SEC Football: Previewing Biggest Games for 2013 Season
The 2013 SEC football season enters with another BCS National Championship to its credit.
Alabama won the conference a seventh consecutive title, as well as the Tide's third in the past four years.
Despite the incredible talent that left for the NFL, the SEC still remains college football's best conference. And until knocked off, it will remain as such due to some of the best recruiting classes in the country.
On Rivals.com, the SEC featured nine schools in the top 20, five of which were in the top 10. Scout.com has 10 in the top 25 and six inside the top 10. In short, this season and the foreseeable future will provide the fans with colossal matchups.
Just like the ones previewed ahead.
South Carolina at Georgia
South Carolina at Georgia will have a lasting impact as the season unfolds.
Squaring off in early September, the victor here gains an immediate upper-hand to make a run at the 2013 SEC East title.
When the Bulldogs are in possession, the game will feature two potential first-round draft picks on the field in Aaron Murray and Jadeveon Clowney. Murray will have to improve his pre-snap reads because the constant pressure he received last season resonated throughout the rest of Georgia's game plan.
So, relying heavily on Todd Gurley and Co. to win the battle up front is required. Not only will that help set up play action, but the Dawgs' offense will keep their defense rested.
Although the Gamecocks aren't high-powered offensively, Connor Shaw's dual-threat talent is capable of moving the chains. Winning this matchup comes down to reducing turnovers and taking the possession battle.
Alabama at Texas A&M
Will Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M ruin Alabama's shot for a perfect season?
Well, the Aggies get to host the Crimson Tide in 2013 and bring in a strong recruiting class to boot.
The ultimate decider of this gargantuan early season contest, though, will be Manziel's production. Despite his incredible mobility and improvisational instincts, Manziel is also a better pocket passer than he's given credit for.
Considering how much defensive talent Alabama once again lost to the NFL, the Aggies will be able to move the rock. Whether A&M slows down the Tide's offense is the next question.
The Aggies lost defensive stars Damontre Moore and Sean Porter to the NFL, but the Tide lost talent on their offensive line, negating any advantage they might've gained.
The good news for Alabama is that AJ McCarron still has receiver Amari Cooper to target and running back T.J. Yeldon in the backfield.
Alabama possesses the explosiveness to set the pace, which will put even more pressure on Manziel. If anything, expect Nick Saban's defense to enter with even more preparation than 2012.
Georgia at Vanderbilt
Don't sleep on the Vanderbilt Commodores this fall.
Coach James Franklin has built a strong SEC East contender, as Vandy comes off two straight bowl appearances.
Additionally, the Commodores finished last season ranked No. 20 in the coaches' poll and brought in a solid recruiting class. Hosting Georgia in mid-October, Vanderbilt has an opportunity to spoil the Dawgs' campaign and enter the division title discussion.
Receiver Jordan Matthews is a true playmaker, and running back Brian Kimbrow averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2012. Vandy is also stellar defensively, as it only gave up 18.7 points per game last year.
Georgia brings the offensive balance to control the tempo; however, Vanderbilt defenders Andre Hal (16 defended passes) and Chase Garnham (12.5 tackles for loss) will still make plays. Then it's up to the offense to take advantage when given scoring opportunities and control the tempo of the game.
Florida vs. Georgia
Georgia's defense was a nightmare for Jeff Driskel in the previous meeting.
He was sacked four times, lost a fumble, threw two picks and finished with a 55.5 completion percentage.
However, don't expect the Bulldogs to repeat that performance. With Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins and Alec Ogletree playing in the NFL, Driskel will have more time to survey from the pocket and scramble when needed.
Florida's defense, though, also took a hit with the losses of Matt Elam, Jon Bostic and Sharrif Floyd, so this game will be higher-scoring than in 2012.
The Bulldogs have Aaron Murray to lead the attack downfield, not to mention the bruising ground game to set up the pass. As for Florida, Driskel's dual-threat abilities combined with reliable target Quinton Dunbar will give Georgia headaches.
LSU vs. Alabama
Alabama and LSU have accounted for five BCS National Championships since 2003.
Factor in the big-stage rematch from the 2011 campaign, and this rivalry is arguably the best in college football.
Each defense lost quite a bit of elite talent to the NFL. In addition, Alabama is also without key offensive players along the line and running back Eddie Lacy.
The Tigers didn't lose too much offensively, as a sound ball-carrier tandem in Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard remain. This duo will give 'Bama's front seven trouble because each will accumulate yards after contact and dominate in short-yard situations. Zach Mettenberger can then capitalize on play action.
Interestingly enough, Alabama will take a similar approach. The Tigers don't have Eric Reid in coverage, and plenty of stellar talent is gone from the front seven.
T.J. Yeldon can slam the trenches, diverting attention away from wideout Amari Cooper. In short, big offensive plays will be highlighted, and the winner will be the one who takes the field position battle.
Florida at South Carolina
In the previous meeting, the Gators smacked South Carolina all over the field.
Getting the win 44-11, Florida completely shut down coach Steve Spurrier's offense.
This time around, the Gamecocks obviously have to improve. However, it won't be easy as Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders left for the NFL. The Gators may have lost key defensive talents, but Dante Fowler (eight tackles for loss) and Jaylen Watkins (11 defended passes) still reside.
As long as Florida plays with strong assignment discipline to contain Connor Shaw, the Gators will get off the field on third down.
Flipping to South Carolina's defense, it's all about Jadeveon Clowney.
His goal will be to completely wreck the Gators' backfield.
Florida possesses the personnel to find balance, thus controlling the tempo to move consistently. Unless guys such as Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles help suffocate the line of scrimmage, the Gamecocks will get pushed back.
Texas A&M at LSU
Texas A&M possesses the entire skill set on each side to run the table.
Finishing off the season at LSU, though, is an enormous challenge.
Fortunately for Johnny Manziel and the offense, LSU lost a boatload of defensive talent. In turn, big plays are needed from receiver Mike Evans (82 receptions).
Also, running back Ben Malena (5.9 yards per carry) must step up big all year as Christine Michael entered the pro ranks. Clearly LSU has a lot to handle, which means Anthony Johnson (10 tackles for loss) has to immediately develop as a force along the line.
When a defense loses talent, the best way to sustain dominance is by disrupting blocking schemes at the point of attack. Given A&M's high-powered potential, though, LSU at least brings the skill set to match.
Coach Les Miles' ground game will need to be established to then set up the pass. And Zach Mettenberger is capable of utilizing every field dimension with five players catching 18-plus passes in 2012.
At its core, this duel will be further evidence of the SEC fielding more explosive offenses to complement its strong defenses.