SEC Football: Predictions, Analysis and Out-There Assessments for 2013
Do you have SEC fatigue? Are you tired of listening to the endless chants and praises for the nation’s dominant conference? Is your name Bob Stoops?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the following preview might not be for you. With the Big Ten and Big 12 thoroughly examined, however, the spotlight turns to the SEC as it attempts to win its 1,397th consecutive BCS National Championship.
It's quite the streak, really.
Predicted records, breakout players, schedule analysis, strengths and weaknesses have been outlined for each team, although that’s not all. A Twitter breakdown has also been provided, which will preview each team in 140 characters (or less). Hashtags are included, which is something Florida coach Will Muschamp undoubtedly appreciates despite not really knowing how to use them.
And last but certainly not least, all SEC teams have been compared to a type of alcohol. Given the magnificent tailgating résumés of all fanbases involved, this exercise just felt appropriate.
Predicted Record: 12-0
Toughest Game: September 14 at Texas A&M (until further notice, this is the must-see game of the 2013 season. Well, they're all must-see, but you really shouldn't miss this one).
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 28 vs. Ole Miss
Biggest Strength: Running back (Linebacker? Quarterback? Wide receiver? Safety? Those work, too, and yes, it's almost unfair).
Biggest Weakness: Cornerback
Breakout Player: Ed Stinson, DE (He doesn’t get nearly enough praise, and that changes in 2013).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: At some point, you simply run out of things to say about Alabama. Good luck, everyone else.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… A Top-Shelf Open Bar at a Wedding
The Holy Grail. You have unlimited access to premium alcohol all evening, and the bartender on the left side of the room is feeling generous with his pours. Your biggest concern? Will they stop serving drinks during dinner. This is important, and you should take note of this early.
Outside of this small bit of planning, it does not get any better. Bottoms up with the liquid buffet.
Predicted Record: 5-7 (Bret Bielema's ''Welcome to the SEC'' gift bag includes SEC decorative soaps and a brutal conference schedule).
Toughest Game: October 19 at Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 21 at Rutgers
Biggest Strength: Defensive end (The combination of Chris Smith and Trey Flowers should provide solid pressure off the edge. Defensive line, as a whole, should be solid).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback (The entire offense features many new faces, and quarterback is not excluded from this).
Breakout Player: Javontee Herndon, WR
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Over the long haul, Bret Bielema will do just fine in the SEC. With that said… #thatschedule
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Jägermeister
Between September 28 and October 19, Arkansas will play Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina and at Alabama. My only advice to Razorback fans is to invest in one of those industrial-sized bottles of Jäger—the kind that requires a licensed fork-lifter to move—and keep it handy during this time. No drink numbs physical and emotional agony quite like this consumable motor oil.
Predicted Record: 6-6
Toughest Game: November 30 vs. Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 9 at Tennessee (Two programs looking to make a splash, and the second consecutive road game for a young team).
Biggest Strength: Running back (Tre Mason is fabulous, and one of the more underappreciated players in the SEC).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback (For this team to go, QB play is crucial. There's potential, but there's also uncertainty).
Breakout Player: Carl Lawson, DE (A physical freak and a true freshman who will terrorize early).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The defense will be young, the offense improved. How much magic does Gus Malzahn have in that bag of his?
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Cheap Champagne
Unless it’s New Year’s, you’re never quite sure when you’ll need a bottle of bubbly. With that said, you should have at least one bottle on hand at all times. There will be matters to celebrate, just not yet, not now.
The only difference between really expensive champagne and the stuff you buy is the price. That’s it. Everything else—including the unthinkable headache chaser—follows the same distinct path.
Predicted Record: 6-6
Toughest Game: November 30 vs. Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 9 at Tennessee (Two programs looking for a splash pit of the hate, and the second road game in a row for a young Auburn team).
Biggest Strength: Running back (Tre Mason is one of the more underappreciated players in the SEC).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback (Let’s see what offensive magician Gus Malzahn has in store).
Breakout Player: Carl Lawson, DE (The true freshman doesn’t look like a freshman at all, and he will be a menace sooner than later).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The defense will be young and much improved, but can Gus work his magic on offense out of the gate?
If It Were an Alcohol It Would Be… Cheap Champagne
Unless it’s New Year’s, you’re never quite sure when you’ll need a bottle of bubbly, but you should have at least one bottle on hand at all times. There will be things to celebrate, just not yet, not now. And the only difference between really expensive champagne and the stuff you buy is the price. That’s it. Everything else—including the unthinkable headache chaser—follows the same distinct path.
Predicted Record: 7-5
Toughest Game: October 12 at LSU
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 7 at Miami
Biggest Strength: Secondary (Deep, athletic, talented and fast).
Biggest Weakness: The offense and injuries (Appendectomies, viruses, ACL tears and more, the football gods have not been kind to the Florida offense this offseason).
