Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.

We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.


2013 Crystal Ball Projection: 6-6, 2-6
2013 Actual: 12-2, 7-1


Aug. 30 vs. Arkansas (W): The spread’s still three touchdowns despite Gus Malzahn acknowledging that quarterback Jeremy Johnson will start the game. Johnson can play four quarters and the Tigers would still cover against the Western Division’s worst team.

Sept. 6 vs. San Jose St. (W): Jet-lag really hurts the Spartans here … and Auburn’s running game only makes matters worse. Clicking on all cylinders, the Tigers eclipse 400 yards on the ground, 125 from Nick Marshall in his first start of his senior season.

Sept. 18 at Kansas St. (W): A Thursday night road game for the defending SEC champs looks like an upset waiting to happen and you know Bill Snyder would love to open a can on the Tigers. It won’t happen. Auburn’s sights are set on the College Football Playoff.

Sept. 27 vs. Louisiana Tech (W): Marshall’s Heisman campaign picks up steam as the Tigers head into October unbeaten for the first time since its 2010 BCS Championship season.

Oct. 4 vs. LSU (W): Auburn’s toughest home game this fall, LSU’s fab freshmen fold under the scrutiny of 88,000 strong and the Tigers get payback for last season’s two-touchdown loss.

Oct. 11 at Mississippi St. (W): So close for Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott in a wild one out West. Both teams eclipse 500 yards of total offense in an exciting, back-and-forth affair.

Oct. 25 vs. South Carolina (W): The Gamecocks’ first loss of the season isn’t all that surprising considering South Carolina hasn’t beaten Auburn since 1933.

Nov. 1 at Ole Miss (W): If there’s a road hiccup before the Georgia-Alabama double-dip it’s here in Oxford. Ole Miss has the speed on defense to match the Tigers’ quickness, but will need a stellar, turnover-free performance out of Bo Wallace to grab the upset.

Nov. 8 vs. Texas A&M (W): Too many questions for the Aggies on defense to keep up with the Tigers. Last season’s game was a shootout, but this year’s battle is one-sided.

Nov. 15 at Georgia (W): Auburn’s second-toughest game of the season, finding a way to beat the Bulldogs between the hedges keeps national championship hopes alive. A loss here doesn’t eliminate Auburn from division title contention considering Alabama already has one loss at this point by our estimation.

Nov. 22 vs. Samford (W): How many starters will play as Auburn wraps up a perfect home slate during the 2014 season?

Nov. 29 at Alabama (L): Winner takes the West in this all-or-nothing showdown. Or is it? Should Auburn’s first loss of the season come at Alabama and the Crimson Tide fall the following week in Atlanta, the Tigers would be at sexy at-large College Football Playoff selection, perhaps more talented than a two-loss champion from the East. The buzz in December will be fun.

2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 11-1, 7-1

THE LOWDOWN: No luck’s needed this time around for one of college football’s best teams, one we’re projecting to finish the regular season in the Top 10 despite not winning the SEC’s Western Division. Auburn’s road schedule is one of the league’s most challenging including two trips to the state of Mississippi and one to Athens, but the Tigers have the personnel to block out hostile environments and win games. Nick Marshall’s emergence as a prolific passer pays dividends for a multi-level offense with the addition of Duke Williams and Roc Thomas.