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SEC conference preview: Can anyone stop the Tide from rolling?

The SEC has been the best conference in college football for several years now. If you don’t agree with that then you’re either in denial or you pay very little attention to the NCAAF scene.

The level of football that this conference plays on a weekly basis is simply unrivaled. Alabama has already made its mark on history with three titles in four years, and it doesn’t look like Nick Saban’s crew is done just yet. They’ll have another dog fight in the SEC though, because this conference is loaded with contenders.

Alabama Crimson Tide (2012: 13-1 SU, 7-7 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +145
Season win total: 11

Why bet the Crimson Tide:
Alabama has depth like no other team in the nation. In A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon, the offense has two terrific leaders. Alabama has had the No. 1 ranked defense for two straight seasons and you shouldn’t be surprised if it makes it three straight this year.

Why not bet the Crimson Tide: Oddsmakers are going to be very high on the Crimson Tide, so even if they are very good they might not cover the number as reliably as normal. Alabama doesn’t quite have the same powerful offensive line it had the last couple seasons.

Season win total pick:
Over 11

Georgia Bulldogs (2012: 12-2 SU, 8-6 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
Season win total: 9.5

Why bet the Bulldogs: Aaron Murray is one of the nation’s best players and having him back for his senior season is a major boost. No one in the conference has running backs as strong as Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. This offense is going to be very hard to stop. The offensive line is experienced and huge.

Why not bet the Bulldogs:
The defense is a major question mark. They return just three starters from last year. The defensive line is big, but they are extremely inexperienced. The secondary will likely be picked on by the best quarterbacks in this league. Georgia hasn’t been able to get over the hump in big games in the last few years.

Season win total pick:
Over 9.5

South Carolina Gamecocks (2012: 11-2 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +500
Season win total: 9.5

Why bet the Gamecocks: They have the best defensive line in the country. Jadeveon Clowney is getting a lot of recognition and he still isn’t overrated in the least bit. Don’t sleep on Kelcy Quarles at the defensive tackle either. Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree are the leaders of a very good secondary. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson are both high-quality quarterbacks.

Why not bet the Gamecocks: There’s certainly no one like Marcus Lattimore on the roster at running back. South Carolina has some major problems at the linebacker spot, where it lost its top five players from last season. There are a lot of tricky road games on this year’s schedule that could easily end up being land mines.

Season win total pick: Under 9.5

Florida Gators (2012: 11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +950
Season win total: 9

Why bet the Gators: Will Muschamp’s system worked very well last year and he now has many of his own recruits in the starting spots at Florida. Expect Jeff Driskel to be much improved as he gets all of the snaps at quarterback. The front seven on defense is loaded with talent and speed.

Why not bet the Gators: The Gators have one of the toughest schedules in the SEC this season. The offense is lacking playmakers at some of the key positions. Trey Burton and Matt Jones are probably their best two play makers, but there isn’t as much depth as normal at wide receiver and running back.

Season win total pick: Under 9

LSU Tigers (2012: 10-3 SU, 5-8 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +1000
Season win total: 8.5

Why bet the Tigers: Look for Zach Mettenberger to be what many people thought he might be in 2012. He has a year under his belt in the SEC and there is no denying that he has all the tools necessary to be very good. There might be a lot of new starters on the defensive side, but Les Miles knows how to recruit defensive superstars.

Why not bet the Tigers: The offensive line is definitely a question mark. LSU doesn’t have much depth on the offensive line and many of its key linemen have a history of injuries. Road games at Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Mississippi State make this SEC schedule difficult. The season opener in Arlington against TCU is certainly no walk in the park either.

Season win total pick: Over 8.5

Mississippi Rebels (2012: 7-6 SU, 10-3 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +2000
Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Rebels: Jeff Scott looks ready to star at the running back position. Bo Wallace is a dynamic playmaker and he should cut down on his turnovers. The entire defense is much better than most people realize. Keep a close eye on the Nkemdiche brothers, who are going to be a major force.

Why not bet the Rebels: The Rebels could easily lose some games this year because of their poor special teams play. The front seven on defense is very good, but the secondary is still a weakness. Expectations are awfully high for a team that not only plays a very difficult SEC schedule, but also travels to Austin to take on a very good Texas team. 

Season win total pick: Over 7.5

Vanderbilt Commodores (2012: 9-4 SU, 9-4 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +4000
Season win total: 7

Why bet the Commodores: James Franklin seems to be able to outperform expectations every year with this Vanderbilt team. The Commodores are 18-8 ATS in Franklin’s two seasons as head coach. Jordan Matthews is one of the best wide receivers in the SEC and he should have a great year. The linebackers and secondary are both solid and experienced.

Why not bet the Commodores: The quarterback situation could end up being an issue, with the starter still not completely set in stone. The Commodores are very weak in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Being weak up front in the SEC is a big problem.

