In & around the SEC Season outlooks, predictions

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

West Division
Alabama Crimson Tide

The defending national champions open up the season away from home, but the schedule sets up nicely for the Crimson Tide to make another championship run. Alabama has a bye week before traveling to College Station to take on Texas A&M and has a bye week before LSU visits Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama plays Ole Miss in its SEC home opener.     Predicted record: 12-0

LSU Tigers

The Tigers are one of the most talented teams in the league and the country, but they also have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. LSU opens the year against Texas Christian at Cowboy Stadium. In league play, the Tigers travel to Georgia and Alabama, while they play Texas A&M and Florida in Baton Rouge.      Predicted record: 10-2.

Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel and the Aggies have two weeks to get ready for the big showdown with Alabama on Sept. 14. That game in College Station has major championship implications for both teams, with the winner having the inside track to reach Atlanta for the SEC title game. The Aggies return to Oxford late in the season to take on Ole Miss for the second consecutive year in October. They also make their first trip to Baton Rouge as an SEC member to take on LSU.      Predicted record: 9-3.
        
Ole Miss Rebels        

The Rebels finished last season as one of the hottest teams in the conference, and Ole Miss carried that success into offseason recruiting. The 2013 version of the Rebels should be improved on both sides of the ball, but their schedule is challenging to begin the season. Ole Miss opens the year with Vanderbilt on the road and must travel to Texas, Alabama, and Auburn in their first five games. If the Rebels can avoid a shaky start, they have the potential to be a sleeper in the SEC West.         Predicted record: 8-4

Auburn Tigers

The Tigers are looking for a bounce-back year after a 2012 brutal season, and their schedule sets up nicely for them. Auburn opens the season with home games versus Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. Road games at Texas A&M and LSU are likely losses, but games at Arkansas and Tennessee could be potential wins. The Tigers end the year with home games against rivals Georgia and Alabama.    Predicted record: 7-5

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Unlike its in-state rival to the north, Mississippi State had a poor finish to the 2012 season. The Bulldogs open this against Oklahoma State in Houston and face Auburn, South Carolina and Texas A&M on the road. LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss visit Starkville this season.     Predicted record: 5-7

Arkansas Razorbacks

New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has a daunting task at hand in his debut season in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are changing offensive styles completely and the talent cupboard is bare by SEC standards. The Hogs travel to Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. They also make a trip to New Jersey late in September to play Rutgers. Arkansas hosts Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.     Predicted record: 4-8.

East Division
South Carolina Gamecocks

The 2013 South Carolina squad may be Steve Spurrier’s best team since he coached at Florida. The Gamecocks return one of the best players in the nation in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina also has a favorable schedule on its side. An early-season visit to Athens should decide who wins the East. The Gamecocks host Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State and travel to Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. South Carolina ends the season with a home game against rival Clemson.
    Predicted record: 11-1

Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have one of the best returning offenses in the nation but have plenty of new faces on the defensive side of the ball. The defense must mature quickly, as the ‘Dawgs open at Clemson and then face South Carolina. LSU also visits Athens. Georgia plays Florida in Jacksonville later in the year.     Predicted record: 9-3

Florida Gators

The Gators made the Sugar Bowl last season but must find offensive weapons for quarterback Jeff Driskel in order to return to a BCS bowl. The Gators’ non-conference schedule is tough with Miami on the road and Florida State at home. Florida also travels to LSU and South Carolina. Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas travel to Gainesville.    Predicted record: 8-4

Vanderbilt Commodores

The Commodores were one of the league’s most surprising teams last season but face a difficult schedule in 2013. After opening the season against Ole Miss, the ‘Dores play South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida and Tennessee on the road. Vandy hosts Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri.     Predicted record: 7-5

Missouri Tigers

Missouri’s debut season in the SEC was anything but pleasant, and 2013 might not be much better. If the Tigers can win all four of their non-conference games (against Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State), they might reach a bowl game. Road games versus Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss will be challenging, as will home games against South Carolina and Texas A&M.         Predicted record: 6-6

Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers have one of the nation’s toughest schedules this year, as new head coach Butch Jones and the Vols travel to Oregon, Florida and Alabama. Tennessee hosts South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt.     Predicted record: 5-7

Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats’ daunting schedule does not bode well for Mark Stoops in his debut season in Lexington. Kentucky travels to South Carolina, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia. The Wildcats host Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Missouri.
    Predicted record: 3-9

Thursday, August 29
North Carolina at South Carolina (-11)
The Gamecocks open the season at home against the Tar Heels, and all eyes will be on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Although defensive players rarely win the Heisman Trophy, Clowney has the potential to win the prestigious award. Quarterback Connor Shaw returns to lead South Carolina on offense. The Tar Heels are in their second year under head coach Larry Fedora and are looking to pull off a major upset on the road to open the season. Prediction: South Carolina 31, North Carolina 17.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (+3)
The Rebels and the Commodores kick off the SEC season on a Thursday night in Nashville. Both teams are coming off of successful 2102 seasons and each team is looking to start 2013 off on the right note. The Rebels return several key players from last year’s 7-6 team, including quarterback Bo Wallace and wide receiver Donte Moncrief. The Commodores have wide receiver Jordan Matthews returning, and he will be a key player for Vandy’s offense. Last year, the ‘Dores knocked off the Rebels in Oxford, 27-26. Prediction: Ole Miss 24, Vanderbilt 19.

 
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