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Early 2013 SEC College Football Power Rankings

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2013 SEC Football Power Rankings

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Just like the previous six college football seasons it was an SEC team that was the last one standing and hoisting the crystal ball trophy. Alabama won their second straight BCS National Championship in dominating fashion over Notre Dame and it just cemented the SEC’s dominance over the rest of the conferences.

The SEC has been the strongest conference for arguably the last decade and 2013 doesn’t figure to be any different. Half of the conference was ranked in the final AP poll for the 2012 season with three of those seven in the top five and five teams in the top ten.

So that begs the question, will another SEC team be crowned BCS champions at the end of the 2013 season? Odds are in favor of an SEC team lifting the crystal ball for an eighth straight time and the prohibitive favorite has to be the back-to-back champions.

Alabama is the top team in the country and they are once again bringing in another top tier recruiting class. They’ll be challenged next season by the likes of Texas A&M, South Carolina and Georgia (although the Tide doesn’t play either team in the regular season). The conference figures to be extremely strong again in 2013 but it will also be top heavy.

There will be a slew of new faces roaming the sidelines for the SEC in 2013. Gus Malzahn isn’t a new face but he returns to Auburn, Mark Stoops looks to revive Kentucky, Butch Jones eventually landed in Tennessee and Brett Bielema surprised everyone and will take over at Arkansas. All four coaches will have their work cut out for them but they came to the SEC for a reason, to compete with the best.

So without further ado, here’s the first look at the 2013 SEC power rankings.

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14. Kentucky Wildcats

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Out of all of the new head coaches in the SEC in 2013 Mark Stoops easily has the toughest challenge. The Wildcats played a lot of young guys in 2012, which will be good for the future, but it didn’t help at all last year as they went winless in the conference.

Stoops’ arrival will most likely spark some excitement but everyone is undefeated and full of confidence during the offseason. It will be a lot more difficult to translate the excitement to on field success next year but it will be interesting to see what Stoops can do in the next few years.

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13. Arkansas Razorbacks

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The Razorbacks will be glad to put the 2012 season behind them and start the Brett Bielema era. Arkansas did not come close to the high expectations that were bestowed upon them at the beginning of last season but they will have a brand new slate to work with in 2013.

Their offense will look a lot different with Bielema’s run heavy scheme as well as losing QB Tyler Wilson and WR Cobi Hamilton. It will take some time for Bielema to implement his system and bring in recruits tailored around it but the Razorbacks are just happy to have him. There are still some questions on the defensive side of the ball and it will be a work in progress in 2013.

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12. Missouri Tigers

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I’m wondering if Missouri is rethinking their move to the SEC after being handled pretty easily in their first season in the league. They simply looked physically overmatched and that will have to be a point of emphasis this offseason.

Getting stronger will be must if the Tigers want to take a step up to the next level of SEC competition. Their 2012 schedule also was extremely tough but luckily it lightens a bit in 2013 as they avoid Alabama and LSU but they still play South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M. There really is no easy road in the SEC.

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11. Tennessee Volunteers

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The Derrick Dooley experiment is over and the Volunteers will be happy to put his era in their rearview mirror. Now, in comes Butch Jones who was a hot commodity this offseason but once the Tennessee job opened up Jones was all over it. Will he be able to revitalize the struggling program? He doesn’t have much experience rebuilding a program so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the Vols.

Jones does inherit arguably the best offensive line in the SEC but they don’t have many weapons to benefit from the strong play up front. They lose their top two receivers as well as QB Tyler Bray so their offensive weapon cupboard is a bit empty. Their defense doesn’t figure to be much better than it was in 2012 but luckily for Vols fans it can’t be much worse.

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10. Auburn Tigers

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Gus Malzahn returns to Auburn after a season away from the program and unlike the other new coaches in the conference Malzahn already has a feel for what he’s working with. He helped coach and bring in some of the personnel that Auburn currently has so he knows what he’s inheriting.

The offense figures to receive a major boost with Malzahn back at the controls but their defense is what needs the biggest boost. New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will be in charge of that task and it will need to be accomplished sooner rather than later because the Razorbacks have a tough start to their 2013 schedule.

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9. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs will not be able to rely on a soft early season schedule to gain some confidence like they did in 2012. They open with Oklahoma State and then travel to Auburn for their third game to take on a rejuvenated Tigers team. Mississippi State started off strong in 2012 but faded down the stretch, losing five of their final six games.