Breakout Player: Ronald Powell, DE (If he’s healthy and can stay healthy, he’s going to be a monster).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Questions, injuries, departures and a challenging schedule could make for a tough 2013. (Number sign) We’ll see.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… a Dirty Martini.
It will not go down smoothly regardless of your hopes that this is the drink order where it all finally clicks with your stubborn taste buds. Wrong, friend. Wrong. That couple in the corner is already watching your every sip and distressed facial expression, unsure if you are struggling with the burn or in need of an appendectomy yourself.
Predicted Record: 11-1 (A last-second change for me, but UGA's opening month is a challenge. An undefeated regular season, however, is more than possible).
Toughest Game: August 31 at Clemson
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 30 at Georgia Tech
Biggest Strength: Running back (The combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is diabolical, unfair, and these two will be running behind an experienced offensive line).
Biggest Weakness: Youth on defense (So many new faces. These are talented new faces with potential, but are they ready)?
Breakout Player: Malcolm Mitchell, WR (One of the best moves Mark Richt has made. Let Mitchell focus on being a wideout and he will thrive).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: Yes, the entire defense is practically new, but the defense really wasn’t all that great in 2012. The offense? #ScoreboardDestruction
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Maker’s Mark
The perception surrounding Maker’s Mark seems to change yearly. One year it’s overrated, the next it’s underrated, as the narrative for one of the most popular (affordable) bourbons is constantly evolving.
Connoisseurs laugh at its place in the conversation, college bros love it, while novice drinkers are fine with it because bourbon is bourbon. There’s a middle ground here, one we rarely find.
Predicted Record: 3-9
Toughest Game: November 23 at Georgia
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: August 31 vs. Western Kentucky (Bobby Petrino’s debut, and a tricky game worth watching).
Biggest Strength: Mark Stoops (We’re cheating here, but Stoops’ influence on this team has been dramatic, and he’s only getting started).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback (There are other positions up for consideration, but none more pressing).
Breakout Player: Za’Darius Smith, DE (a JUCO addition who should immediately beef up the defensive line).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: If Kentucky continues to recruit like it has of late, 3-9 seasons may not be around much longer. But until then, well, yeah.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… A beer with a cigarette in it.
If you’ve ever experienced this, you can paint the scene. The unexplainable panic when you realize what you’ve just drank—just as the tobacco taste collides with the back of your throat—is a drinking experience like no other. But, this horrid accident also provides a valuable lesson.
It gets better, a lot better. And it can (and will) only go up from here.
Predicted Record: 9-3
Toughest Game: November 9 at Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 19 at Ole Miss
Biggest Strength: Running back (Even with Jeremy Hill's status unclear, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard are NFL backs. This is a deep, versatile group).
Biggest Weakness: Defensive line (“Weakness” might not be the appropriate word, because it could be a strength in no time. Still, there is uncertainty after impactful departures).
Breakout Player: Jarvis Landry, WR (Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is in, which should mean more chances for the wide receivers. Oh, Landry also did this).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The defense is rebuilding, and few teams do it better. If Cam Cameron clicks with his QB, it could be a big year despite the mass exodus.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
The “whiskey” label is one that warrants no actual consideration, but their slogan “Tastes like Heaven, Burns Like Hell” is perfect. Somehow, some way, you are able to smile while your insides melt.
It is intense, wildly unpredictable and yet, the results are consistent. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better tailgating elixir, even if you don’t understand why.
Predicted Record: 5-7
Toughest Game: November 9 at Texas A&M (Just an absolutely brutal month for Mississippi State).
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 23 at Arkansas (A road trip the week after Alabama? That never goes well for anyone, really).
Biggest Strength: Quarterback (Tyler Russell isn’t the best QB in the SEC, but he should get more praise).
Biggest Weakness: Defensive backfield (Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay and Corey Broomfield are gone, and this was an absolutely fantastic group in 2012).
Breakout Player: Robert Johnson, WR
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: You may now start up your Dan Mullen hot seat rumors… NOW. Note: You already did this, didn't you?
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… a Mint Julep (the quality of alcohol does not matter, ever).
You really want to like it, which is why you give it a try every now and then, especially around the Derby. The problem, however, is that sometimes a drink cannot be salvaged regardless of your hopeful attempts. If the ingredients are off—which they are here, always—no whiskey in the world can fix a broken drink.
Predicted Record: 7-5
Toughest Game: October 12 at Georgia
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: September 21 at Indiana
Biggest Strength: Secondary
Biggest Weakness: Defensive line (Sheldon Richardson made people around him that much better, and his loss is huge. Such a tough guy to replace).
Breakout Player: Dorial Green-Beckham (It starts to click for him in 2013, and when it does, it’s going to be a nightmare for SEC corners).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The Indiana game early on will speak volumes. Schedule sets up for a bowl, but it won't be easy..
