I don't think any of the new coaches will reach 7 wins this year, but I do believe Jones and Bielema could get 6 wins and be in the postseason. UK has a lot of rebuilding to do and AU was almost as bad last year. Malzahn will be an improvement, but they've got a long way to go.
Yesterday, we at MrSEC.com admittedly went a little negative with our predictions for the SEC this fall. For my views on the five things that will not happen on league football fields in the 2013 season, click right here.
Today I’m going positive. Well, as positive as a guy can go when making preseason predictions. ‘Cause what’s positive for one school is negative for the other 13.
So be it. It’s July. We’re still a few days shy of SEC Media Days. And what the heck else is there to do other than toss out some wild prognostications?
Here goes… five fearless predictions of things that will happen in the SEC this fall:
1. Alabama will win at Texas A&M on September 14th.
This offseason, Aggie fans and even athletic director Eric Hyman have had a little fun claiming that TAMU “controls the Tide.” Come early September, I suspect the postgame laughter will be coming from the Alabama locker room. That’s no knock on Texas A&M, which figures to have a strong team once more. But check out Nick Saban’s record against teams that beat him in their last meeting and you’ll find that coaches, quarterbacks and teams usually don’t pull off back-to-back victories against Saban-coached squads. The conference’s most-hyped game of the year might cost fans a few hundred dollars per seat (or a few thousand by the time September arrives), but it’s unlikely this contest will be as exciting as last year’s statement win by the SEC’s newcomers in Tuscaloosa.
2. Gus Malzahn will be the only first-year SEC coach to register seven wins.
Alright, so that’s not exactly stepping out on a limb considering just how down Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee were last year. In addition, Gus Malzahn has — on paper at least — a more talented roster than Bret Bielema, Mark Stoops and Butch Jones. Still, the Tigers don’t have a proven quarterback. Unless another Cam Newton is ready to put on a cape and lead, the Plainsmen won’t have an easy time getting to seven wins. As we’ve pointed out a number of times, in Malzahn’s three seasons as AU’s offensive coordinator, the Tigers averaged 25 points, 40 points and 20 points per SEC contest. Guess which number coincides with Newton’s record-setting season. So don’t focus on the fact that Malzahn is getting the nod over the other guys who’ve inherited — again, on paper — big messes. Focus on the fact that we think the Tigers will have to scratch and claw just to claim seven pelts. In other words, we don’t think as highly of this year’s Auburn squad as many preseason pickers.
3. LSU will win the SEC West.
Crazy? Uh, let’s just say I’m mad as a hatter. I lost track a long time ago of the times I’ve counted Les Miles and his band of Tigers out. Not this year. If there’s a coordinator who can round a totally rebuilt defensive unit into shape by mid-year it’s John Chavis. Also, Miles’ teams have a history of paying more attention to their head coach than to the pundits who doubt them. In all honesty, I’m more concerned about whether or not Cam Cameron can coax another performance out of Zach Mettenberger like the one the QB posted against Alabama last year than I am the defense. Pencil in an early-season loss to TCU and a road loss to Georgia. Then pencil in a shocking win at Bama… which is exactly what Miles pulled off the last time his team visited Bryant-Denny Stadium (in a series where homefield advantage hasn’t meant a whole lot in recent years).
4. Georgia will win the SEC East.
Make it three division titles in a row for Mark Richt and the Silver Britches. With Clemson and South Carolina back-to-back to open the season, I’ll mark down another loss to the Gamecocks as the Dawgs’ only blemish in 2013. While defense wins championships, Georgia’s offense — have we said “on paper” enough in this piece? — should be so far ahead of everyone else on their schedule that Todd Grantham’s unit can strengthen as the season progresses. Florida will be tough. Carolina will be tough. But UGA will emerge from that round-robin with tie-breakers in hand.
5. Georgia wins the SEC and loses in the BCS Championship Game.
Richt has had a stellar, uber-consistent career in Athens. He’s won at a school with the toughest drug and arrest policies in the conference. He’s been to Atlanta umpteen times and captured a pair of SEC banners. But he’s still kicked around for having never won “the big one.” This year will be his chance to win that final game. His one-loss Bulldogs — after a second victory over LSU — will get the nod for a BCS title-game slot over a one-loss Alabama squad that will have failed to win its own division. (There are only so many times the ball will bounce your way, Tide fans.) But Richt’s old pal Urban Meyer — who’ll win a watered-down Big Ten — will be waiting to harrass UGA’s “Mr. Nice Guy” once more.
And that will bring down the curtain on the BCS era with — what else — controversy. Fans and media will be left to debate whether or not Bama should have gotten the nod over Georgia in the first place. Then there will be further debate over whether a playoff selection committee — which becomes the law of the land in 2014 — will extend a tournament invitation to a one-loss, non-division-winner like Alabama moving forward.