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The AU Wishbone’s 2014 SEC Preview

We just spent a very long podcast breaking down both SEC divisions and predicting results but we wanted to write a preview anyway. Presenting the 2014 Wishbone SEC Preview…

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SEC East

South Carolina Gamecocks

Coach:  As a player he was described this way by an Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist:  “”Blindfolded, with his back to the wall, with his hands tied behind him, Steve Spurrier would be a two-point favorite at his own execution.”

Mascot makes us think of:

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Returning Starters:  8 on offense,  6 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 74%; Rushing Yards: 21%; Receptions: 21%  (the quarterback loss seems the worst but Dylan Thompson is experienced and solid.)

Strength of schedule: 34th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Vandy, Kentucky, Auburn, Florida and Clemson.  They avoid playing Alabama and LSU.  They take on East Carolina (better than you think, especially on offense), Furman, South Alabama and Clemson out of conference. (USC has beaten Clemson by 14+ points four out of the last five years.)

Questions: South Carolina has been consistently excellent the last three years – but now can they take the last step forward and win the SEC?  Now that opposing offenses don’t have to game plan for Clowney, how much difference will that make, if any?

Best case scenario:   Thompson plays consistently well and avoids getting yanked by Spurrier.  The defense doesn’t miss a beat without Clowney or Quarles.

Worst case scenario:  The Gamecocks are solid but finish second in the East again.

Van and John think:  The most complete team in the East takes Spurrier back to Atlanta.

 

Georgia Bulldogs

Coach:  Strict disciplinarian Mark Richt was once again near the top of the SEC with seven players arrested in the offseason.

Mascot makes us think of:  Georgia’s mascot for its first ever game against Auburn was a goat.

Returning Starters:  6 on offense,  8 on defense.  (Adios Aaron Murray!)

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 76%; Rushing Yards: 10%; Receptions: 28%

Strength of schedule: 40th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky.   They avoid playing Alabama and LSU.  They take on Clemson, Troy, Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech out of conference.

Questions: Can UGA avoid the injury plague that derailed its season last year?  Can new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt improve this defense as much as he did FSU?

Best case scenario: Mason has a big year at quarterback, the defense is the best in the conference and they win the conference for the first time since 2005.

Worst case scenario:  Mason is a clear downgrade from Aaron Murray, the defense is weak in the secondary and injuries / suspensions continue to be an issue.

Van and John think:  They won’t be as cursed with injuries as last year’s team and the defense will be better under Pruitt but not quite good enough to win the East.

 

Florida Gators

Coach:  “Coming up next on the Chizik / Muschamp show……….”

Mascot makes us think ofThis.

Returning Starters:  7 on offense, 7 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 57%; Rushing Yards: 11%; Receptions: 42%

Strength of schedule: The 3rd toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at bama, Tennessee, Vandy and FSU.  They avoid playing Auburn.  They take on Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Kentucky and FSU out of conference.  (But hey – no Georgia Southern!)

Questions: The offense was awful.  It was “2012 Auburn” level bad.  2013 Florida 18.8 points per game.  2012 Auburn 18.7 points per game.   2013 Florida 316 yards per game and 4.79 yards per play.  2012 Auburn 305 yards per game and 5.12 yards per play.  How much better can it get with a new offensive coordinator? (The correct answer is not ‘as good as Auburn was in 2013!’).

Best case scenario: The defense is once again in the top 5 in the nation and the offense improves from horrible to competent. The UF offensive linemen stop blocking each other.

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Worst case scenario:  The offense remains weak and the defense is weaker with inexperienced talent.  Muschamp is fired quickly when the season ends.

Van and John think:  The UF defense will be very good again the offense will improve to “not painful to watch” and that will enough to make them competitive again. But this is not the 2013 Auburn story do-over happening here.

 

Tennessee Volunteers

Coach:  He is that guy who is not Kiffin or Dooley but hasn’t actually won anything yet.

Mascot makes us think of:  Moonshine production

Returning Starters:   5 on offense,  5 on defense.  (but ZERO returning offensive or defensive linemen.  That might be a problem in the SEC.)

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 0%; Rushing Yards: 50%; Receptions: 14%

Strength of schedule: 5th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Oklahoma, Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina.   They avoid playing LSU and Auburn.  They take on Utah State (not a sure win as Auburn fans know), Arkansas State, Oklahoma,  and UT-Chattanooga out of conference.   (They have Chattanooga in the think of this but check out the middle of the schedule: at Oklahoma, at UGA, at Ole Miss, bama, at South Carolina.)

Questions: How do you have zero returning starters on either line? Will this team improve as the season goes along with all the young talent?

Best case scenario: The young talent on this team starts to gel down the stretch.  They are competitive in the brutal part of the schedule and then finish with three straight wins in the easier part to make a bowl game.

Worst case scenario:  The 5-7 record from last year looks nice as they plummet to the worst record in the East.