Season win total pick: Under 7

Missouri Tigers (2012: 5-7 SU, 5-6 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +4500
Season win total: 6.5

Why bet the Tigers: Missouri is in much better shape at the quarterback position. James Franklin is good when healthy, and he’ll be pushed by freshman sensation Maty Mauk. The Tigers have lots of speed and athleticism at the wide receiver spots. E.J. Gaines is a lockdown cover corner who should be one of the best in the SEC.

Why not bet the Tigers: This team seems to constantly have injury problems and they don’t have enough depth to overcome it when playing against SEC rivals. The defense lost five of its top eight tacklers from a year ago. Missouri’s linebackers are a big question mark and without solid linebackers in this league, you can really get behind the eight ball quickly.

Season win total pick: Under 6.5

Tennessee Volunteers (2012: 5-7 SU, 4-8 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +6000
Season win total: 5.5

Why bet the Volunteers: You aren’t going to find a better offensive line than the one at Tennessee. The Volunteers got some enthusiasm injected into the program when Butch Jones was hired as their new coach in the offseason. The defense returns eight starters and they should definitely be better than they were a year ago.

Why not bet the Volunteers:
The quarterback position is going to take a major step back this year with Tyler Bray no longer here. Have you seen this team’s road schedule in 2013? They must travel to Oregon, Florida, Alabama, and Missouri. They also have to host Georgia and South Carolina.

Season win total pick: Over 5.5

Arkansas Razorbacks (2012: 4-8 SU, 3-8 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
Season win total: 5.5

Why bet the Razorbacks: I really like the hiring of Bret Bielema. There’s no doubt that Bielema is a massive step up from John L. Smith. Bielema won a ton of games at Wisconsin with teams that weren’t always supremely talented. Arkansas is strong in the trenches and Bielema is used to winning with strength up front.

Why not bet the Razorbacks: Brandon Allen is going to be a big step down from Tyler Wilson at the quarterback position. The Razorbacks don’t have the type of talent at running back that Bielema was accustomed to having at Wisconsin. Arkansas will likely be hurt by a lot of good quarterbacks this year because its cornerbacks aren’t all that impressive.

Season win total pick:
Under 5.5

Auburn Tigers (2012: 3-9 SU, 4-8 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +9000
Season win total: 6.5

Why bet the Tigers: Gus Malzahn is back at Auburn and is one of the best offensive minds in college football. The offense averaged just 18.7 points per game last year, but they’ll certainly be better with Malzahn at the helm. The Tigers return 15 starters from a year ago. Expect much better quarterback play this season. The defensive line should be an area of strength.

Why not bet the Tigers: This is a team that was held to 10 points or less four times last season. They still don’t have the talent to be a good offense in the SEC. The wide receivers are among the worst in the conference. The back seven of the defense isn’t very good. Auburn gives up far too many big plays on defense.

Season win total pick: Under 6.5

Mississippi State Bulldogs (2012: 8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
Season win total: 5.5

Why bet the Bulldogs: The Bulldogs have a solid defense with plenty of depth. Mississippi State has been one of the best in the nation in special teams play over the past few years. Tyler Russell gives the team a solid quarterback who knows the system very well.

Why not bet the Bulldogs: After starting 7-0 last year, Mississippi State lost five of its last six games. The Bulldogs return just 12 starters from last year’s team and lost its best playmaker in Chad Bumphis. Russell is solid at quarterback, but he isn’t going to have many options to throw to this season.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5

Kentucky Wildcats (2012: 2-10 SU, 3-9 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +15000
Season win total: 4.5

Why bet the Wildcats: The Wildcats return 57 lettermen from last season, so this team will be much more experienced. Kentucky has an improving defensive line, including a couple of strong defensive tackles to help stuff up the running lanes. Raymond Sanders came on late last year and you can expect a good year from him.

Why not bet the Wildcats: This team was a long ways from competitive last year. The Wildcats were consistently blasted and it’s hard to imagine this team turning it around in a big way in one year. Mark Stoops definitely steps into a difficult position. The secondary was torched on a weekly basis last year and that should continue this season.

Season win total pick: Under 4.5

Texas A&M Aggies (2012: 11-2 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win conference: N/A (No lines due to uncertainty surrounding Manziel)
Season win total: N/A

Why bet the Aggies: Johnny Manziel is a special player who just knows how to get the job done at quarterback. He might not be able to top last year’s statistics, but he will be great again. The Aggies have a terrific offensive line protecting Manziel. There is depth in the backfield. Brandon Williams, Ben Malena, and Tra Carson are all very talented runners. This offense has great balance.

Why not bet the Aggies: Any uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of Manziel definitely hurts this team, because they aren’t even close to the same without him. The defensive line lost its top two players from a year ago and they might not be able to slow down the best rushing attacks in the SEC. The Aggies aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this season.

Season win total pick: N/A

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