2013 College Football Preview

SEC 2013 college football preview

 

mnavarro@miamiherald.com

Defending national champion Alabama was chosen by a record 243 voters at SEC Media Days to win the West and beat Georgia once again in the conference championship game. The Crimson Tide had the most first-team selections to the SEC Preseason First-Team with seven — including top vote-getter, linebacker CJ Mosley (231). South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney finished second in the voting (223). Tide running back T.J. Yeldon received the most votes by an offensive player. Reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel only received 119 votes to earn first-team quarterback honors over Alabama’s AJ McCarron (67).

SEC EAST | 2013 CHAMPION: GEORGIA

FLORIDA GATORS

Coach: Will Muschamp (3rd year, 18-8).

Players to watch: DT Dominique Easley, WR/DB Loucheiz Purifoy, DB Marcus Roberson, LB Ronald Powell, OL Jon Halapio, RB Matt Jones, C Jonotthan Harrison, P Kyle Christy, QB Jeff Driskel.

Overview: Coming off their worst passing season since 1989, the Gators are hoping to vastly improve their offense with more balance in 2013. Purifoy (6-1, 185) will be used all over the field to try and help the cause. Defensively, Florida lost quite a bit of talent to graduation and the NFL, but there should be enough still around to keep them close in all their big games.

Key games: at LSU (Oct. 12); vs. Georgia (Nov. 2); at South Carolina (Nov. 16).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
11-2 (7-1 SEC)5-14-2Driskel 1,646 yardsGillislee 1,152 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Reed 559 yards118th (146.3)39th (187.7)78th (26.5)5th (14.5)

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Coach: Mark Richt (13th year, 118-40).

Players to watch: RB Todd Gurley, TE Arthur Lynch, LB Jordan Jenkins, DB Damian Swann, RB Keith Marshall, OL Chris Burnette, QB Aaron Murray, WR Malcolm Mitchell, DL Garrison Smith.

Overview: With 16 starters returning — including 10 on offense —the Bulldogs are in prime position to reach their third consecutive SEC Championship game. Building depth on the defensive line was a big priority for Georgia this spring, as well as  replacing first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree at linebacker.

Key games: at Clemson (Aug. 31); vs. South Carolina (Sept. 7); vs. Florida (Nov. 2).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
12-2 (7-1 SEC)5-12-2Murray 3,893 yardsGurley 1,385 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
King 950 yards30th (285.1)42nd (182.6)19th (37.8) 18th (19.6)

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Coach: Mark Stoops (1st year).

Players to watch: DL Alvin Dupree, LB Avery Williamson, WR Demarco Robinson, RB Raymond Sanders, DT Donte Rumph, DT Tristian Johnson.

Overview: Stoops, Florida State’s former defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Miami, has his hands in the Bluegrass State. Six starters return on defense, led by Williamson (6-1, 141), who racked up 135 tackles last season. The Wildcats’ offense is a mess.

Key games: vs. Louisville (Sept. 14); vs. Florida (Sept. 28); vs. Alabama (Oct. 12).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
2-10 (0-8 SEC)0-60-5Smith 975 yardsSanders 669 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
King 488 yards106th (176.3)89th (119th (17.9)119th (17.9)87th (31.0)

MISSOURI TIGERS

Coach: Gary Pinkel (13th year, 90-61).

Players to watch: DB E.J. Gaines, WR Marcus Lucas, DT Lucas Vincent, DE Kony Ealy, RB Marcus Murphy, RB Henry Josey, QB James Franklin.

Overview: The Tigers are probably still Ill-equipped to play the physical brand of football needed after moving over from the Big 12 and that eventually could cost Pinkel his job this season. New offensive coordinator Jos Henson will probably use less five wide sets and bring in more protection after the Tigers surrendered 29 sacks last season. If they can do that, they might qualify for a bowl.

Key games: at Georgia (Oct. 12); vs. Florida (Oct. 19); vs. South Carolina (Oct. 26).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
5-7 (2-6 SEC)2-40-5Franklin 1,562 yards Lawrence 1,025 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Lus 509 yards77th (217.9)90th (138.5)82nd (25.8)68th (28.4)

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Coach: Steve Spurrier (9th year, 66-37).