Van and John think:  A tough schedule and a rebuilding team is not a good combination but they scratch out a bowl game and position themselves to make a move in 2015.

 

Vanderbilt Commodores

Coach:  That guy who isn’t James Franklin.

Mascot makes us think of:  Damm the Torpedoes

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Returning Starters:   6 on offense,  4 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 77%; Rushing Yards: 30%; Receptions: 73%

Strength of schedule: 42nd toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau and second easiest in the SEC.  Road games are at Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri and Mississippi State.   They avoid playing Auburn, Alabama and LSU.  They take on Temple, Massachusetts, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion out of conference.  (that is the kind of non-conference schedule that gives the SEC a bad name, not that we blame a new coach for doing it).

Questions: Who will big the offensive weapon now that Jordan Mathews is gone? Can this team continue the positive momentum it built under Franklin and his staff?

Best case scenario: The team does not drop off dramatically and makes it to a bowl game again.

Worst case scenario:  Vandy slips back to a bottom feeder in the East as UF and UT improve.

Van and John think:  The glory days of Vanderbilt football have just ended.

 

Kentucky Wildcats

Coach:  How is that guy recruiting all these players to Kentucky?

Mascot makes us think of:  The NBA draft

Returning Starters:   7 on offense,  8 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 0%; Rushing Yards: 31%; Receptions: 22%  (not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing)

Strength of schedule: 25th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Florida, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and Louisville.  They avoid playing Auburn and Alabama.  They take on UT-Martin, Ohio, ULM and Louisville out of conference.

Questions: Some returning starters and a few years for the coaches to recruit depth and talent.  What can they do with it?  Who are the real difference makers on this team?

Best case scenario:  Not the worst team in the SEC!

Worst case scenario:  The worst team in the SEC!

Van and John think:  Battling Vandy for the bottom spot in the east.

 

Missouri Tigers

Coach:  Our last image of Gary Pinkel

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Mascot makes us think of:  The New Deal

Returning Starters:  4 on offense, 4 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 69%; Rushing Yards: 50%; Receptions: 70%  (the hardest hit team in the East in terms of loss of skill position talent.)

Strength of schedule: 37th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Toledo, South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee.  (Why is an SEC team playing on the road at a MAC team?  Did Mizzou think they would be in the Big 10 when they scheduled this game?)    They avoid playing Auburn, Alabama and LSU.  They take on South Dakota State, Toledo, Central Florida, and Indiana out of conference.

Questions: Was last year’s stunning run to the SEC title game an aberration or will this team be an annual contender? Do they have the depth of talent to replace all they lost and win the East again?

Best case scenario: Missouri has shown that it can be a regular SEC East contender as Mauck keeps the offense rolling. 

Worst case scenario:  The losses are too much and there is not enough blue chip talent to step in right away and win in the SEC.

Van and John think:  A big step back from last year, but still dangerous to everyone they play.

 

SEC West

Alabama Crimson Tide

Coach:  The man who called for a field goal attempt. With a cold freshman kicker.  In the biggest game of the season.

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Mascot makes us think of:  An animal with a brain the size of a peanut.

Returning Starters: 7 on offense,  5 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 95%; Rushing Yards: 3%; Receptions: 21%.   The passing game will take a big step backwards in consistency and error-free production but it won’t matter against most teams as they just run the ball and throw screen passes.

Strength of schedule: 46th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau. (Once again the easiest schedule in the SEC!!)  Road games are at Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.   They avoid playing Georgia or South Carolina.  They take on West Virginia (in Atlanta), Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Western Carolina out of conference.

Questions:  Who will the starting quarterback be and how will they perform on the road in the SEC? Will Lane Kiffin get fired at mid-season again? Will the poor play at cornerback be an issue against better SEC teams?

Best case scenario:  Saban travels back in time to slap himself in the head for attempting a field goal. The offense doesn’t miss a beat this year and at the end of the season it is revealed that Kiffin was locked in a closet all year and Saban called the plays.

Worst case scenario:  If any other team lost what this team lost they would be ranked about 12th in the country at most.   The offense is inconsistent in big games and the defense isn’t quite as dominant.  9 wins because the schedule is so easy.

Van and John think:  The assumption that this team can just reload and compete for the national title will disappear.

 

LSU Tigers

Coach:  The Grass Whisperer

Mascot makes us think of: Big animals in small cages

Returning Starters:   5 on offense,  7 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 94%; Rushing Yards: 70%; Receptions: 87%  (no team in the West lost more – and they are counting on true freshmen in almost every one of those positions.)

Strength of schedule: 21st toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M.  They avoid playing UGA and South Carolina.  They take on Wisconsin (in Houston), Sam Houston State, ULM and New Mexico State out of conference.

Questions: Replacing a starting quarterback, both receivers and running backs as well as both defensive tackles and the leading tackler on defense.  How will all the young talent perform on the road?  Can the defense and running game carry them against good teams?

