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Alabama will have the most wins in the SEC

Handicapping SEC Conference Football

Auburn came out of nowhere a year ago to take down the top college football conference in the nation in its first year under Gus Malzahn. They won’t be catching anyone off guard this season, and that’s likely to mean a new conference champion this upcoming season.

Alabama Crimson Tide

National title: +600
Conference winning odds: +130
Futures from sportsbook.ag

The top contender would have to be Alabama, though the likes of LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia, will surely have something to say about that.

SEC Overview

The end to Alabama’s 2013 season wasn’t pretty, with a loss in the Iron Bowl, then another in the Sugar Bowl. That meant the program’s first losing streak since the 2008 season. Now the team looks to bounce back, and do so while working in a new quarterback after AJ McCarron left town.

After bringing in a top-5 recruiting class each of the last three seasons, the Tide enter the college football season as easily the most talented team in the conference, so don’t expect a rebuilding year from a team that disappointed in 2013.

The Auburn Tigers will give the Tide the biggest run for their money. The teams won’t meet until their traditional Iron Bowl matchup at the end of the regular season – lucky for Auburn, which has spent the offseason dealing with issues around quarterback Nick Marshall.

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The team will need to replace running back Tre Mason, though the team will likely have little trouble running the ball for as long as Gus Malzahn is around. Fixing their issues in the defensive secondary is another story altogether.

LSU is also waiting in the weeds, and always poses a threat to the conference’s top teams. The Tigers bring in top running back recruit Leonard Fournette to fill the shoes of Jeremy Hill, who left for the NFL.
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Ole Miss is a team on the rise in the West. Coach Freeze has helped the team’s defense improve every year since he’s been in town, and now, a lot of pundits expect the team to assume a dark horse role in the conference and flirt with double-digit wins.

Mississippi State is another team on the rise in the conference, with Coach Mullen’s squad really making noise in recent years. The Texas A&M Aggies also pose a threat to the conference’s top teams. Johnny Manziel is gone, but Kevin Sumlin knows offense, so that unit likely won’t regress as much as some expect.

The story out East is very different. The talent gap between the elite teams and the also-rans is far greater. Georgia has a very impressive collection of talent, but Mark Richt’s sends out a young squad this season, so there could be some growing pains. The only pain involved with running back Todd Gurley will be the pain he dishes out.

South Carolina is the squad many pundits expect will claim the SEC’s East Division. Steve Spurrier’s team lost Jadeveon Clowney to the draft, but there’s still plenty of talent in town. Running back Mike Davis could be this year’s Tre Mason.

Florida also appears poised for a major step forward. The team dealt with significant injuries a year ago, and are due for some better luck this season. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who came to Gainesville after jump-starting Duke’s offense, should be a breath of fresh air into the unit, and could rejuvenate Jeff Driskel’s career.

A lot came together at the right time for Missouri a year ago. A step back is in order.

Why Alabama will win the SEC

The Tide are easily the most talented squad in the conference, and after getting a wake-up call last season, they should come back more focused, and as determined as ever. The team’s quarterback situation should work itself out, and there’s enough talent all over the field to make sure it does.

Prediction: 11-1

The SEC saw some surprise teams really come alive last season, but this upcoming season should see a more expected result. Alabama appears ready for a return to glory, and it’s difficult to imagine them not qualifying for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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