Players to watch: DE Jadeveon Clowney, TE Rory Anderson, WR Bruce Ellington, DE Chaz Sutton, QB Connor Shaw, QB Dylan Thompson, LT Corey Robinson, DT Kelcy Quarles.

Overview: The Gamecocks haven’t won a conference title since 1969 when they were in the ACC, but return 12 starters that include potentially the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft in Clowney (6-6, 272). Spurrier’s offense could ultimately be what puts the Gamecocks over the top or back were they were a year ago, watching somebody else play in the SEC championship.

Key games: at Georgia (Sept. 7); vs. Florida (Nov. 16); vs. Clemson (Nov. 30).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
11-2 (6-2 SEC)5-13-2Shaw 1,956 yardsLattimore 662 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Ellington 600 yards57th (238.1)91st (138.5)44th (31.5)13th (18.2)

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Coach: Butch Jones (1st year).

Players to watch: OL Antonio Richardson, OL Ja’Wuan James, OL Zach Fulton, C James Stone, LB A.J. Johnson, DT Daniel McCullers, S Bryon Moore.

Overview: Johnny Majors and Phillip Fullmer ruled Rocky Top from 1977 to 2008. Jones, the former head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, is the fourth coach Tennessee has had in the past six seasons. The Vols’ high-powered passing offense lost its starting quarterback and top four receivers, but four of five starters return on the offensive line and the team’s two leading rushers.

Key games: at Oregon (Sept. 14); at Florida (Sept. 21); at Alabama (Oct. 26).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
5-7 (1-7 SEC)1-50-5Bray 3,612 yardsNeal 708 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Hunter 1,083 yards15th (315.6)62nd (160.3)22nd (36.2)107th (35.7)

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Coach: James Franklin (3rd year, 15-11).

Players to watch: WR Jordan Matthews, OL Wesley Johnson, DB Andre Hal, K Carey Spears, QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, RB Wesley Tate, DE Walker May, LB Chase Garnham.

Overview: Coming off their first nine-win season since the Woodrow Wilson administration (1915), 13 starters return — including Matthews (6-3, 205), who will be the focal point of an offense with a new starting quarterback and tailback. Vandy’s linebackers are a strength along with a secondary that only gave up seven TDs, tied with Florida for the fewest in the SEC.

Key games: at South Carolina (Sept. 14); vs. Georgia (Oct. 19); at Texas A&M (Oct. 26).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. East vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
9-4 (5-3 SEC)3-30-3Rodgers 2,539 yardsStacy 1,141 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Matthews 1,323 yards81st (213.4)58th (166.3)56th (30.0)15th (18.7)

SEC WEST | 2013 CHAMPION: ALABAMA

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Coach: Nick Saban (7th year, 68-13).

Players to watch: LB CJ Mosley, RB TJ Yeldon, WR Amari Cooper, OL Cyrus Kouandjio, OL Anthony Steen, QB AJ McCarron, DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB Deion Belue, DL Xzavier Dickson, DL Ed Stinson, DL Jeoffrey Pagan, LB Adrian Hubbard, DB Vinnie Sunseri.

Overview: Since the AP poll began in 1936, no program has won four national championships in five years. Alabama could become the first this year if it can sure up its offensive line and cornerback spots with the superstars lost to the NFL Draft.

Key games: at Texas A&M (Sept. 14); vs. LSU (Nov. 9); at Auburn (Nov. 30)

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
13-1 (7-1 SEC)5-15-1McCarron 2,933 yardsLacy 1,322 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Cooper 1,000 yards76th (218.0)17th (226.5)12th (38.7)1st (10.9)

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Coach: Bret Bielema (1st year).

Players to watch: C Travis Swanson, DE Chris Smith, K Zach Hocker, DE Trey Flowers, RB Jonathan Williams.

Overview: Bielema is bringing the power running game he used at Wisconsin to make three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances to Fayetteville. After missing out on their first bowl appearance since 2008, the Razorbacks bring back eight starters on defense and should be good enough despite a tough four-game stretch in the middle of the season to go to the postseason.

Key games: vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 28); at Alabama (Oct. 19); at LSU (Nov. 29).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
4-8 (2-6 SEC)1-50-3 Wilson 3,387 yardsJohnson 757 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Hamilton 1,335 yards 21st (301.5)107th (118.7)91st (23.5)83rd (30.4)

AUBURN TIGERS

Coach: Gus Malzahn (1st year).