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Mike’s Hard Lemonade
In a cooler jam-packed with delicious options, Mike’s Hard Lemonade will undoubtedly be the blunt of many jokes, especially from that guy who talks way too loud and only drinks Corona.
But, truthfully, despite the masses’ unwillingness to admit it, Mike’s Hard is a fine drink in limited doses in the right environment. This just might not be the right environment.
Predicted Record: 8-4
Toughest Game: September 28 at Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: August 29 at Vanderbilt (An enormous game for both teams).
Biggest Strength: Wide receiver (Donte Moncrief is fabulous, and this group has depth. Also, true freshman Laquon Treadwell is already turning heads).
Biggest Weakness: Secondary
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: If Bo Wallace can limit turnovers at quarterback, this team could arrive a year or two earlier than expected.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… A strange new craft beer that you’ve never heard of.
According to your buddy who usually overreacts when it comes to movies, food and craft beer, this is what everyone will be drinking six months from now. He’s so excited about it that he’s spilling it all over himself. After you taste it, however, you realize he's not wrong this time.
It’s a delicious beer with unlimited potential—because you scout beers like football players—although there’s no guarantee that it will catch on right away. As you ponder this further, you grab another. And another. And…
Predicted Record: 10-2
Toughest Game: September 7 at Georgia
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 26 at Missouri (Second road game in a row, and a tricky place to play).
Biggest Strength: Quarterback (Connor Shaw is poised to improve and having Dylan Thompson as a backup is a luxury. Also, knowing Steve Spurrier, both will likely see action regardless).
Biggest Weakness: The front seven…outside of Jadeveon Clowney, of course. (So many new faces, but of course Clowney will help this transition greatly).
Breakout Player: Mike Davis, RB
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: This team is much more than just Jadeveon Clowney destroying everything in sight. With that said, #CLOWNEYCOMIN
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Coors Original (again).
If it's good enough for the Ol' Ball Coach, it's certainly good enough for the rest of us. Yes, it's been a few years since the OBC gave the ''Tan and Tall' the best marketing it has ever had, but like a fine wine, the subtle excellence of this beer gets better with time.
Predicted Record: 5-7
Toughest Game: October 26 at Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 9 vs. Auburn
Biggest Strength: The offensive line (It’s not just one of the best in the SEC, but likely top five in the nation).
Biggest Weakness: Playmakers on offense (Tyler Bray is gone, so are his favorite wide receivers. Where will the points come from)?
Breakout Player: Alton “Pig” Howard, WR (An amazing name and a rising star).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The Butch Jones Era is off to a blazing start on the recruiting trail. The question is: now what?
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Smirnoff Ice
Whether you loved it or hated it, Smirnoff Ice was wildly popular not long ago. It tried to bounce back when bros starting icing bros—a horrendous prank that would force adults to chug this carbonated un-chuggable —although it enjoyed a bounce back for roughly 12 hours.
Now, Smirnoff Ice is waiting, hoping that it’s time in the spotlight will return sometime soon. And somewhere out there, there’s a bro who still believes that icing is in. Bless you, bro. Bless you.
Predicted Record: 9-3
Toughest Game: September 14 vs. Alabama
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: October 12 at Ole Miss
Biggest Strength: Quarterback (Until the status of Johnny Manziel changes, he remains the most dangerous player in college football. The team is also incredibly deep at running back, too).
Biggest Weakness: Defensive line
Breakout Player: Brandon Williams, RB (It’s crowded, but Williams will get his chances and he could be special).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: [something Johnny Manziel and autograph related goes here]
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Tequila (any brand will suffice).
The only thing that could possibly wash the taste of this offseason out of the mouths of Texas A&M fans is good ol’ fashion tequila, and, truthfully, the brand doesn’t matter. Well, it does, but for the sake of this exercise, it doesn’t. In fact, the cheaper the better.
Feel the burn, embrace the burn. But just don’t tweet about the burn, because that’s when things get weird.
Predicted Record: 6-6
Toughest Game: October 26 at Texas A&M
Don’t Sleep On ‘Em Game: November 23 at Tennessee
Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver (Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are about as good of a one-two punch as you’ll find in the SEC).
Biggest Weakness: Quarterback
Breakout Player: Brian Kimbrow, RB (Zac Stacy is gone, which means more carries for Kimbrow. He's not the biggest back, but could be poised for a big season).
Season Synopsis in 140 Characters or Less: The program is headed in the right direction, no doubt about it, but it’s still tough sledding in the SEC.
If It Were an Alcohol, It Would Be… Bud Light Lime
It's the perfect mow-your-lawn companion, and it has had staying power well beyond original expectations. It's not a "fad," but rather a solid summer option. Although, has it already peaked? As you mull the answer while drinking one on your deck as the sun goes down, it suddenly hits you.
You need another.