QB Tyler Russell showed some promise last season but he will need to take the next step if he wants to get the Bulldogs back to where they were at the beginning of last season. The Bulldogs will need to be focused as the season gets going or it their year can go down hill rather quickly as it did a season ago.

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8. Ole Miss Rebels

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There is as much promise as there’s been in a long time for Ole Miss in 2013 as Hugh Freeze embarks on his second season. He led the Rebels to a seven win season including a BBVA Compass Bowl victory in year one and he’s been very successful on the recruiting trail.

Maybe the biggest plus from last season was the fact that there were freshman and other young players all over the field getting valuable playing time. That will only aid the Rebels this season as they look to improve on their seven-win season and make the push towards the top of the SEC West. things can get even better for Ole Miss if they can sign the top recruit in the 2013 class, Robert Nkemdiche.

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7. Vanderbilt Commodores

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I don’t know if many people realized that the Commodores were in the AP top 25 at seasons end and it goes to show the job that James Franklin has done. Vanderbilt will actually have some expectations in 2013 and their goal will now be to live up to them.

There will be a quarterback battle this spring that will likely last into fall camp but they will have the luxury of a key receiver target returning for 2013. Jordan Matthews decided to come back for another season and it was music to Franklin’s ears. As far as the defense goes they will continue to be in good shape with Bob Shoop in charge.

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6. LSU Tigers

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The Tigers have had a rough offseason to say the least. Nine underclassmen have declared early for the NFL Draft and it will especially leave their defense hurting as six of the nine come from that side of the ball.

After the mass exodus on the defensive side of the ball it sets up a worrisome though for LSU fans for 2013. They will have to rely on their offense more than ever and QB Zach Mettenburger will have to be at the forefront of their improvement. As for their schedule, they unfortunately got dealt the Florida and Georgia cards from the SEC East and that does not set up a nice hand.

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5. Florida Gators

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Will the Gators Sugar Bowl letdown carry into next season? Not likely but they will have to prove themselves early to dissuade that notion right away. Luckily for Florida their early season schedule sets up for some quick success. They play some of the bottom SEC teams until the LSU game in mid October.

If they want to be where they were last season they will need to see further improvements from QB Jeff Driskel. He’ll need to greatly improve in the passing game so the Gators don’t become one-dimensional like they were for the majority of 2012.

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4. Georgia Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs were one or two plays away from upsetting Alabama in the SEC championship game and playing for the national championship. They didn’t let that hangover affect their bowl game performance as they easily handled Nebraska 45-31.

There is a lot of reason for optimism in Athens as QB Aaron Murray is returning for his senior season and they are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. However, their schedule does not provide any help seeing that they open with Clemson and then follow it up with a huge game against division rival South Carolina. Even after those two games they get a little cupcake in North Texas but their next game after that is against LSU. If the Bulldogs somehow come away unscathed after that tough start they will immediately be considered national championship favorites.

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3. South Carolina Gamecocks

Kim Klement- USA TODAY Sports

Steve Spurrier is never afraid of pulling a quarterback if they are not performing but now he has the luxury of two quality guys to rotate in the starting spot. Connor Shaw and Dillon Thompson formed a formidable duo in 2012 and they will continue to be a solid threat in 2013, especially with an entire offseason to implement new offensive sets and plays to suit both QB’s.

Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the best defensive player in college football, returns for another season and will once again wreak havoc on opposing offenses. They have a tough start to 2013 as they open the season with games against North Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt. The Ol Ball Coach has one of his most talented teams for 2013 and it will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

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2. Texas A&M Aggies

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With Johnny Manziel, the returning Heisman trophy winner and one of the most electric players in college football, returning on their roster there is a lot of reason for optimism for 2013.

Manziel got some help with the return of tackle Jake Matthews but that was counteracted with the early departure of Luke Joeckel. It will be a bit of give and take in 2013 for Manziel against opposing defenses. They will have had a whole year’s worth of game film to gameplan for him but Manziel will also have had a whole season playing SEC defenses. Whoever wins that battle will likely spell the success for the Aggies in 2013.

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1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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There’s not much else to say about the Crimson Tide except that they once again showed they are the top team in college football. 2013 doesn’t figure to be much different as they are returning QB AJ McCarron to go along with WR Amari Cooper and RB TJ Yeldon.

Alabama will have to find replacements for the massive holes left on their offensive line but that does not figure to be too much of a problem. The defense should be just as stout next season and they were gifted with their SEC schedule as they don’t have to face any of the big three in the SEC East in 2013 (SC, Georgia or Florida). Can they make it four national titles in five seasons? It wouldn’t be smart to bet against the Tide.