Our 2013 SEC Football Prediction
No wonder, then, that Alabama – winner of the last two national championships and three of the last four – is almost unanimously predicted to be best in the land again in 2013. That makes Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide a fairly easy pick to be best in the Southeastern Conference. We had a little summer shower at our house yesterday afternoon, and we won't be surprised if he have one again today.
There is more to it than that, of course. Teams do change, although the ups and downs are usually subtle. Auburn's drop from 14-0 and 8-0 in the SEC in 2010 to 3-9 and 0-8 in the conference just two years later was unprecedented, and probably indicative of the extraordinary ability of Cam Newton rather than Auburn having a true national championship caliber program.
Nevertheless, the best teams in the SEC last year are expected to be best again this year, and the teams lurking on the fringe of best in 2012 are the ones we see with potential to be in the mix in 2013.
For as long as college football has been played, it has been a coaches' game. Many years ago in a casual conversation with Paul Bryant regarding an upcoming game (not involving Alabama), I wondered which team might win. "Go with the best coach," said the best coach ever.
Today's best coach, and among the best ever, is Nick Saban. The best coach is a solid recruiter who then develops his players physically and mentally to be the most formidable team. Another check mark for Alabama.
And who can argue with the results of men like Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, Mark Richt at Georgia, and Les Miles at LSU? Although some may consider Texas A&M to be something like 2010 Auburn, the Aggies merely riding the incredible talent of quarterback Johnny Manziel, we're willing to put A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin in that upper echelon of league coaches. We also expect Brett Bielema, a big winner in the Big 10, to be a force at Arkansas in the near future.
We subscribe to the adage that the quarterback gets more credit than he should for team success and more blame for team failure, although we actually believe it is in the negative that is most true. A championship team almost always has an outstanding quarterback. Bama knows it has one in A.J. McCarron, but the Crimson Tide didn't know if McCarron would even be the starter at this time prior to the 2011 season when he quarterbacked Bama to the first of two national championships. At this time a year ago no one outside of College Station had an inkling of how Manziel would perform. So there could be a team with an outstanding, but generally unknown, quarterback in 2013. We'll go, however, with teams that have quarterbacks who have demonstrated their ability.
We've all heard that defense wins championships. That's true often enough to consider the defensive side in predicting the season. Alabama had its usual losses to the NFL, but the stockpile of defensive stars returning is impressive. A&M (six lost defensive starters) and LSU (seven lost) would seem to be at a slight disadvantage to Alabama in the SEC Western Division in that part of the championship equation. In the East, most think of South Carolina returning Jadeveon Clowney and most think of Georgia losing Jarvis Jones. In fact, the Gamecocks have a solid all-around defense and the Bulldogs – despite the deserved reputation of its Aaron Murray-led offfense – have solid men on the defensive side.
The schedule can be very important, and no one denies that Alabama has an apparent advantage in not playing the teams considered the strongest from the SEC East. (Incidentally, Bama need not apologize for that. It is not Alabama's responsibility for the other teams to be good.)
There is more to the "schedule luck" component than just which teams are on the schedule. One needs also to look at when the games fall on the schedule. Again, Bama has a big break. It gets the two games considered most difficult far apart, Texas A&M early, LSU late. And for a final piece of good fortune, the Tide has an open date before both those games.
Many would also consider where a game is played. Even though Alabama has suffered big losses at home (in fact, the Tide's last three losses have all been in Bryant-Denny Stadium) and big wins on the road, the home field advantage is a consideration.
Alabama was able to overcome a loss in both 2011 and 2012 and win the national championship. It is difficult to go undefeated, but it is also realistic to consider Bama to be superior to every team on its schedule, and when we returned our ballot to the Scout.com SEC Publishers for its annual poll, we predicted Alabama as the league champion. That was the consensus result.
We don't expect our final predictions (which differed slightly from the overall SEC Publishers Poll) to be 100 per cent. There were quite a few games where we had paper-thin conviction. For instance, although we do not see Auburn as the favorite in any SEC game this year after a horrible 2012 season and a change in coaching staff, we also expect the Tigers to be competitive enough to win as many as four league contests.
We expect Georgia back in the SEC Championship Game as Bama's opponent.
Here's how we see the division races this year with SEC and overall records:
1. Alabama 8-0/12-0
2. LSU 7-1/11-1
3. Texas A&M 6-2/10-2
4. Ole Miss 4-4/7-5
5. Arkansas 2-6/6-6
6. Mississippi State 2-6/5-7
7. Auburn 0-8/4-8
1. Georgia 7-1/11-1
2. South Carolina 7-1/11-1
3. Florida 5-3/8-4
4. Missouri 3-5/7-5
5. Vanderbilt 3-5/7-5
6. Tennessee 2-6/5-7
7. Kentucky 0-8/2-10
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