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And we're off:
@BarrettSallee am I crazy to think auburn could win 4 games this year or 8, depending on several variables?— Ray Sivley (@raysivley) August 1, 2013
Nahh, you're not crazy at all. In fact, you're very sane.
There's no shortage of talent at Auburn. The Tigers are deep at running back, return a veteran offensive line and have athletes all over the field on both sides of the ball. Since Gus Malzahn was familiar with the majority of the roster when he took over, he and his staff should be able to hit the ground running and be competitive in 2013.
But that isn't exactly set in stone.
If the Tigers can't find a quarterback, the defensive line doesn't jell or the secondary doesn't live up to expectations, it could be a long season on the Plains.
The only wins that I'd call sure things are Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, with Washington State and Arkansas State being likely wins. The SEC West slate is tough, Georgia is a national title contender and a road trip to Tennessee isn't a cakewalk.
Four wins isn't likely, but it's not outside the realm of possibility, either.
In the end, though, Auburn will trend more toward the top end, and eight wins is far more likely than four. Sweep the non-conference schedule, take care of Mississippi State, Arkansas, Tennessee and spring a somewhat surprising upset, and there's your eight wins.
Malzahn's system is a two-back, run-based attack out of the spread, and the Tigers have the pieces to be successful in that department. If Malzahn can find a quarterback who doesn't make mistakes—something he did in Year 1 at stops at Auburn (Chris Todd, 2009) and Arkansas State (Ryan Aplin, 2012)—they'll be competitive in virtually every game.
@BarrettSallee who will be starting in UGA's secondary week 1?— Gil Pound (@GilPound) August 1, 2013
Damian Swann and Sheldon Dawson will lock down the two cornerback spots, with true freshman Tray Matthews holding down the free safety spot.
The strong safety spot is a big question due to the suspension of Josh Harvey-Clemons, who will likely slide into that spot in Week 2 when his suspension is lifted. Against Clemson, though, it's anybody's guess.
Corey Moore will probably get the first shot, since the 6'2", 214-pound junior is bigger than his primary competitor, Connor Norman, who is 5'10", 201 pounds. Against Clemson, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was counting on the 6'5", 212-pound Harvey-Clemons to be a force against the run as well as the pass.
When the Bulldogs bring in a fifth defensive back in passing situations versus Clemson, it could be Moore or Dawson who slides down to that hybrid linebacker/safety spot.
It'll be a new-look secondary, but a solid one.
Swann had a team-high four interceptions last season, Matthews has All-SEC written all over him, and the ultra-athletic group is versatile enough to combat virtually any look thrown its way.
@BarrettSallee your prediction for the Ole Miss Vandy game?— Russ Kirkland (@crustykirk) August 1, 2013
Subject to change between now and the time toe meets leather, I'm going to go with Ole Miss by four, 31-27.
That should provide from some late-night fun on the opening Thursday of the season.
I like Vanderbilt a lot, but Ole Miss has a proven commodity at quarterback in Bo Wallace and at running back in Jeff Scott.
Scott isn't the most well-known running back in the SEC, but he is a perfect fit for the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. Toss in Dante Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and incoming freshman Laquan Treadwell, and Ole Miss is dangerous offensively.
Vandy can cruise up and down the field, too, which is why a high-scoring game is likely. In fact, the teams are quite similar. They both have solid skill players and underrated defenses, and are programs on the rise. Because of that, I'll go with the team that has the most SEC experience at quarterback.
Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @BarrettSallee or at firstname.lastname@example.org.