The SEC has consistently been the best conference in college football and last year was no different, as seven teams from the conference finished in the final Top 25 ranking. With the 2014 season on the horizon, the SEC is expected to maintain its dominance over other conferences, as evident by the recently released Coach's Poll, which has seven schools in the Top 25, with Missouri and Florida just on the outside looking in.
While it appears to be a given that the conference will have another big year, a few teams have a chance to finish on top in their divisions. In 2013, Auburn led the way in the SEC with a 12-2 overall record. After defeating Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn suffered a narrow defeat to Jameis Winston and Florida State in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
Auburn is expected to be one of the top teams in the country and compete for a national title, but it won’t be easy for head coach Gus Malzahn and his team to repeat their success of a year ago. Quarterback Nick Marshall returns and won’t miss significant time after being arrested for marijuana possession, but running back Tre Mason is gone, after rushing for 1,816 yards. The Tigers performed better than anyone expected in 2014, and they won’t be taken lightly this time around.
Despite a disappointing finish to last season, Alabama has as good of a chance as any school to win the first ever college football playoff. The Crimson Tide have their own set of challenges, having to replace quarterback AJ McCarron, who was a starter for three consecutive seasons. However, Nick Saban has led the team to double-digit victories in each of the last six years.
The Western Division remains strong, with five teams in the top 25, and every team receiving at least one vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Auburn and Alabama, though, have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all have a legitimate chance to finish third in the division.
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The Eastern Division might have more contention at the top, but two teams look like they will separate themselves from the rest. South Carolina finished last year ranked No.4 in the country, ending the season with a victory over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Georgia had a disappointing season, going just 8-5, but both teams are top candidates to reach the 2014 SEC Championship Game.
The Gamecocks will rely on a strong offensive attack, and the defense will have to recover from losing a few top stars to the NFL. Georgia’s defense should be better, and the team should have better luck, having lost four contests by five or less points. Florida appears to be a dark horse contender in the division, as the Gators might be due to overachieve after two subpar seasons in three years under head coach Will Muschamp.
Below are predictions for the 2014 SEC standings, including what two teams will face off in the conference title game.
1) South Carolina
3) Texas A&M
5) Ole Miss
6) Mississippi State
2014 SEC Championship Game
Alabama over South Carolina