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College Football Preview: SEC

Jordan Matthews
All SEC Team
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
OL La'el Collins, LSU
OL Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OL Travis Swanson, Arkansas
OL Anthony Steen, Alabama
DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DT Anthony Johnson, LSU
DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
DE Danielle Hunter, LSU
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB Trey DePriest, Alabama
LB Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri
S Craig Loston, LSU
S HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Conference Realignment for SEC: Both Missouri and Texas A&M enter their second year in the conference, with the Aggies having a dream inaugural year. The SEC may not add another team or two to the conference but why should they? It has dominated the college football landscape throughout the last decade and it should stay much the same this year and in the future.


1. Georgia Bulldogs National Rank: 6
The Bulldogs were a couple yards away from a national championship appearance last season and they return one of the big reasons they were so strong in 2012: Aaron Murray. The strong-armed quarterback can make all the throws but he isn't the only dangerous offensive threat on this team as sophomore Todd Gurley returns. A lot of pieces are gone from this defense but linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Amarlo Herrera and cornerback Damian Swann should keep it strong enough.

2. South Carolina Gamecocks National Rank: 8
Georgia coach Mark Richt wasn't too far off when he called Jadeveon Clowney the best player in all of football. The junior end returns to anchor a scary defense that also includes defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and junior Chaz Sutton, who should start opposite Clowney on the line. There is a little bit of a quarterback controversy brewing in Columbia as Steve Spurrier must decide between senior Conner Shaw or junior Dylan Thompson. Whoever starts is more than capable to lead the Gamecocks to a SEC East championship.

3. Florida Gators National Rank: 11
In order for the Gators to challenge for a national title once more quarterback Jeff Driskel must take big steps in 2013. The junior had a strong year on the ground but his passing game is still something to be desired. The Gators have one of the nation's most versatile players in specialist Loucheiz Purifoy who can spend time at both receiver and cornerback and is a real threat in special teams. Even if Driskel struggles and the Gators struggle to find a back to replace Mike Gillislee the defense should keep them competitive with the return of cornerback Jaylen Watkins and and junior linebacker Ronald Powell.

4. Vanderbilt Commodores National Rank: Unranked
James Franklin has quickly made an impact in Nashville as he has turned the Commodores into a tough team in a brutal SEC. Vandy went 9-4 last season but said goodbye to quarterback Jordan Rodgers and speedy back Zac Stacy. Senior receiver Jordan Matthews is one of the nation's best at his position as he uses a great mix of size and speed to make an impact. Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels who is more of a dual threat then Rodgers. The defense also has the talent to keep Vanderbilt in games even if Carta-Samuels struggles to adjust to the starting role.

5. Missouri Tigers National Rank: Unranked
Missouri's first year in the SEC wasn't quite what coach Gary Pinkel and fans were hoping for as the Tigers faltered to a 5-7 mark. Senior quarterback James Franklin is a talented dual threat who should take big steps with more games in the tough conference under his belt. He has some talented targets including senior L'Damian Washington and sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham. The Tigers were usually outmatched in 2012 on both of the lines and struggled to adjust to the SEC's psychical brand of football. With the return of cornerback E.J. Gaines and Pinkel recruiting their new style the Tigers should improve.

6. Tennessee Volunteers National Rank: Unranked
New coach Butch Jones arrives from Cincinnati hoping to excite a fan base that has seen a 28-33 team the past five seasons. Tyler Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter are all gone but that may not be the worst thing as it gives the Vols a new look. The talent at back is pretty tremendous with the return of Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal, both who rushed for 650+ yards in 2012. The Vols scored a lot of points last season but their defense was atrocious throughout much of last year. Junior linebacker A.J. Johnson returns after recording 138 tackles in 2012 and end Jacques Smith is a real talent.

7. Kentucky Wildcats National Rank: Unranked
The Wildcats likely will never be much of a football team but the future is bright for new coach Mark Stoops. Sophomore Maxwell Smith missed all but four games in 2012 but has the potential to run Stoops' aggressive offense. Junior receiver Demarco Robinson gives Smith a talent to work with in the passing game but the rest of this offense is relatively unproven. Six starters return on an improving defense including tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble. Avery Williamson also returns at the middle linebacker slot after racking up 135 tackles in 2012.


