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: 10-2, 6-2
2013 Actual: 9-4, 4-4


Aug. 28 at South Carolina (L): Texas A&M’s schedule starts out with a bang against South Carolina, a team that’s won a nation-best 18 straight at home. The perfect opportunity at shocking the college football world, a win here would go a long way in reversing popular belief that the Aggies will take a step back post-Johnny Manziel.

Sept. 6 vs. Lamar (W): Bob Stoops has a point. Texas A&M’s non-league slate is considerably weak. The first of several breathe-easy games at home against non-conference competition, true freshmen Speedy Noil and Myles Garrett really have a chance to shine in their Kyle Field debuts.

Sept. 13 vs. Rice (W): Don’t laugh. The Owls actually put up a valiant fight for 2.5 quarters in this matchup last season which marked our first glimpse of Texas A&M’s horrid, poor-tackling defense. Rice won 10 games in 2013, but most of that offensive production has been replaced.

Sept. 20 at SMU (W): The Aggies return to the site of Manziel’s initial Heisman season heroics, an impressive total offensive performance of epic proportions in 2012. SMU didn’t do itself any favors with a non-conference schedule including Baylor, East Carolina and TCU this season. Texas A&M marks the Mustangs’ second loss.

Sept. 27 vs. Arkansas (W): Stop the run and win big. Sounds easy, right? This Western Division rivalry moves to Cowboys Stadium in the national spotlight.

Oct. 4 at Mississippi St. (L): If Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs meet expectations this fall, this one’s a loss for the Aggies. A hostile road environment coupled with a dynamic quarterback on the other side in Dak Prescott will be too much to overcome.

Oct. 11 vs. Ole Miss (W): A swing game for both teams, Texas A&M will catch the Rebels at the perfect time with Ole Miss riding high following a program-changing win over Alabama. The Aggies protect their home turf with a late defensive stop, crushing the Rebels’ dream season.

Oct. 18 at Alabama (L): The toughest game in 2014, the Aggies are still a year or two away from competing for division titles with the heavyweights.

Nov. 1 vs. Louisiana Monroe (W): A much-needed snoozer after three consecutive division matchups, the Aggies erupt for a season-high 63 points with an extra week to prepare.

Nov. 8 at Auburn (L): Like the double-digit loss to the Crimson Tide, Texas A&M’s not going into Jordan-Hare Stadium and coming out with a win. Similar to last year’s road woes against ranked teams, the Aggies can compete with anyone in College Station but the tides turn in other environments.

Nov. 15 vs. Mizzou (W): Maty Mauk still hasn’t started and won a meaningful SEC road game by this point and won’t on this Saturday either.

Nov. 27 vs. LSU (L): Kyle Field will be a zoo on Thanksgiving Night when the youth-laden Tigers come to play. Les Miles has coached in bigger games, and he’s ultimately the difference in one of the SEC’s most exciting games of the season.

2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 7-5, 3-5

THE LOWDOWN: The Aggies will be an exciting team to watch this fall and an attractive bowl invite, but it won’t matter much in the SEC West race. All five losses — four away from Kyle Field — will come against ranked teams. We’re not worried about Texas A&M’s new-look offense as much as we are its defensive unit, a group that will have to improve to beat quality teams. We’ll know a lot about this year’s team by the first of October when game week against Mississippi St. could be a turning point.