As y’all know by this website, we spend our time being very, very nice about the SEC. But September rolls closer, we’re going to say a few things that you probably won’t like and certainly won’t agree with.

But, as my uncle Hank said to me: “Opinions are like mouthholes. Everyone’s got one” (He may have substituted the word ‘mouth’ for something else, but not on this family website!)”.

Listen, No. 1’s pretty good. Then again, so are Nos. 2 and No. 3. We predict all three of them to make a splash around draft-time in 2014, if they can stay injured and out of trouble.

1. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)

Listen, we all know about the off-season that Johnny Football has had, but really, it should be no surprise that the Heisman Trophy winner that – if you believe the highlight film – beat Alabama single-handed and took Texas A&M to the promised land of a New Year’s Day Bowl win against Oklahoma (where they destroyed the Sooners), has been named No.1 on the SEC Football Blog’s 2013 list. Frankly, if he wasn’t, we’d be a bit shocked with ourselves. The guy can brutalise defences with his arm AND his feet.

In terms of weapons, Johnny Football’s going to miss his excellent left tackle (now right tackle) in Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis, who have both gone to the NFL , and he’s sure as hell going to miss wide receivers Ryan Swope, Thomas Johnson and Uzoma Nwachukanu. Can Mike Evans – who had over 1,100 yards receiving in 2012 – continue his god-like qualities in 2013. If not, Manziel could probably do it all himself anyway.

Now, there is some worry coming out of Kyle Field that Manziel may miss a game or two or four for his role in an autographs scandal, but right now, he’s the best quarterback in college football, let alone the SEC.

2) AJ McCarron (Alabama)

We procrastinated over whether we’d put Alabama’s McCarron over Georgia’s Aaron Murray, but we put McCarron over Murray because we believe a few things. One: McCarron’s got two National Championships. Two: We believe McCarron’s a better game manager than Murray – see him pull one out of the box against LSU and Georgia for details. Three: He’s got better wide receivers. Amari Cooper is one hell of a weapon to have. Cooper helped McCarron to an excellent 2012, where he threw for 2,900 yards and 30 TDs, giving up just 3 INTs, with a SEC-topping QB rating of 175.3. That’s pretty gaudy numbers.Oh, and the TJ Yeldon/Derrick Henry running back combination? We could see Yeldon as a Heisman contender, people. Sure, Alabama is going to have to blood three new starters in the offensive line (we’d argue that the biggest loss is center superbrain Barrett Jones), but Nick Saban will be OK with that. He’s Nick Saban, after all. 

3) Aaron Murray (Georgia)

When Aaron Murray faced off against AJ McCarron, Murray outperformed McCarron 265 yards – 162. Problem for Murray was that McCarron won the game – mainly thanks to a superior running game.

Listen crappy quarterbacks don’t throw for 3,893 yards and 36 Touchdowns in 2012. True, Murray still needs to work on his game management. No, we haven’t forgotten about spiking the ball in the SEC Championship Game. He was also eaten alive by South Carolina’s defense in a 105-yard, 1 interception performance at Williams-Brice early on in the season.

Offensive-wise, we could see some worse numbers from Murray, especially if the Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall combo continue their incredible efforts of 2012 (2,144 yards and 25 TDs), but the good news for him is that he’s got his best receiver back in the underrated Michael Bennett, and Malcolm Mitchell’s going to recover from surgery in time for the season-start. Mssrs Terry, Wooten and Rumph aren’t bad back-ups, either.

4) Connor Show/Dylan Thompson (South Carolina)

The great thing about South Carolina’s QB ‘quandry’ is that it really isn’t a quandry in the least. Both Shaw AND Thompson can do great jobs for the Gamecocks – and they’ll need to without running back Marcus Lattimore. Thompson’s got the cannon arm, while Shaw’s got the whirring legs. Hell, they could be pretty good if they shared the load. We think that whoever throws to Bruce Ellington (600 yards last year), he’ll catch the thing. At running back, much has been made of the Mike Davis/Brandon Wilds battle for Spurrier’s eye, so we’ll have to see.

But in a Spurrier offense (and a soft-ish schedule), both Shaw and Thompson will be fine.