Best case scenario:  Gets better as the season goes along and wins every game at home.

Worst case scenario:  The SEC West is too tough for the young players on offense and they slide back to 7-5 in a brutal division.

Van and John think:  This team will be a college basketball team that starts 4-5 highly recruited freshmen – they will be awesome some days and lose games they have no business losing on other days.  But they will get better and they will be dangerous in 2015.

 

Texas A&M Aggies

Coach:  Kevin “Now I have to show I am a genius without Manziel” Sumlin

Mascot makes us think of:  Waking up.

Returning Starters:   5 on offense,   7 on defense. (Is returning so many starters on the worst defense in the SEC a good thing or a bad thing)

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 96%; Rushing Yards: 54%; Receptions: 58% (Adios Johnny “Flapper” Manziel and Mike Evans.  You will not be missed by SEC defenses.)

Strength of schedule: 4th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at South Carolina, SMU, Mississippi State, bama and Auburn.  They avoid playing Georgia.  They take on Lamar, Rice, SMU, and ULM out of conference.

Questions:  How much can the defense improve after an awful 2013 an off-season of suspensions and injuries?  Can the new quarterback keep the offense rolling at close to the same level? Will the loss of the circus around Manziel actually help this team focus?

Best case scenario:  The new skill position talent is so good that the offense doesn’t miss a beat.  The defense improves and the team has more poise without Manziel and Evans.  9 wins.

Worst case scenario:  The offense takes several steps back and the defense doesn’t improve much.   They are not competitive with the top teams in the West.

Van and John think:  The Aggies have had a fun ride in the SEC so far – now they find out why it is so tough.  They make a bowl – barely.

 

Arkansas Razorbacks

Coach:  BERT.    BERTICUS.   THE BERTSTER.

Mascot makes us think of:

Returning Starters:  7  on offense,  7 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 0%; Rushing Yards: 9%; Receptions: 41%  (didn’t lose much at all – but other than at running back are the returning skill position players good enough?)

Strength of schedule: 7th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Auburn, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Missouri and they play Texas A&M at Jerry World in Arlington, Texas…  They avoid playing South Carolina.  They take on Nichols State, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois, and UAB out of conference. (The hawgs are trying to reclaim their Big 8/10/12 roots with two games in Texas this season.)

Questions:  How much is Bert’s buyout after this season?  Even if they get 20% better could they make a bowl game?  How much will it hurt if Petrino has a huge year at Louisville?

Best case scenario: Solid running game and improved defense lead to a 6-6 record and a bowl game.  After last year that is huge improvement for the pigs.

Worst case scenario:  Does anyone have Bobby Petrino’s phone number?

Van and John think:  Not enough top shelf SEC talent on the roster but they will be more competitive this season.

 

Ole Miss Rebels

Coach:  I lost to Dan Mullen???

Mascot makes us think of:  Hibernation

Returning Starters:  6 on offense, 9 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 9%; Rushing Yards: 33%; Receptions: 43%  (the offense will be excellent again)

Strength of schedule: 24th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at Vandy, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas.  They avoid playing UGA, Florida or South Carolina.  They take on Boise State, Louisiana, Memphis and Presbyterian (the whole denomination) out of conference.

Questions: Can all that hyped talent gel into an SEC West contender? Who will get the tough yards on 3rd and short?

Best case scenario: This team should have the second best offense in the SEC this season (after Auburn) and one of the top 5 defenses.   That should be enough to contend for second in the West and a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Worst case scenario:  The schedule is too tough and the team can’t get over the hump against the more talented teams in the West.  8-4.

Van and John think:  In any other conference this team would be a contender to win it all, but in the SEC West they are 3rd place material.

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Coach:  The Dan Mullen Experience

Mascot makes us think of:  Slobber

Returning Starters: 8 on offense,   8 on defense.

Offense loses:  Passing Yards: 28%; Rushing Yards: 23%; Receptions: 11%

Strength of schedule: 18th toughest in the nation according to Brian Fremeau.  Road games are at South Alabama (WHAT THE HECK?), LSU, Kentucky, bama and Ole Miss.  They avoid playing UGA and South Carolina.  They take on Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT-Martin out of conference. (That is the kind of non-conference slate that gives the SEC a bad name.)

Questions: Can Dak Prescott improve and deliver an all-conference performance?  Can the defense improve and be the best in the conference?

Best case scenario:  Dak turns in a poor man’s Tebow impersonation in Mullen’s offense and that combined with an excellent defense lead to a big upset or two and a New Year’s Day level bowl.

Worst case scenario: Dak cannot take the pounding and this team loses to the usual suspects in the West.

Van and John think:  This team will be competitive with Ole Miss and LSU for the second tier in the West.

 

READ / LISTEN TO MORE WISHBONIN’ HERE.

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