I do not know why but I believe Tennessee will surprise and go 6-6 or 7-5 and go to a small bowl. Sure they will lose at Oregon, Alabama and probably Georgia or South Carolina but not both. I think they beat Kentucky and Missouri . They will win when Auburn comes to town and possibly Vanderbilt. Probably will lose at Florida but will be closer than most expect. I think next year they will win 8-10 games.
Each year, we at MrSEC.com like to provide you with a weekly examination of which SEC teams are rising and which are falling. But rather than use the same old #1 to #14 ranking system that everyone else trots out, we prefer to divide teams up into four categories: National Title Contender, Top 25 Contender, Bowl Contender, and Basement Contender.
Our rankings are based upon how well teams are currently playing, what they’ve accomplished to date, as well as what each team’s ceiling appears to be at that moment.
With no games in the book for 2013 — which will change tonight, of course — our opening day Power Rankings are based wholly on what we believe each squad’s ceiling to be. We include a short explanation beside each school and the schools are listed alphabetically within their category:
National Title Contender
Alabama (Last Season: 13-1 overall, 7-1 SEC) – There’s no question the best roster and the best coach in the SEC — and probably America — can be found in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But we’re still not so sure the Crimson Tide will get the kinds of breaks that all title-winning teams need for a third season in a row. And remember: No SEC team has repeated as league champions since Tennessee in 1997-98. One reason the media always flubs its Media Days picks? We pundits usually tab last year’s champ as the favorite to repeat.
Georgia (Last Season: 12-2 overall, 7-1 SEC) – If you believe that a team or coach can be “due,” then Georgia and Mark Richt must qualify. Aside from one season, the Dawgs have been consistently good under Richt, yet they’ve never been able to get over the proverbial hump (falling five yards short in last year’s SEC title game, for example). But there was a time when guys like Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden, and Mack Brown “couldn’t win the Big Game” either. If UGA can split its first two games, Richt could be in a position to win his own ring by the time January rolls around.
LSU (Last Season: 10-3 overall, 6-2 SEC) – The Tigers are out of the national top 10 because they appear to be in rebuilding mode. We’re not buying that one. We’ve picked against Les Miles on way too many occasions — and been burned by it — to believe The Hat won’t have his team playing at a peak level come November. If there’s any team that’s built in the same mold of Alabama, it’s LSU. So if Bama is due for some bad breaks this fall, we think the team most likely to slide past them in the West is Miles’ bunch of young but talented Bayou Bengals.
Top 25 Contender
Florida (Last Season: 11-2 overall, 7-1 SEC) — Without much help on the offensive side of the ball, Florida milked 11 victories out of its defense a year ago. This year, that defense is being rebuilt, injuries have been a problem in fall camp, and the offense still appears to be a work in progress. Could this be a top 10 team? Yes, but we don’t see them as a top three team in the SEC.
South Carolina (Last Season: 11-2 overall, 6-2 SEC) — What Steve Spurrier has done in Columbia is truly remarkable. The Gamecocks had never won big or consistently in over a century of football. Then the Ol’ Ball Coach arrives and he eventually turns the Gamecocks into an SEC title contender. USC looks to be strong again, but to list them as a national title challenger seems a bit much at this point. Let’s see how Spurrier’s two-quarterback attack fares without Marcus Lattimore in September before we bump them too far up the list.
Texas A&M (Last Season: 11-2 overall, 6-2 SEC) – The new kids on the block surprised fans, players and coaches across the SEC last season. Most satisfyingly they also shocked all the many nay-sayers from their old Big 12 days. But even as spectacular as Johnny Manziel was, the Aggies still slipped by Ole Miss late and eeked past Louisiana Tech 59-57. Now the team is having to rebuild a bit and the spotlight will burn sunshine-bright on Manziel. A very good team? Yes. Ready for the BCS Championship Game? We’re not going there yet.
Auburn (Last Season: 3-9 overall, 0-8 SEC) — The Tiger roster was not as bad as it appeared last season. Now Gus Malzahn inherits that roster and will try to whip up some magic with juco transfer Nick Marshall at quarterback. But Auburn — like all of the schools listed below — could fall anywhere between 8-4 and 4-8 depending on breaks and injuries. The middle-of-the-pack teams in this category are all very close to one another.
Arkansas (Last Season: 4-8 overall, 2-6 SEC) – Looking at last season’s results, the talent level in Fayetteville, and the number of injuries the Razorbacks have suffered this offseason, Arkansas probably belongs closer to the Basement Category than the Top 25 Category. But Bret Bielema has a strong track record of success. Which is why we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Mississippi State (Last Season: 8-5 overall, 4-4 SEC) — The Bulldogs are perhaps the hardest team to figure out in 2013. They don’t appear to be ready for a breakout year, but they also don’t appear to be backsliding under Dan Mullen. Instead they seem to have plateaued. That’s why we expect them to finish with about six or seven wins at year’s end.
Missouri (Last Season: 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC) – SEC fans haven’t seen the best of Mizzou. A year ago at this time, the Tigers had higher expectations than Texas A&M. Injuries submarined Missouri’s debut, but are the Tigers really any deeper this season? And while Gary Pinkel did manage to keep his team healthy by easing up on hitting in fall camp, previous SEC teams who’ve gone that route have proven to be soft when the real games have begun.
Ole Miss (Last Season: 7-6 overall, 3-5 SEC) – Aside from A&M, Ole Miss was the league’s most pleasant surprise last season. Picked for last in the West, Hugh Freeze and quarterback Bo Wallace — a poor man’s Johnny Manziel — led the Rebels to a bowl game and a winning record. But this year, there will be no sneaking up on anyone. And their top 10 signing class from February may be too green to offer much across-the-board help.
Tennessee (Last Season: 5-7 overall, 1-7 SEC) – To date, new coach Butch Jones has pushed all the right buttons in Knoxville. He’s united the fanbase and former players. He’s recruited well. He’s excited his players. But he’s inherited a whisker-thin roster from Derek Dooley, no proven quarterback, and a schedule that features five top 10 teams on it. Health may go along way in determining whether UT moves forward or slides backward.
Vanderbilt (Last Season: 9-4 overall, 5-2 SEC) – Admit it… you’re waiting for Vandy to turn back into Vandy, aren’t you? Heck, if they’re honest, many Commodore fans will tell you they’re waiting for the clock to strike midnight, too. James Franklin will break in Austyn Carta-Samuels as his quarterback this year and if the two of them can lead Vandy to a third bowl in three years, some of those “But they’re still Vandy” doubts may finally begin to disappear.
Kentucky (Last Season: 2-10 overall, 0-8 SEC) – Mark Stoops has walked into a Grade A mess. The roster wasn’t 2-10 bad last year, but it wasn’t six-wins good, either. UK’s new coach has charmed the Big Blue fanbase, sold tickets, recruited unbelievably well, and even revved up the old Air Raid offense. But of all the rebuilding jobs in the SEC, this one looks to be the toughest as the 2013 season begins.