The Contenders: These teams are threats on both sides of the football and their production is only matched by their talent, athleticism and coaching. Improvements are still needed but these teams are in the hunt for the Southeastern Conference Title:
Alabama – The Crimson Tide did not look the part, on either offense or defense, of a national title contender, still we must consider the talent and coaching associated with the Alabama football program. Iron out problems in the defensive line/secondary, have either Jacob Coker or Blake Sims win the signal caller job, and the Crimson Tide will be firmly in play in both the SEC West race and the conference title debate.
Auburn – In a true showcase of an elite conference team, Auburn played around with the Razorbacks for a half before managing to still mustard a three touchdown victory over their SEC West foe. The Tigers program still needs to clean up a few aspects of their game but it is clear that Auburn has the thoroughbreds to win the Western Division Derby. If Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall continues to distribute to Sammie Coates and Duke Williams, this offense will become virtually unstoppable.
Georgia – Athens might be the home to the best running back and linebacker core in all of college football, two units that totally dominated in their victory over Clemson. Still many improvements in the UGA secondary and wide receiving core must happen before gift wrapping the SEC East title to the Bulldogs. September 13th the Bulldogs will face South Carolina, in a match-up that will probably decide the SEC East race.
Texas A&M – The Aggies’ offense is elite, maybe the best in all of college football, but the SEC West demands much more than point. Texas A&M will have to continue to improve across their three levels of defense to have any chance of staying in the divisional and conference title race. A&M will be depending on a youthful secondary and defensive line to improve to stop the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss.
The Missing Element: Whether their defensive line is thin or the receiving core can’t stretch the field, there is a hole that will need to be patched before moving into the Southeastern Conference’s most elite category.
Florida – With the cancellation of their contest against Idaho, the eyes of the conference will have to wait another week to form early season conclusions on the 2014 Gators. Eastern Michigan will not challenge the athleticism of Florida this Saturday but the Gators will have the opportunity to win over their fans with new coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread offensive attack. Florida’s talent will keep the Gators in this category until their first game but the offense must be able to score point to win the SEC East.
Mississippi State – The 2014 Bulldogs feature the most depth Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has had since arriving in Starkville. The unfortunate part of this advantage is, the debatable best Bulldog team since 1999, still might only be the fourth best team in the SEC West. Moreover, the fate of the 2014 Mississippi State Bulldogs will rest on the health and legs of quarterback Dak Prescott. If Prescott delivers an All-SEC season, then the Bulldogs will be in the conversation in the SEC West race.
Missouri – Too many unknowns remain to begin debating the range of the Tigers successes this season but Missouri’s win over South Dakota State showed one truth, speed and talent still exist within their skill positions. The next variable the Tigers must prove is the legibility of their defense. If their defensive line and secondary play to the levels forecasted by many SEC writers, Mizzou will be in the SEC East mix.
Ole Miss – It is hard to criticize a season opening victory against Boise State but the Rebels did not look organized in Atlanta. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was very careless with the pigskin and put doubts into Rebels fans whether he will ever reach his full potential. With a defense full of future NFL players, it will be the improvement of the Rebels offense that will determine their Southeastern Conference fate in 2014.
LSU – Glass half full or glass half empty, LSU played awful in their victory Saturday night over Wisconsin. Still, no team in the Southeastern Conference has more room for improvement than the Bayou Bengals. LSU already has the best overall secondary in the conference and by seasons end the Tigers could have the potential to have the best defensive line. Last, questions marks at the wide receiver and quarterback position must be answered before moving the Bayou Bengals up into the next tier of the SEC.
South Carolina – The Ole Ball Coach ripped into his coaches and players to the levels only Spurrier could get away with after their loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. If last Thursday was not the true 2014 Gamecocks, then South Carolina will need to demolish ECU this weekend and regain their SEC East respect with a win over Georgia on September 13th. The Gamecocks must first fix their pass defense for this to happen.
The Pretenders: The trick is up and the truth is out. There is a glaring weakness in the teams listed below and it will cost them an opportunity to compete for the SEC Title. Based on their performance last weekend, each team must remedy their weaknesses before moving up and out of this category.
Kentucky – The Wildcats have improved at about every aspect of the game from their awful 2013 campaign. Kentucky has found a SEC level quarterback, play-makers at wide receiver/running back positions and continue to improve on defense. Kentucky will still have their ups and downs this season but the eye test shows that the Wildcats are better this season, but their difficult schedule will probably not allow a bowl birth.
Arkansas – The Razorbacks have three running backs that would start at 98% of all college football programs. But with deficiencies at wide receiver, linebacker and corner, the Razorbacks are still well below the median average in the brutal SEC West. With that said, the Hogs should register an upset this season, due to their strong offensive and defensive line. Our uneducated pick would be their Sept. 13th trip to Texas Tech.
Tennessee – The Volunteers looked sharp on Sunday night. The rebuilt offensive line and a make-shift defense performed better than most anticipated. Another strong performance against Arkansas State and hold their own against Oklahoma and a reevaluation of the Vols program might be in order. Still UT has the most difficult schedule in all of college football. It will be difficult to reach a bowl game in 2014.
The Damned: There is no light at the end of the tunnel, there is no rescuing your season, the Southeastern Conference has proven beyond your grasp once again. Below you will find the reasoning your program can not be moved into a higher category.
Vanderbilt – A loss to the powerhouse…well, middle of the road, maybe lower tier American Athletic Conference Temple Owls does not project a successful SEC season for the Commodores. It is going to take a lot of winning to help forget about this one.