SEC Football 2013: Dark-Horse Candidates Who Will Be Factors in Title Race
The forgotten teams in the SEC—Auburn and Ole Miss—will provide a nasty pothole on the road to a championship for the favorites.
Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and LSU are among the favorites to win the SEC championship in 2013. Not many will argue against that notion.
What's most likely going to happen is all six teams beat each other up and eliminate themselves, but here's another prediction for you: Two of the other eight teams in the SEC will eliminate a conference giant.
Those two teams are Auburn and Ole Miss, and if things go their way, they could find themselves in a position to play for an SEC championship.
"Oh, that's the dumbest statement you've written on Bleacher Report, and that's saying something," a deterred Florida fan will say.
Perhaps, but let's look at the factors, friend.
Let's start with Auburn.
Talent-wise, the Tigers aren't lacking. On defense, Auburn has several playmakers such as of Dee Ford and Chris Davis. Youngsters like Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson should help turn the ship around quickly. In case you've forgotten, the Tigers were last in the SEC in total defense one year ago.
As for the offense, new head coach Gus Malzahn should find a way to make things click again, with Tre Mason emerging as the superstar. He will also have a new quarterback, as last year's starter, Kiehl Frazier, has moved to safety. Thank heavens, right Auburn faithful?
In fact, the new quarterback, Nick Marshall, came to Auburn with the Georgia high school career record for most touchdowns. So the grass is greener, so to speak.
This team has talent, and if Malzahn can put his own stamp on the offense, Auburn should compete in the SEC West. The Tigers will likely fall short of winning the division, but they can surely play spoiler at the end of the season.
"Dude, are you suggesting that they're going to beat my Alabama Crimson Tide? You done lost your mind," an avid Alabama supporter will argue. "Roll Tide."
Actually, yeah, I am suggesting that. It doesn't get any bigger than the Iron Bowl in college football, and with Alabama coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium, magic could happen. Auburn has the athletes to put up a fighting effort, and if the momentum swings in its favor, Alabama could go down.
Of course, this is all riding on the success of the first-year head coach. As we've learned through the years, anything can happen in the SEC. Just ask Gene Chizik and his crew in 2010. The Tigers could play spoiler to Georgia the week before, as the Bulldogs have to travel to play Auburn.
Now, on to Ole Miss.
"Hotty Toddy! The Rebels are back!" an overzealous Ole Miss fan will shout.
Slow down, old-timer; the Rebels are on the verge of being back. First, Ole Miss needs some growth at the quarterback position.
For the Rebels to succeed in 2013, Bo Wallace must excel in the passing game. We all know he can tuck it and run, but he needs to be able to hit Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell over the top.
Speaking of Treadwell, the Rebels need this fantastic recruiting class to jump the learning curve and produce immediately. If all of this comes to fruition, the Rebels have a shot to make some noise.
Got your attention yet?
Unfortunately, the schedule won't do them any favors. The Rebels will play at Texas and at Alabama, and that's after playing at Vanderbilt in the season opener.
However, the second half of the season could find the Rebels doing damage and competing for a spot in the SEC West race.
Let's play out the scenario. Assuming Hugh Freeze has Wallace playing good ball and has his highly impressive freshmen contributing, Ole Miss will pull off a huge victory over Vanderbilt in the opener. This sets it up for an inevitable road loss to the Tide along with potential losses to the Longhorns and Auburn on the road.
Let's say the Rebels pull off a victory in one of those games, though.
Following that rough stretch, Ole Miss could very well make a run at it. It'll be tough to beat both Texas A&M and LSU, but the Rebels have the luxury of playing both games at home.
After that? There's not much competition. Until the Rebels play at Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, they will get four slightly easy games, with Missouri being the toughest.
No, Ole Miss isn't back yet. But with a friendly bottom half of the schedule available and good enough athletes to compete against the powerhouses in the SEC West, it's not that big of a stretch to say it has a fighting chance.
Will the Rebels be the reincarnation of the 2010 Auburn squad?
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