, but he doesn’t give a ship about the O. So it remains a dumpster fire)
    Mizzou: 7-5 (loss of skill @ WR, RB & DE. Favorable schedule not enough)
    Vandy: 6-6
    Tenn: 5-7
    Kentucky: 4-8

  10. Five losses for the Dawgs?

    I’m guessing you think:
    Clemson
    South Carolina
    Auburn

    Who are the other two? AND, who is the other non-conference loss? Troy or Tech? :)

    Me thinks you are sandbagging.

    BD

  11. Ed Kilgore

    I honestly wouldn’t be surprised at any result for Georgia between 12-0 and 8-4. I seem to be one of the few Dawg fans who’s worried about Florida. It’s extremely likely Boom will be coaching for his job in Jax (7-5 or 8-4 with minor bowl won’t cut it if he’s lost 4 in a row to Georgia), and that will matter in the usual close, emotional game. Guess the Jinx is officially over if nobody but me’s thinking that way.