Don’t you just love good ole’ southern tent revivals?
If you’ve watched college football at all for the past few years, you’ve learned that the game we are so passionate about is very cyclical. Former powers have fallen into hibernation, while other below-mediocre teams have made a strong push toward relevancy.
That’s the beauty of college football.
Five SEC teams missed bowl games in 2012, and four of the five replaced their head coach to open a new era of leadership. Only Missouri returns its fearless leader in Gary Pinkel, and he enters August on the warmest seat.
Let’s cut to the chase – these five are looking for revivals in 2013:
2012 record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 SEC
Biggest game: at Rutgers, week 4
Swing games: Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Buzz: Bret Bielema’s schedule is just downright nasty. The Hogs have a lack of proven playmakers on offense, while the defense will be better than advertised. But swing teams like Auburn and Ole Miss will give Arkansas’ defense trouble. Hell, those two will give any team some trouble, but if Arkansas wants to make a bowl game, they must win three of the four against Rutgers, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
2012 record: 3-9 overall, 0-8 SEC
Biggest game: Mississippi State, week 3
Swing games: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee
Buzz: Gus Malzahn’s offense is going to score points, but it’s just a matter of question how fast the defense gels as a unit and drastically improves upon last year. Of the five listed teams, Auburn has the best shot to finish with the best record and quickest turnaround. Gene Chizik couldn’t coach, but he could recruit. Malzahn will utilize that talent and transform this program quicker than most anticipate.
2012 record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 SEC
Biggest game: Western Kentucky, week 1
Swing games: Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
Buzz: Mark Stoops has done a fantastic job recruiting and rebranding Kentucky football, but things get real and the reality of the current roster sets in come August. Stoops is tasked with pulling a James Franklin and Hugh Freeze, two coaches who took over two-win teams and sent them to bowl games the very first year with the same players. But UK’s schedule is just not conducive for a quick turnaround, playing the likes of the East gauntlet, along with Bama in the West. So, let’s not be quick to judge Stoops, but even four or five wins would be a huge accomplishment with the schedule and program in its current state.
2012 record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC
Biggest game: at Vanderbilt, week 6
Swing games: Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss
Buzz: This team is so interesting to me. Here’s an offense that was so electric in the Big 12 and was hammered by injuries in 2012. Losses against Vandy, Florida and Syracuse could have gone either way. The over/under for this team is 5.5, and I’ll take the over. Games against Vandy, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ole Miss will be the tell-tale whether or not a revival occurs.
2012 record: 5-7 overall, 1-7 SEC
Biggest game: at Florida, week 4
Swing games: Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Kentucky
Buzz: The once college football giant has fallen into hibernation. The once perennial championship contender is now on its fourth coach in six seasons, still picking up the shattered pieces from the (late) Fulmer, Kiffin and Dooley eras. Like Kentucky and Stoops, Butch Jones has done a fantastic job rebranding the program and putting it back on the map, but ultimately, the momentum continues or stops during the season. The over/under is set at 5.5, and with such a brutal schedule, it’s hard to see six wins. Swing games against Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky will seal the Vols’ fate. Ironically, a developing rivalry against Vanderbilt could be the one game that decides their bowl fate.
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