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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 7:00 PM

We purposely saved the best for last because the SEC West has been such a dramatic part of the National Championship picture in recent seasons. A representative didn’t win last season…but Auburn came oh-so-close against Florida State…on the heels of Alabama’s multiple titles.

The best of the division will once again be in the national title discussion. But, things could really get WILD in league play long before that even becomes an issue:

*Auburn is in a letdown spot after a huge surprise season

*Alabama will have a new starting quarterback

*LSU will have a new starting quarterback

*Texas A&M will have a new starting quarterback

*Ole Miss and Mississippi State both return effective starting quarterbacks, which could launch them up into the mix in dramatic fashion.

That’s the most volatile mix from any division in 2014. Let’s dig a little deeper in our GRAND FINALE preview from our summer series of college football conference discussions.

 

SEC West

Alabama

2013 Record: 11-2

2013 Rankings: 33 on offense, 5 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 3 on defense

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Notebook: This season will provide a true test of whether or not Alabama can just “reload” after losing a lot of talent. Only three starters return to what is typically a fantastic defense. A new quarterback takes over with the departure of AJ McCarron. Last year’s team was 11-0 until losing their season finale in stunning fashion to Auburn, and then no-showing the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. How far will the Tide fall from possibly “uncrowned” champion to being “the hunted” in a division full of revenge-minded rivals? The schedule looks pretty easy until November for all the new starters on the block.

 

Auburn

2013 Record: 12-2

2013 Rankings: 11 on offense, 86 on defense

Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn

Notebook: Auburn is the only team not to have revenge against Alabama, but they’ll be fired up for their rival anyway in the season finale. Between now and then, Auburn will have a very tough September trip to Kansas State, October home games against LSU and South Carolina, and then November challenges at Ole Miss and at Georgia. This team could actually improve a bit from last year but drop as many games because of a tough schedule. Quarterback Nick Marshall returns…and he sure was a handful for opponents from midseason on. Can he continue to outscore what this disappointing defense will allow?

 

LSU

2013 Record: 10-3

2013 Rankings: 35 on offense, 15 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense

Head Coach: Les Miles

Notebook: Zack Mettenberger is gone at quarterback. A season opener vs. Wisconsin in Houston will provide a quick early test. September might as well be one long bye month before challenges pick up again. Easy to see this team closing strong if the new quarterback can get his bearings by midseason. The number of returning starters is high enough to assume continuing quality, but low enough to raise at least a few questions.

 

Texas A&M

2013 Record: 9-4

2013 Rankings: 4 on offense, 109 on defense

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 8 on defense

Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin

Notebook: No more Johnny Football! Manziel is now in the NFL, and man-oh-man are Aggies fans worried about how this season is going to go. Last year’s defense was horrific…so returning a lot of starters may not be much of a positive. Can the offense succeed with a new quarterback? Tough opener at South Carolina before a relative vacation until mid-October. A&M will face Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in alternate matchups over the last five games. JIM HURLEY will be watching that season opener very closely. Things could get bleak very quickly if the offense loses a few steps and the defense still can’t tackle anybody.

 

Mississippi State

2013 Record: 7-6

2013 Rankings: 42 on offense, 18 on defense

Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 8 on defense

Head Coach: Dan Mullen

Notebook: The Dan Mullen era has largely fizzled after some early promise. But, the stage is set for something very positive this year. You’ve just read that many in this division will be breaking in new quarterbacks. Dak Prescott returns for the Bulldogs, who return eight starters on both sides of the ball. An easy first three games leads into a road battle at LSU on September 20. Then A&M and Auburn are on top in October, before Alabama shows up on the schedule in mid-November. That kind of spacing creates a chance to avoid a physical wear-down. This is definitely a team that should be on your “value” radar entering the new campaign.

 

Mississippi

2013 Record: 8-5

2013 Rankings: 21 on offense, 38 on defense

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 9 on defense

Head Coach: Hugh Freeze

Notebook: Ole Miss is another team that can rise up and make headlines thanks to returning quarterback Bo Wallace. You can see that the offense ranked #21 last year while playing in a league with a lot of good defenses. They do lose some experience on that side of the ball, but could have an even better defense this season. They can make a statement in a season opener against Boise State in Atlanta. The home slate includes both Alabama and Auburn in league play. You know Coach Freeze would love a signature home upset of one of those teams. Pay attention to the Mississippi schools this year!

 

Arkansas

2013 Record: 3-9

2013 Rankings: 99 on offense, 76 on defense

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense

Head Coach: Bret Bielema

Notebook: The Hogs were a huge disappointment in Bielema’s first year after coming over from Wisconsin. They started 3-0 but ended 3-9…and that included some very ugly losses. You can see that graduation hurt. Quarterback play is going to be a big problem, making it hard to chase down the Mississippi schools from behind. Probably another rebuilding year before Bielema can get all of his ducks in a row. They may have the talent to catch a conference foe napping once lookaheads and letdowns come into play later in league action. 

That wraps up our July look at college football. August brings our NFL divisional previews, which kick off Sunday with the NFC East to get you ready for the Hall of Fame game. With regular season football now just a month away, you should be building bankroll with daily baseball. You can purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us at 1-888-777-4155.

Ahead in the NOTEBOOK the next few days…

Friday: MLB Series Preview: Milwaukee at St. Louis

Saturday: MLB Big Game Preview: either Seattle at Baltimore or LAA at Tampa Bay

Sunday: NFC East Preview to get you ready for the NYG vs. Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game!

Monday: MLB Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels at the Los Angeles Dodgers!

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview: either Detroit at NYY, or SF at Milwaukee

The NFL swings into full Preseason action on Sunday, and we’ll finish out the NFC for you in that first weekend. Don’t forget that THE DOLLARS OF AUGUST multiple themselves over several times between now and the Super Bowl. Grab all you can with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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