Alabama looks to be the first repeat SEC champ since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998. Photo: USA Today Sports
At last, the Crystal Ball Run weighs in on the championship picture in the SEC. Can Alabama win a second straight SEC title, a feat last accomplished by Tennessee in 1997 and 1998, or can the SEC East champion bring home the SEC championship trophy for the first time since Tim Tebow and Florida upset top-ranked Alabama, sending the Crimson Tide to take on Utah in the Sugar Bowl as a consolation prize? As our final conference predictions may show, there are a number of championship contenders in the SEC from both divisions to watch closely.
Dave Singleton: To be the best, you have to beat the best. For the last two seasons, Alabama has been the best, although they have not gone through either season unscathed. Looking at all of that, then, I might be crazy for what I am about to say: Alabama will not be playing for the BCS title this season.
I expect a team from the East Division to rise up and unseat the West Division Champion come December 7. And I'm choosing South Carolina to be that team. I expect this to be the season that it all comes together for Steve Spurrier's squad, especially with a schedule that sets up decently for them, missing the top three contenders in the West.
Okay, I definitely am crazy. But hey, if you're going to make a prediction, why not make a slightly ludicrous one?
Champ: South Carolina over Alabama
MVP: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Coach of the Year: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Andy Coppens: Bold stuff there Mr. Singleton and I'm going to follow you. If ever there was a year that South Carolina can make a run it's this one. Yes, I think the hype over Jadeveon Clowney has gotten a little out of control. Its amazing what one awesome hit can do for your profile - well that and a rumored 4.4 40 as a defensive end. However, this team on the whole is very very good and if they can survive a hellacious schedule from start to finish this team will be the No. 1 ranked team in the country (bookend the season with UNC and Clemson on top of SEC challenge).
As for out west I think you have to go with Texas A&M, after all they, just like the moon, control the Tide - right? Seriously though I like what they bring to the table on the defensive side of the ball this season and it may be a case of Johnny Football being even better this year than last because he'll be able to focus on football come Saturday. Is it possible for his legend to grow? If they make the SEC Championship game they will. It'll come down to Alabama and aTm and with that game at home I'll take the Aggies and 12th man.
Championship: South Carolina over Texas A&M
MVP: Johnny Manziel
Coach of the Year: Bret Bielema
Allen Kenney: Those sound like balls-over-brains picks. I'm with you on South Carolina in the East. People are probably underestimating how much the Gamecocks have to replace on defense from an experience standpoint. Steve Spurrier and his staff have done a nice job acquiring talent on that side of the ball, though, especially on the defensive line.
In the West, I'm not going against Alabama. The schedule sets up nicely for the Tide. Getting Texas A&M early in the season is a big plus, to me, because 'Bama will have a chance to take advantage of the Aggies' newcomers in the front seven.
Come December, I foresee the Tide taking down South Carolina and rolling on to Pasadena.
Champ: Alabama over South Carolina
MVP: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Coach of the Year: Nick Saban, Alabama
Kevin McGuire: I'm going to take the cheap way out on this one and suggest that Alabama has reached a point where until they are beaten, they will remain the team to beat. I get that the odds are that at some point the Crimson Tide will at some point be blocked from an SEC title, and three-peat champions in this competitive of a conference is not exactly to be expected. But when it comes down to which program has the most complete team from the sidelines to the offense to the defense, I'll line my chips up with Nick Saban's program just about every time. The SEC West could actually be determined in mid-September when the Tide head out to visit Texas A&M, and I'm calling for an Alabama victory right now. From there, what will stand in their way of another trip to Atlanta and who from the East will have enough in the tool box to topple them in a one-game situation?
The three-way race between Georgia, South Carolina and Florida in the east is a tough one. Jadeveon Clowney aside, the Gamecocks are nothing too special on defense, and Georgia replaces a lot of talent from a defense that was average but took advantage of turnovers to overshadow their issues. Florida's offense continues to frustrate down in Gainesville too, so all three top contenders in the east have some valid concerns this season. They will all be good, but they will need to be great to put an end to Alabama's run.
Champ: Alabama over Florida
MVP: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Coach of the Year: Butch Jones, Tennessee