Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
It's that time of year when Las Vegas and the offshore oddsmakers lay down the gauntlet and set win/loss totals for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams.
These win totals aren't necessarily true projections of a team's season but rather a number designed to get equal money on both sides from the public. Still, it's a fun way to look at how the professionals think each team will do in 2013.
What's the regular-season projection for your team (not including bowl or SEC Championship Game appearances)?
Alabama: 11 wins
Arkansas: Not listed
Auburn: Six wins
Florida: Nine wins
Georgia: 10 wins
Kentucky: Four wins
LSU: Nine wins
Mississippi State: Five wins
Missouri: Six wins
Ole Miss: Eight wins
South Carolina: 10 wins
Tennessee: Six wins
Texas A&M: 10 wins
Vanderbilt: 7.5 wins
What were some of the hits and misses of the preseason win totals? Let's examine:
Alabama is Too High....or is it?
If you pick Alabama over 11, you're a braver man than I. Don't get me wrong...Alabama is great, and I'm going to let the Crimson Tide have their moment. But by going "over" you're picking Alabama to do something it hasn't done in either its previous two BCS National Championship seasons—go undefeated in the regular season.
That's a tough mental hurdle to clear.
The problem is, where do you put Alabama? Drop the Tide down to 10.5 and everybody on the planet would go over and pick them to win 11 or 12 games. You cannot set it any higher, because then, what's the point?
More so than just demonstrating the power of Alabama, this is an indication of the skewed narrative that has been prevalent this offseason. It seems like all the talk is about the Alabama dynasty and how it's almost impossible to topple the Tide.
While that may be the case, the SEC has still cannibalized itself over the last two seasons; and Alabama was extremely fortunate to even get in position win those crystal footballs.
What we should be talking about is, whether you think the SEC is top-heavy or not, how good those top teams are and how great Alabama is with time to prepare.
LSU Isn't Getting Any Love
But wait...LSU lost a small village off its defense, the offense was atrocious and...goodness...have you seen the schedule?
Stop. Just stop.
With a total of nine wins, Vegas fell into the same trap that is catching a lot of other people this offseason—the one that has LSU taking a major step back. That's just not going to happen.
Whether you think Zach Mettenberger is the answer or not at quarterback, he still gets a talented group of receivers back (Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham and Kadron Boone), a solid group along the offensive line and—even if Jeremy Hill doesn't play—a talented running back corps led by Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard. Cam Cameron will provide an upgrade at offensive coordinator, too.
Personally, I think Mettenberger will build off of his good November and have a solid season in Baton Rouge. Even if he doesn't, LSU can still win a lot of games.
Because the defense is pretty darn solid.
The power up front shifted from the outside to the inside, with defensive tackles Anthony "Freak" Johnson and Ego Ferguson becoming the centerpieces of that defense. Lamin Barrow has performed well for the Tigers at linebacker, and Tahj Jones should be back after missing most of last season.
They're solid at corner with Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, and Craig Loston may be the most under-appreciated safety in the conference.
Nine wins? That's an easy "over," and it won't be all that stressful.
Florida Will Disappoint
Nine wins for Florida? With that schedule? Tread lightly.
Road trips to Miami, LSU and South Carolina are daunting, the home game against Florida State to close out the season is a toss-up and Georgia has won two straight over the Gators at the World's Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.
Without stumbling along the way, Florida could very easily be a 7-5 football team. There are questions along the offensive line, there was no sign of developing a downfield passing game late last season or this spring and while I think running back Matt Jones can be a superstar, he hasn't proven it yet.
Defensively, the Gators are loaded with talent.
Ronald Powell's move to linebacker allows him and Dante Fowler to be on the field at the same time, which should frighten opposing offensive coordinators. But will that defense consistently force turnovers at the rate in which it did last season (it gained the third most in the SEC last year with 30)?
Maybe. Even then, the margin for error would still be very thin.
Missouri and Mississippi State Teetering on Bowl Eligibility
Missouri at six wins would put head coach Gary Pinkel in a tough spot.
The out-of-conference schedule on paper doesn't look terribly tough, but don't sleep on that game Sept. 28 versus Arkansas State. Still though, a 4-0 record out-of-conference looks likely. But where are those two other wins coming from?
Kentucky would be one, but the matchup Nov. 2 in Columbia could determine whether or not the Tigers go bowling—and whether or not Pinkel stays employed.
Five wins for Mississippi State indicates the uncertainty about which program will show up. The Bulldogs rolled into Tuscaloosa undefeated in late October before stumbling down the stretch.
That early season schedule is a little more daunting this season with the opener versus Oklahoma State looming and an early October meeting with LSU.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is 5-21 against FBS opponents that finish the season with eight or more wins and desperately needs a signature win. If he doesn't get one this season, the Bulldogs may be shut out of a bowl.