Take a breath, SEC fans.
That’s seven championships in a row. It’s all but guaranteed that the SEC will hold one spot in the title game next season, and here are the SEC hopefuls for 2013, in alphabetical order of course:
Alabama Crimson Tide
We’ll have to wait and see just how badly the NFL Draft wipes this roster out, but we know Nick Saban combined with the core nucleus of AJ McCarron, TJ Yeldon and Amari Cooper return on offense. The Tide, however, will lose at least two offensive linemen for sure and could lose one more in the draft depending on what DJ Fluker does. The Tide lose two defensive linemen, one linebacker and likely two starters in the secondary, but this same group lost six starters last year, too. Nick Saban has recruited very well, and several studs are waiting in the wings to take over those roster spots. The Tide will be strong once again in 2013.
Yeah, I went there. I think Florida under Will Muschamp is here to stay. The way he transformed the toughness of the players in two seasons is remarkable. The offense must get better in 2013, though, and it looks like that will be the case. Jeff Driskel, albeit, returns for his junior campaign, and the Gators will make upgrades on the offensive line and wide receiver with recruiting and transfers but will lose senior All-SEC back Mike Gillislee. However, the defense loses seven starters. Florida, though, has recruited well and Muschamp will have a strong defense. The defense won’t be 2012 good, but the offense has a chance to take a major step forward, especially in the passing game with another full offseason under their belts. Florida and LSU are probably the teams on this list with the least chance of making a championship run.
The news of Aaron Murray returning lifted the Bulldogs’ spirits in hopes to make another run at an elusive SEC title and national championship. This program is still considered a sleeping giant that is waiting to wake up at any point. And we keep asking ourselves whether next year will finally be the year the Bulldogs break out. The offense will be electric with Murray, his cast of receivers, all returning starters on the offensive line and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the backfield. This unit will score points in boatloads, but the Dawgs will lose nine starters on defense, with only corner Damian Swann, linebacker Chase Vasser and a few others returning with starting experience It’s a good thing Georgia will average close to 40 points next season, because they’re going to need it.
LSU could escape some attrition and get all starters back on offense except for center PJ Lonergan. Zach Mettenberger and the offense must fix some problems in the passing game, but the three-headed monster of Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard return in 2013, as does receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The offense should improve, but the defense has several holes to fill vacated by players leaving early. Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan all leave on the defensive line, as well as linebacker Kevin Minter, corner Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid. That’s a strong nucleus of serious talent, and LSU will have a tough time replacing all those vacancies. But if the Tigers can get better on offense and are able to score more points, it can help offset defensive losses in a big way.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks return a serious nucleus of talent on offense with two quarterbacks and a cast of solid receivers. The Gamecocks do lose a receiver, tight end and one offensive lineman, and I’m somewhat concerned about the running game with Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Steve Spurrier very well may play two quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. However, the Gamecocks will lose seven starters on defense, but they do return All-World Jadeveon Clowney and a solid defensive line. Spurrier and company will have to replace three linebackers, including the SPUR, and two of four in the secondary, including leader DJ Swearinger. After two 11-win seasons, Spurrier will once again be fighting for an elusive SEC Championship in 2013.
Texas A&M Aggies
Arguably the hottest team in the country exiting bowl season was Texas A&M. Led by Johnny Manziel, the Aggies had the most explosive offense in the SEC and arguably the country. The Aggies return Manziel, a host of receivers, solid running backs and three of five on the offensive line, assuming Jake Matthews returns for his senior year. However, the Aggies will need some major holes filled on defense. TAMU loses a minimum of six starters, most notably two linebackers and defensive end Damontre Moore. While I’m so optimistic about the Aggies’ offense, the defense will need to fill voids before Alabama comes to town in week three in 2013.
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