After an active offseason, the most anticipated SEC football season in recent memory is upon us. Which two teams make it to Atlanta and have a chance at the national championship? Here are our picks.
---We’ll start with arguably the most fascinating team in football: Texas A&M. After a huge introduction to the SEC, the Johnny Manziel led Aggies held their own in the west with a huge win over Alabama and a stout 10-3 season. Manziel, football’s first freshman Heisman winner, has since had a tough offseason, getting into trouble all over Texas and drawing an investigation by the NCAA for charges of receiving money for autographs. Even though A&M is deep at running back, it may not make up for a weak defensive line. They shouldn’t repeat against Bama, leading the Aggies to another 9-3 season. Note: This is subject to change, depending on a Manziel suspension.
---One of the losses A&M will experience will come from an always fiery Les Miles-coached LSU team. With the addition of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, this should be a pass-first offense, shinning the lights brightly on receivers Jarvis Landry and James Wright. The Tigers are a tough team, but not tougher than their schedule, which features them facing Georgia on Sept. 28, Florida two weeks later, and Alabama Nov. 9. We expect the Tigers to finish the season 10-2.
---Of course, all eyes will be on the recent owner of the SEC West: Alabama. Nick Saban has created a dynasty in Tuscaloosa, winning three national championships in the last four years. With AJ McCarron leading this always strong offense and TJ Yeldon in the backfield, I have no reason to believe this team cannot stay perfect until Atlanta. The Tide should roll though their schedule, going 12-0.
---Though Florida is strong, injuries to offensive leaders have taken their toll on the Gators, giving them a 7-5 season and a third-place finish in the SEC East.
---It should be a two-horse race in the east between Georgia and South Carolina. The Gamecocks have an explosive offense with Connor Shaw leading the huddle and Mike Davis getting carries out of the backfield. The Ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier finally got his wish for an easy SEC schedule, not having to play Bama, LSU or Texas A&M. This will help them get to a 10-2 season — which could easily go 12-0 if Georgia stumbles out of the gate. The Gamecocks have taken three straight from the Dawgs. That showdown occurs Sept. 7 in Athens.
--- Georgia has arguably the nation’s best offense with QB Aaron Murray looking for a record-breaking season. With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall running and Malcolm Mitchell receiving, this team should have no problem putting up points. The question will be how many they give up with their young defense. The Dawgs will be tested from the start, facing three top 10 teams (Clemson, South Carolina and LSU) in their first four games. UGA is prone to slow starts, which I believe they will experience against another crazy good offense in Clemson. The Dawgs should rebound from that loss, going 11-1 on the season. I could easily see this team going undefeated or going 8-4. Only time and a tough schedule will tell.
So if you kept score, the match up we have under the Georgia Dome in December will feature a rematch of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. It will be a tough game for both, but as last year, it will come down to who has the ball on the last drive. Learning from last year’s heart breaker, Georgia pulls it out in the final minutes and wins the SEC Championship.
Now take this in stride as it could easily good either way, but we do believe for certain: Whoever wins in Atlanta should vie for an eighth straight National Championship for the SEC. College’s greatest conference will once again show its strength to the nation.