5) Jeff Driskel (Florida)

Driskel’s heroic actions for the Gators last season, where he basically rushed them to game victories, gets the love from me here. Driskel ran for 413 yards – and most of them are important. Of course, the negatives were there for all to see. Despite being a Major League baseballer, he’s not got a NFL arm, and his 1,646 yards and 12 TDs would make any people missed the ‘Fun And Gun’ of the Steve Spurrier years roll in the graves.

What’s going to kill Driskel this year is that the Gators go into 2013 missing some offensive stars, too. Running Mike Gillislee is gone. Matt Jones still has to prove himself, despite putting up 275 yards last year. Tight End Jordan Reed’s gone to the NFL. A lot of people talk about Jarvis Jones’ tackle on Reed in the Cocktail Party, but let’s be honest: Reed was brilliant for the Gators last year, and will be much-missed. The receiving duties will be meted out to a returning Quinton Dunbar, speedster Trey Burton, and the multi-talented Loucheiz Purifoy, who may well play both ways. Kid’s a star, yo.

6) Bo Wallace (Ole Miss)

Yes, we know that Bo Wallace is recovering from a surgically repaired right shoulder. We do. But if he’s OK, Ole Miss should continue to merrily prosper. Under the Hugh Freeze offense (which was a lot of fun to watch last year, we’d like to add), Wallace put up gaudy numbers, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns, and running for 390 others.

He’ll be helped by the return of Donte Moncrief (979 yards rec, 10 TDs), Vince Sanders, and Ja-Mes Logan, the latter two whom combined for nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 9 TDs. Oh, and running back-wise, Jeff Scott (846 yards, 6 TDs) is back, too, and the offensive line should be improved and more experienced from the one that gave up 28 sacks last year. Could Laremy Tunsil be the new Michael Oher? Ole Miss fans hope so.

7) Tyler Russell (Mississippi State)

Despite Russell’s situation last year not being helped last year by the underperformance of his receivers and an inexperienced offensive line, he still managed to throw for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns. The problem is is that his best targets – including Chad Bumphis – have all left Starkville, and he’s going to have to depend on running back LaDarius Perkins, who ran for 1,000 yards last year, and tight end Malcolm Johnson, who had 171 yards receiving in just 10 catches last year. He’s the top returning recognized receiver. A lot of fans will be hoping that incoming freshman Fred Ross will play – he lit up a practice on August 1, according to the Clarion-Ledger, catching “everything that was thrown to him”.

8) Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

This was the probably the biggest disappointment in the SEC last year – and perhaps all of college football. Talk to any LSU fan, and they’ll tell you: “Zach Mettenberger was infuriating last season. A lot of the time he’d look awful, but then there were those sparks that would make you scald yourself for hatin’ on him”. We agree. Mettenberger had 2,600 yards passing last year with 12 TDs, and was bailed out at times by LSU’s as-usual excellent running game, led by Jeremy Hill, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford. His receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will be required to learn from the mistakes of 2012, but Tigers fans will be hoping that their experience will bolster Mettenberger, who had a QB rating of 128.3 – the third-lowest in the SEC.

The good thing about 2013 is the Mettenberger’s offensive line is (generally) intact, and Hill avoided jail. He’ll lead the way with Hilliard and Alfred Blue at running back. But in games where we project LSU might be behind a lot next year, will Mettenberger show us the talent that made him the potential No.1 QB at Georgia all those years ago? Tigers fans will be geauxing to church to pray so.

9) James Franklin (Missouri)

Remember folks, Franklin was a guy who had 2,865 yards for Mizzou in 2011. He’s got the talent. But can he stay healthy? There’s no doubt that if he IS healthy and on his game, James Franklin can cause defenses problems. But in 2012, he was rarely healthy or on his game. Corbin Berkstressr who took over was a lot worse – although both weren’t helped by a comedically awful offensive line, who ensured their QBs were sacked 29 times.

Dorial Green-Beckham had a disappointing 2012 – especially for a wide receiver that got a lot of press in the months preceding the season because of his high school excellence. ‘DG-B’ showed some flashes of excellence, but there was an awful lot of mediocrity. Franklin will be hoping that DG-B’s put his problems behind him, and that Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington can have breakout years.

