In & around SEC West Division preview

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

Alabama Crimson Tide
Coach: Nick Saban
68-13 (seventh season)
2012 Record: 13-1

Season Outlook

Alabama is coming off its third national title in four seasons, yet this year’s team might be Saban’s best since he’s been in Tuscaloosa. A.J. McCarron, who returns for his senior year, has an unlimited supply of talent surrounding him at skill positions. Receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon return for their sophomore years. The offensive line lost a couple of key starters, which might be the team’s only weakness. Defensively, Alabama is loaded with the likes of linebacker C.J. Mosley and a plethora of skilled defenders in the se-condary. The Crimson Tide opens the season against Virginia Tech before traveling to College Station to take on Texas A&M on Sept. 14.

Arkansas Razorbacks
Coach: Bret Bielema
 (first season)
2012 Record: 4-8

Season Outlook

The Razorbacks are ready for a fresh start after a 2012 tumultuous season. Arkansas went through two coaches last season after starting the year with lofty expectations. Bobby Petrino was fired for inappropriate conduct off the field and interim head coach John L. Smith failed to garner any success on the field. The Hogs hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, however, and the Razorbacks finally have a bit of momentum on their side. Unfortunately for Arkansas fans, the rebuilding process will take a year or two, so positive results likely will not be immediate. The Razorbacks potentially could pull off an upset, but expectations should be kept at a minimum.

Auburn Tigers
Coach: Gus Malzahn
(first season)
2012 Record: 3-9

Season Outlook

The Tigers are coming off one of the worst seasons in school history under former head coach Gene Chizik. Gus Malzahn, the former offensive coordinator under Chizik, will lead the Tigers in 2013. Auburn is transitioning from a pro-style to a spread offense, and the style of play on defense will also be vastly different. The Tigers return nearly every player on both sides of the ball, including defensive end Dee Ford. Auburn begins the season at home for three games against Washington State, Arkansas State, and Mississippi State.

LSU Tigers
Coach: Les Miles
(85-21, ninth season)
2012 Record: 10-3

Season Outlook

The Tigers ended last season on a sour note, but 2013 promises to be yet another successful (and highly entertaining) year for Les Miles’s squad. Zach Mettenberger returns at quarterback, and LSU is loaded at nearly every skill position. John Chavis’ defense lost several key players to the NFL draft, but the Tigers reloaded quickly and should be a great defensive team yet again. LSU opens the year versus TCU in a game that could dictate the seasons for both teams.  

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Coach: Dan Mullen
(29-22, fifth season)
2012 Record: 8-5

Season Outlook

The Bulldogs stumbled down the stretch last season after starting a 7-0 start, losing five of their last six games. Tyler Russell returns at quarterback, and fellow senior LaDarius Perkins returns at running back. Mississippi State lost both cornerbacks to the NFL draft, so the Starkville squad likely will be susceptible to efficient passing games. The Bulldogs open the season against Oklahoma State, and a win against the Cowboys might lead to a very successful season for Dan Mullen’s team.

Ole Miss Rebels
Coach: Hugh Freeze
(7-6, second season)
2012 Record: 7-6

Season Outlook

After back-to-back overwhelmingly disappointing seasons in Oxford, the Ole Miss Rebels had a very successful 2012 season. In his first year, Freeze led the Rebels to a bowl game, a victory over archrival Mississippi State and a top-5 recruiting class. Ole Miss returns several starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Bo Wallace and receiver Donte Moncrief. Defensively, Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche will lead the Rebels. Ole Miss will be better overall than last year, but the schedule is much more difficult. The Rebels have a rough stretch to open the season but they have the potential to finish strong.

Texas A&M Aggies
Coach: Kevin Sumlin (11-2, second season)
2012 Record: 11-2

Season Outlook

The Aggies’ debut season in the SEC included 11 wins, a freshman Heisman Trophy winner, a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma and an upset over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel dominated the league last season, including dynamic performances against the Crimson Tide and the Sooners. After a turbulent offseason, however, Man-ziel’s numbers might drop during his sophomore campaign. The Aggies host Alabama on Sept. 14, a game that likely will dictate the success of their season.

 
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