SEC Preseason Power Rankings 2014
With the season a mere four days away, it’s time see what the SEC’s preseason power rankings look like heading into 2014.
So, SDS polled its sports journalists to grasp a sense of how the SEC stacks up right now. Again, these power rankings are where teams enter the season, and they will undoubtedly change soon, as in week one.
Fighting for bowl eligibility
14. Kentucky Wildcats
13. Arkansas Razorbacks
12. Tennessee Volunteers
11. Vanderbilt Commodores
Four teams — Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt — will all be fighting for bowl eligibility. Everyone projects Kentucky and Arkansas to miss on a bowl game, while there’s some debate as to either Tennessee or Vanderbilt recording six wins to obtain bowl eligibility. The bigger debate between Kentucky and Arkansas is which of the two head coaches will actually win their first SEC game. Tennessee has a much tougher schedule than Vanderbilt, and the Commodores have won back-to-back games against the Vols. Which of the four would you say could surprise everyone?
10. Texas A&M Aggies
9. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Texas A&M enters 2014 as one of the biggest unknowns. The Aggies should once again have an explosive offense, but the defense needs major work. TAMU was easily the SEC’s worst defense a year ago, and two of the three best defenders — LB Darian Claiborne and DL Gavin Stansbury — are now gone. Don’t you dare sleep on the offense, as it should be high octane, but that defense, whew, needs some work…Mississippi State is looking to ruin somebody’s season this year, with a veteran quarterback and loaded defense backing that claim. To become the SEC’s Western Division dark-horse, Dan Mullen’s 2-21 record against ranked opponents will have to be completely reversed. The reality is MSU could be a top 20 football team and still be mediocre in its own division. That’s the brutal reality of playing in college football’s toughest division.
8. Missouri Tigers
7. Florida Gators
6. Ole Miss Rebels
5. Georgia Bulldogs
Many are discounting Missouri, and that’s exactly where they want to me. The Tigers have one of the most favorable schedules and one of the most up-and-coming players in QB Maty Mauk, and the defensive line should be nasty once again. Don’t you dare sleep on Mizzou, and they are right in the mix for the SEC East…Florida could be the team with the most to prove. With Will Muschamp on college football’s hottest seat, Florida should enter with a bad attitude and with a ‘me against the world’ mentality. If the Gators can just score 26 points per game, we could be looking at college football’s biggest turnaround…Ole Miss’ roster has everyone excited, and many are saying the Rebels are right in the mix in the nasty SEC West. Everyone has week six circled against Alabama, but we’ll know right out of the gates against Boise State whether we’re looking at an improved team…Georgia’s offense is loaded with college football’s best player in Todd Gurley, and now they finally have a defensive coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt who can simplify the scheme for the players. There is some concern about Hutson Mason this season, and I’m not sure Kentucky and Georgia Tech are that great of a sample size. But the defense — and perhaps the secondary — will decide whether the Dawgs head back to Atlanta or not.
4. LSU Tigers
3. South Carolina Gamecocks
2. Auburn Tigers
LSU is the SEC’s biggest wildcard. Talent isn’t the problem, but getting all that young talent to develop and play at a high level is. LSU replaces a 3,000-yard passer, 1,400-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers, and they’re still the SEC’s fourth best team? That speaks volumes to the SEC’s most underrated coach, Les Miles…The media projected South Carolina to win the SEC East, and SDS does too. The Gamecocks are riding three straight 11-win seasons with one of the best offensive lines and running games in the country. Replacing some key pieces on defense will be the difference between eight and 11 wins…Defending SEC Champion Auburn enters as the SEC’s No. 2 team. While I personally think Auburn is the ‘best’ SEC team, this will be determined in November, as the Tigers travel to both Georgia and Alabama. Auburn plays seven preseason top 25 opponents, and the schedule could be the difference.
Projected SEC Championship Winner
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama enters 2014 humbled. After losing two straight games to close out last season, Nick Saban hopes his players embrace ‘The Process’ rather than just assuming they’re invincible. So, Alabama is projected to win the SEC Championship, and they don’t even have a starting quarterback yet. That speaks volumes to the coaching staff and to college football’s most talented roster. With one of the SEC’s most favorable schedules, Alabama is looking to get back to Atlanta and garner a spot in the College Football Playoff.