1. Alabama Crimson Tide National Rank: 1
Alabama fans are becoming accustomed to seeing their teams win national championships and they shouldn't be disappointed this season. The Crimson Tide have the talent on both sides of the ball to win their third straight national championship. Senior A.J. McCarron returns at the quarterback position, along with sophomores T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper. The defense is always talented in Tuscaloosa and there will be no exception this year for Alabama. Linebacker C.J. Mosley can rack up tackle after tackle and HaHa Clinton-Dix and Trey DePriest are All-American caliber talents.

2. Texas A&M Aggies National Rank: 4
Talent is no issue in College Station as the Aggies return the nation's most exciting talent in Johnny Manziel. Though there is questions if he might be ruled ineligible due to the fact he received money for his autographs. Even if he is Texas A&M should still be a contender with the return of senior back Ben Malena and Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams. Cornerback Deshazor Everett, wide receiver Mike Evans and tackle Jake Matthews give this team a solid core. If Manziel is ruled eligible and the Aggies manage to find a way past Alabama in "The Rematch"  a national championship could be on the horizon.

3. LSU Tigers National Rank: 15
People are writing off the Tigers as national title contenders this year with a lot of pieces gone from a disappointing 10-3 2012 team. But, they shouldn't too fast as the Tigers still could be a real threat in the SEC. Senior Zach Mettenberger is the X-factor; the quarterback had a rollercoaster of a year in 2012 but should improve with more experience and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should aid in his development. As usual, LSU has a ton of talents in the backfield with the reinstatement of sophomore Jeremy Hill and senior Alfred Blue. Another reason that Mettenberger should improve is the great options at receiver with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham both returning. The defense lost so much but it is LSU, and they always have great defenders that are ready to fill in. Safety Craig Loston is a hard hitter who can make plays from the beginning and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson is a force.

4. Ole Miss Rebels National Rank: 23
Oxford is buzzing about the future for the Rebels after their impressive recruiting class. Though they should make an impact in the SEC West this year as well with the return of quarterback Bo Wallace, speedy back Jeff Scott and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. Wallace is a dual threat who really improved every snap last season and their offensive line should take big steps in 2013. Along with Nkemdiche, who had 82 tackles last year, linebacker Mike Marry also returns and the No.1 overall recruit in all of the land, Robert Nkemdiche should make an impact from the start.

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs National Rank: Unranked
The Bulldogs teased fans last season, starting off 7-0 before dropping five of their last six including blowout losses to Alabama and Texas A&M. Senior QB Tyler Russell struggled at the end of 2012 like a lot of this team but he should improve in a number of ways this season. Senior guard Gabe Jackson anchors a solid offensive line and tight end Malcolm Johnson gives Russell a quality option in the passing game that can make big plays. The defense should step up in big ways thanks to a dominant front seven that includes Preston Smith and end Denico Autry. Though the Bulldogs lose a very true talent when cornerback Jonathan Banks graduated. Mississippi State should be better than last season but even if they are, the tough SEC might make a double-digit win total impossible.

6. Arkansas Razorbacks National Rank: Unranked
4-8 was a massive disappointment for the Razorbacks last year and they must now break in a new quarterback, new system and a new coaching staff. A team that used to be accustomed to throwing all over opponents and playing little defense welcomes in Bret Bielema, known for his power running attack. Arkansas has the talent on their offensive line to run this attack with the return of center Travis Swanson and other experience. Sophomore Jonathan Williams should likely take over as the primary back after 231 yards in 2012. In order for Bielema's system to work he needs this defense to improve. Senior end Chris Smith is a disruptive pass rusher and Trey Flowers can make some plays. Arkansas just doesn't have the players to win right now but Bielema should soon have this program back on their feet.

7. Auburn Tigers National Rank: Unranked
It has been a stunning fall from grace for Auburn as a team that won 14 games in 2010 and was the national champion, struggled to a 3-9 record last season. New coach Gus Malzahn returns after serving as offensive coordinator in that championship season. Back Tre Mason can make plays out of the backfield and junior receiver Quan Bray must step up as the Tigers lose their top three receivers from 2012. That is an issue as Auburn has little experience at quarterback as they will likely need to rely on sophomore Jonathan Wallace. The defense has experience and talent with Nosa Eguae and Jake Holland who had 73 tackles last year.

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