by Dave Miller
June 17, 02013
With spring practice in the books and preseason camp battles not too far away, let's take a look at some power rankings for each FBS conference.
First up, the SEC. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the Big Ten.
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide remain on top until they get beat. There's no question this team could win its fourth BCS national championship in five seasons because of an always sound defense and an offense that features quarterback AJ McCarron, receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon. The offensive line lost three players to the NFL Draft, but the new-look unit should be fine.
US PRESSWIREAaron Murray and the Bulldogs offense is loaded with weapons.
2. Georgia: The amount of talent the Bulldogs lost on defense is concerning, but Todd Grantham's unit at least was able to develop depth last year. But not having strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons in the season opener against Clemson will be difficult to overcome. However, quarterback Aaron Murray and the running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will operate behind a veteran offensive line for a unit that is expected to score a lot of points this fall.
3. Texas A&M: The Aggies will have a target on their backs all season long after their standout debut season in the SEC, and all eyes will be on their rematch with Alabama early in the year. Besides seeing how he will operate without coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and left tackle Luke Joeckel, the major question is how quarterback Johnny Manziel will fare with defenses prepared to play a ton of zone defense and make the Heisman Trophy winner beat them with his arm. Defensively, five starters have departed from the front seven.
4. South Carolina: A two-quarterback system just may work in Columbia if Steve Spurrier goes that route with Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, and running back Mike Davis is solid. Star end Jadeveon Clowney leads a strong front, but will the young secondary get exposed?
5. Florida: Quarterback Jeff Driskel should take the next step in his development after a full year of starting experience, but he still doesn't seem to have a lot of consistent and explosive weapons on the outside. Defensively, there is still a lot of talent despite the loss of two first-round NFL Draft picks. But leaning too heavily on a younger defense may be too much to ask if UF wants to play for the SEC title.
6. LSU: The Tigers will be much improved on offense under new coordinator Cam Cameron, particularly quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who closed out the 2012 campaign strong. Keep an eye, however, on the legal troubles of star running back Jeremy Hill. The defense lost an abundance of talent from last year's squad, so it may take awhile for the unit to gel. The line should be okay, but there are questions at linebacker and in the secondary.
7. Vanderbilt: The Commodores are not only cleaning up on the recruiting trail under James Franklin, but they're also performing well on the field. And while there are still unsettled matters at quarterback and running back, receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are prolific weapons for what should be an exciting offense. Meanwhile, the backside of the defense is the strength of the unit.
8. Ole Miss: Quarterback Bo Wallace should be 100 percent for the start of the season after missing spring practice, and much of last season's surprise team returns. But despite an excellent recruiting class this past February, there are still depth issues. Who will emerge as weapons for Wallace? And is there enough up front on defense?
9. Mississippi State: Quarterback Tyler Russell needs to find new weapons at receiver, and the secondary has to replace Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay at cornerback. But ends Denico Autry and Ryan Brown lead what should be a solid defensive line.
10. Auburn: Bringing back Gus Malzahn to The Plains was the right move for the Tigers. Many of the players on the offensive side of the ball fit his scheme. And Ellis Johnson will have the defense playing at a fairly high level eventually. But how improved can Auburn really be in Year One under its new head coach? The quarterback situation will dictate a lot of the team's success.
US PRESSWIREDorial Green-Beckham is primed for a big year in his second season at Mizzou.
11. Missouri: The Tigers didn't adjust to SEC play quite like Texas A&M did, as the Tigers went 5-7 last fall. Expect a big year from top Class of 2012 receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but who will be trying to get the ball to him in the fall? The quarterback position and protection issues up front can't plague this offense again if Mizzou wants to return to the postseason.
12. Arkansas: New head coach Bret Bielema will get things done at Arkansas. He has instilled a new attitude and toughness within this program, and he identified his quarterback in redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen. But line play on both sides of the football will tell the tale of Razorbacks football in 2013. And does the offense have enough skill players to keep up in case the defense is shaky?
13. Tennessee: The job that first-year head coach Butch Jones is doing on the recruiting trail in such a short amount of time is incredible. There's no question he is steering this program in the right direction thus far. But the Vols have major issues on offense, with quarterback Tyler Bray and his star receivers gone. The offensive line will be one of the best in the nation, so a strong rushing attack is crucial. The defense was woeful in 2012, so adapting well to the new 4-3 scheme is imperative.
14. Kentucky: Much like how Jones is working wonders on the recruiting trail, first-time head coach Mark Stoops is doing an amazing job as well in Lexington, where he has the football fanbase in a frenzy. Finding an identity on offense will be a chore, and the line will have to be the heart and soul of a young defense.