SEC Preview: 2013 Predictions

Everyone is chasing Alabama in 2013, but the Crimson Tide still has enough talent in its pool to earn another celebration in Atlanta. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC preview opened, predictably enough, with a simple question: Who can catch Alabama?

When you have won three BCS national championships in four years, that question is to be expected.

We at Saturday Blitz have spent the last two weeks breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of every team in the nation’s most decorated and polarizing league in the 21st century. Now comes time for predictions.

So who’s the team to beat? The answer will not surprise you.

 

SEC East

Georgia

Projected record: 10-2, 7-1 SEC

Most important game: vs. South Carolina (Sept. 7)

Potential to be upset: at Clemson (Aug. 31)

Forecast: QB Aaron Murray ends with another shot in the SEC Championship Game, partially thanks to a strong run game and partially because of emerging stars on defense such as LB Jordan Jenkins.

 

South Carolina

Projected record: 10-2, 6-2 SEC

Most important game: at Georgia (Sept. 7)

Potential to be upset: vs. Clemson (Nov. 30)

Forecast: Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier continues his string of 10-win seasons but South Carolina can’t get the necessary help to overcome an early season loss at Georgia.

 

Florida

Projected record: 7-5, 4-4 SEC

Most important game: vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.; Nov. 2)

Potential to be upset: at Kentucky (Sept. 28)

Forecast: A Gators team that lived on the edge too many times in 2012 regresses back into the SEC pack unless QB Jeff Driskel can win grind out wins this fall.

 

Vanderbilt

Projected record: 7-5, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: vs. Ole Miss (Aug. 29)

Potential for an upset: None; (If I have to pick one): vs. Georgia (Oct. 19)

Forecast: It’s not that Vanderbilt will be substantially worse in 2013, but rather that the bottom of the SEC East is on the rise with the emergence of Tennessee and Kentucky and with Missouri needing to be on the mend.

 

Missouri

Projected record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: at Vanderbilt (Oct. 5)

Potential for an upset: vs. Florida (Oct. 19)

Forecast: Coach Gary Pinkel, with his back against the ropes, inspires a big bounce-back season from now-healthy QB James Franklin and the Tigers prove cagy enough on defense to steal enough wins to gain bowl eligibility.

 

Kentucky

Projected record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: vs. Missouri (Nov. 9)

Potential for an upset: vs. Florida (Sept. 28)

Forecast: Kentucky takes significant steps forward under first-year coach Mark Stoops – especially on defense – and enters the last game of the season needing a home win over Tennessee to gain bowl eligibility.

 

Tennessee

Projected record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC

Most important game: vs. Vanderbilt (Nov. 23)

Potential for an upset: vs. South Carolina (Oct. 19)

Forecast: The Volunteers rely heavily on a strong run game and hope to weather the storm while a quarterback (to be named later) becomes more seasoned. Tennessee ultimately falls one game short of bowl eligibility under first year coach Butch Jones.

 

SEC West

Alabama

Projected record: 11-1, 7-1 SEC

Most important game: at Texas A&M (Sept. 7)

Potential to be upset: at Texas A&M (Sept. 7)

Forecast: Coach Nick Saban simply gets too many weapons – and promotes too many talented former five-star recruits on defense – to slip. Alabama rolls to the SEC West title.

 

Texas A&M

Projected record: 9-3, 5-3 SEC

Most important game: vs. Alabama (Sept. 7)

Potential to be upset: at Ole Miss (Oct. 12)

Forecast: QB Johnny Manziel leads what remains a high-octane offense, but the defense simply loses too much to lead the Aggies to a divisional crown – even after a Week 2 win over Alabama.

 

LSU

Projected record: 9-3, 5-3 SEC

Most important game: vs. Texas A&M (Nov. 23)

Potential to be upset: at Ole Miss (Oct. 19)

Forecast: LSU continues to be a force in the SEC West but a brutal four-week stretch starting at Georgia and ending at Ole Miss derails any hopes of a divisional crown.

 

Auburn

Projected record: 7-5, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: vs. Mississippi State (Sept. 14)

Potential for an upset: vs. Ole Miss (Oct. 5)

Forecast: First-year coach Gus Malzahn brings hope back to Auburn and Ellis Johnson’s defense makes a big difference with a talented group that underachieved in 2012.

 

Ole Miss

Projected record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: at Vanderbilt (Aug. 29)

Potential for an upset: vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 12)

Forecast: The Rebels’ record doesn’t indicate a step forward, but Hugh Freeze’s team is a better team in 2013. The best division in college football, teamed with a tough non-conference road game at Texas, leads to a .500 record.

 

Mississippi State

Projected record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC

Most important game: at Auburn (Sept. 14)

Potential for an upset: LSU (Oct. 5)

Forecast: Hopes of Mississippi State reaching the next level during QB Tyler Russell’s senior season crash into a harsh reality that the SEC West is loaded, leaving the Bulldogs fighting for a bowl berth.

 

Arkansas

Projected record: 6-6, 2-6 SEC

Most important game: vs. Auburn (Nov. 2)

Potential for an upset: vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 28)

Forecast: Arkansas’ strong pass rush gives it a chance in every game and masks some offensive deficiencies, allowing the Razorbacks to get back to a bowl game in 2013.

 

SEC Championship prediction: Alabama 29, Georgia 24

Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana State Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Vanderbilt Commodores

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  • Gamecock Fan

    So, basically the SC/UGA game decides the East? Did you factor in Murray’s paralyzing fear of Clowney? Seriously, though, that game should be amazingly fun to watch! I hope both teams play well, avoid injuries, and that my Gamecocks catch enough breaks to win a giant game between the hedges. I think the development of SC’s young linebackers will be key, and don’t sleep on that SC secondary, there are some ball hawks back there. But, I think the real question will be whether or not UGA can stop the SC offense, which is going to throw a lot of different stuff at them. If they can, I think it’ll be close, if not…GO GAMECOCKS!!! Make it 4 in a row!!!

    • Luke Brietzke

      The South Carolina-Georgia game is, in my opinion, the second-best game in the SEC this season. I can’t help but notice that you, like me, are leaving Florida out of the mix. Why?

      • Gamecock Fan

        I still feel like Florida overperformed last year. I think the SC/Florida game is a perfect microcosm of their season. SC beat FL up and down the field all day and lost by 30. Florida had a charmed season and got tons of breaks…until they didn’t. They could surprise me, but I haven’t seen enough out of Driskell to convince me just yet. And losing Gillislee is going to hurt. But Muschamp is a scrappy coach, so we’ll see.

  • richardwbailey

    I’ll believe it when I see it. there is no way you know this no matter how much you study the teams. Why? “they haven’t played a game yet”.

    • Luke Brietzke

      You’re right, Richard. If I was that smart, I would be so rich it would be stupid.

      Of course I don’t know! It doesn’t make it less fun to make predictions.

      • richardwbailey

        I totally agree I live in an area where the Newspaper & media lives Football and continues to try and keep us excited about the upcoming season. Sometimes it gets a little crazy, so I took it out on you. Sorry, Keep up the great work and I’ll keep reading. between you and me If the SEC won the National Championship again this year I would be astounded.

  • guvhog

    I have a serious problem taking seriously a publication that believes a team that returns only 4 starters on defense will finish second in the SEC East. Sorry, I just don’t buy that.