Players to watch: RB Tre Mason, C Reese Dismukes, DE Dee Ford, DB Chris Davis, K Cody Parkey, P Steven Clark.

Overview: Malzahn, the offensive coordinator in Auburn’s rise to the national championship in 2010, was called back to right the ship. Whether he has the right parts is another story. Veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson has taken over the defense and will run a 4-2-5 scheme with the defensive line and secondary being the unit’s strength. The goal here is make it to a bowl game.

Key games: at LSU (Sept. 21); at Texas A&M (Oct. 19); vs. Alabama (Nov. 30).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
3-9 (0-8 SEC)0-60-5 Frazier 753 yardsMason 1,002 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Blake 789 yards116th (156.6)79th (148.4)114th (18.7)66th (28.3)

LSU TIGERS

Coach: Les Miles (9th year, 85-21).

Players to watch: DL Anthony Johnson, DB Craig Loston, LB Lamin Barrow, RB Alfred Blue, WR Jarvis Landry, OL La’el Collins, OL Josh Williford, LB Tahj Jones, DB Jalen Mills, QB Zac Mettenberger.

Overview: Miles lost 11 early entrants to last April’s NFL Draft. He hired former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron to be his new offensive coordinator, who will have eight returning starters — including at quarterback. LSU should still be good enough on defense to win double-digit games for the fourth consecutive season.

Key games: at Georgia (Sept. 28); at Alabama (Nov. 9); vs. Texas A&M (Nov. 23).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
10-3 (6-2 SEC)5-13-3Mettenberger 2,609 yardsHill 755 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Beckham 713 yards94th (200.5)51st (173.7)59th (29.8)12th (17.5)

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Coach: Dan Mullen (5th year, 29-22).

Players to watch: OL Gabe Jackson, RB LaDarius Perkins, QB Tyler Russell, LB Benardrick McKinney, DE Preston Smith, DT Kaleb Eulls.

Overview: The Bulldogs lost five of their final six games and what Hugh Freeze is doing over at in-state rival Ole Miss has some concerned in Starkville they might not get their money’s worth in Mullen. A group of 14 starters return in all, but receiver and secondary are big concerns entering the season.

Key games: vs. LSU (Oct. 5), at Texas A&M (Nov. 9); vs. Ole Miss (Nov. 28).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
8-5 (4-4 SEC)2-40-4Russell 2,897 yardsPerkins 1,016 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Bumphis 922 yards58th (237.8)85th (143.5)1st (29.5)34th (23.3)

OLE MISS REBELS

Coach: Hugh Freeze (2nd year, 7-6).

Players to watch: LB Denzel Nkemdiche, WR Donte Moncrief, RB Jeff Scott, DL C.J. Johnson, DB Charles Sawyer, DE Robert Nkemdiche, QB Bo Wallace.

Overview: Oxford is abuzz after the Rebels snapped a 16-game conference losing streak, won a bowl game and put together a stellar recruiting class. Wallace, coming off shoulder surgery in January, had a stellar sophomore season. The secondary remains a concern.

Key games: at Texas (Sept. 14); at Alabama (Sept. 28); vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 12).

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
7-6 (3-5 SEC)3-30-4Wallace 2,994 yardsScott 846 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Moncrief 979 yards 49th (249.9)50th (173.8)47th (31.5)60th (27.6)

TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Coach: Kevin Sumlin (2nd year, 11-2).

Players to watch: QB Johnny Manziel, OL Jake Matthews, WR Mike Evans, RB Ben Malena, LB Donnie Baggs, DB Howard Matthews, RB Brandon Williams.

Overview: Johnny Football lost three of his top four receivers and has a new offensive coordinator and left tackle, but a schedule that sets up beautifully for a run at a national title if the Aggies can beat Alabama for the second consecutive year. Defensively, three of the team’s top five tacklers from a year ago must be replaced.

Key games: vs. Alabama (Sept. 14); at Ole Miss (Oct. 12); at LSU (Nov. 23)

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 vs. West vs. Top 25 Passing leader Rushing leader
11-2 (6-2 SEC)5-14-2Manziel 3,706 yardsManziel 1,410 yards

Receiving yards Passing rank Rushing rank Points For Points Against
Evans 1,105 yards14th (316.5)11th (242.1)4th (44.5)26th (21.8)

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