The 2014 SEC Champions will be the Ole Miss Rebels

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss is coming off a seven-win season and a win in the BBVA Compass Bowl, and enters 2013 with high expectations after securing a top-five recruiting class. But, I think the expectations for Hugh Freeze‘s team will be even higher in 2014 when the Rebels will be a dark horse to win the SEC.

If that sounds shocking to you, let me explain why it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Certainly, the SEC is the best conference in the nation, and the SEC west is the best division in the nation, so winning it will be a tall order. However, looking at the landscape of the division in 2014, the Rebels will have one of the more experienced teams, led by senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who is primed for a breakout season in 2013.

Look at the other top quarterbacks in the conference this season: A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, Tyler Russell and Zach Mettenberger will all be seniors, and all will be gone in 2014. I fully expect that reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel will declare for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season in 2013.

While the rest of the conference is breaking in new signal-callers, Ole Miss will have their quarterback entering his third season under center. That doesn’t mean that the rival teams in the conference will have success at finding an underclassmen at quarterback, but it does mean that Ole Miss will have a leg up on their competition at the most important position in sports.

Another reason why 2014 will be the year of the Rebel is because the incoming recruits that came in in 2013 will now be sophomores, and have gone through a full year in the conference to understand what it takes to succeed in the intimidating conference. This doesn’t include the recruiting class of 2014 that may include Lorenzo Carter and Clifton Garrett. The two are five-star recruits that would only add to the riches down in Oxford, Ms.

The collection of talent on the offense, with Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson starting at tackle, and the emerging Laquon Treadwell, who will team up with Donte Moncrief to form the best wide receiver duo in the nation, will score enough to make even the best defenses look vulnerable.

On the defensive side of the ball, the 2014 team will be led by an imposing defensive line that includes Robert Nkemdiche, Isaac Gross, Channing Ward and C.J. Johnson. Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche will be a team captain in my estimation, and should lead the team in tackles. In the secondary, I’m excited to see what Tony Conner brings at safety, and he could be a starter as a true freshman, making his sophomore season one that could result in him being named to an All-America team.

If history has taught us anything about this conference, it’s that you win with a ferocious front four and a strong leader at quarterback.

That’s the exact composition of your 2014 Ole Miss Rebels. When the 2014 season in getting underway, and everyone is talking about the surprise team in the SEC being Ole Miss, remember you heard it here first.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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