10) Austyn Carta-Samuels (Vanderbilt) 

Losing a leader’s not easy for any team, but losing your leader (Jordan Rodgers) AND your best running back (Zac Stacy) and not being an elite SEC team doesn’t make life easier, either. Carta-Samuels may have been a two-year starter at Wyoming, but we’ll go as far as saying that the competition in the SEC is a little tougher than out west, sir. He’s got starting experience with Vandy (he played against college football giant Presbyterian), but it’s only one game. Sorry, but we’re not convinced.

But what does put Carta-Samuels about Missouri’s James Franklin isn’t actually the QB himself (that waits to be seen), it’s the fact that his excellent receivers, Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who had a combined 2,000 yards plus receiving, return. We expect Wesley Tate to take up Stacy’s job, running behind an offensive line that’s returns three starters.

11) Jalen Whitlow/Patrick Towles/ Maxwell Smith (Kentucky) 

A lot of love came out for Whitlow in Kentucky’s Spring Game, where he proved to be a useful dual threat QB. He’s widely expected to take the QB reins ahead of Towles and Smith. It’s interesting, because all three of them are pretty useful quarterbacks – which should please new coach Mark Stoops.

Although UK’s offensive line has taken a beating with the leaving of Matt Smith and Larry Worford, and all of the QBs are going to struggle in a schedule that has the ‘Cats facing South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama AND Florida this year. Ouch.

A lot will be expected of RBs Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George this year, who will be asked to share some of the offensive load, as will wide receiver Demarco Robinson.

12) Justin Worley / Riley Ferguson/ Nathan Pearlman (Tennessee)

Justin Worley might know this offense, but he’s missing a ton of it. Gone are coach Derek Dooley, brilliant receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson and receiver (brilliant sometimes) Justin Hunter, as well as TE Mychal Rivera, who was great as a blocker and a catcher.

Athalon Sports preview said: “Worley will likely win the job because he’s taken Gen. Robert Neyland’s first maxim of football to heart….”The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win“. They’ve got Worley beating Pearlman and Ferguson to the job. But if I’m a Vols fan, I’d be worried that Worley couldn’t stand out during Spring practice. It’s a reason why the battle is still on, and not Worley’s. Ferguson might bring a good arm to the UT table after throwing for nearly 6,000 yards in his last two years at high school, but who’s he going to throw to? A lot of people are talking up freshman receiver Marquez North, who’ll combine with freshman Jason Croom. Marlin Lane had exactly ZERO TDs last year. In a word: gulp.

Oh, there is one thing that will help the Vols once they’ve got this situation dealt with: They’ve got an excellent and experienced offensive line. It’s stacked with future first and second-round NFL picks, led by Antonio Richardson, and are No. 2 in the country in total starts. So that’ll help the QBs’ necks, then. Now for their arms…

13) Brandon Allen (Arkansas) 

Now that Brandon Mitchell’s transferred, this is going to be Allen’s team. Having said that, with new coach Bret Bielema’s offense, which during his years at Wisconsin was ‘run first, ask questions later’ – despite having Russell Wilson as a leader, don’t be surprised to see him not high on the ‘attempts list’ for starters at the end of the season. Allen stands in the shadows of giants after his predecessors Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson tore up Fayetteville during their Razorbacks careers, and he’s had some game experience.

Expect Allen to be supported by RBs Jonathan Williams and Nate Holmes, and he’ll be praying that WR Mekale McKay doesn’t transfer.

14) Kiehl Frazier/Jonathan Wallace/Nick Marshall/Jeremy Johnson (Auburn)

Last season, Clay Travis’ excellent blog ‘Outside The Lines’ had ‘air’ ahead of Kiehl Frazier, and in 2012, the QB did nothing to dissaude us. Frazier was so crappy that he didn’t even qualify for the ESPN’s 2012 SEC stat leaders last season, throwing for a dismal 753 yards, 2 TDs, and 8 INTs, while completing 62 passes in 116 attempts. That’s terrible.

At the moment, Gus Malazahn’s got the QB race between him, Jonathan Wallace and Nick Marshall. This does not bode well for the Tigers if Frazier cannot even stand out.



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