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Graham predicts Crimson Tide will rule SEC West

Published 10:50am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Editor’s note: this is the conclusion to Luke Robinson and Andy Graham’s two-week preview of the Southeastern Conference football season.
1.  Alabama – although it’s well known that I’m an Auburn man through and through, I also take pride in the fact that I’m not completely daft.
The Tide is rewriting the book on what you can and cannot do in the SEC and NCAA.
Love it or hate it (and I do), they’re the best thing going today and the only choice to win the West.
In 2012, Bama boasted the No. 1 scoring defense in the SEC as well as the No. 2 scoring offense in the SEC.
They return entirely too many starters for there to be any real concern.
I don’t foresee perfection but no more than one loss.
2.  Texas A&M – the Aggies have all the makings of a colossal train wreck in 2013.  Johnny Manziel is an ultra talented quarterback but may not be able to fit his head through the locker room door.
Expectations have skyrocketed for a program that hasn’t been relevant in some time and key losses along the offensive and defensive lines are a concern.
However, I’m going to give Kevin Sumlin some credit and believe he’s somehow going to hold it together.
Johnny Football might be arrogant, but very few athletes make even the best teams look like they’re in slow motion.
3.  LSU – the addition of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should bring some much-needed originality and consistency to the Tiger offense.
While the Bayou Bengals lost quite a bit of NFL type talent on defense, the same thing seems to happen every year and they just plug in the next man.
I can’t help but assume that will be the case again this year.
Honestly, LSU is more than good enough to win the West, but I see them going .500 against Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M.
Just another ho-hum 10 win season in Baton Rouge.
4.  Ole Miss – the Rebels return 18 starters (nine on each side) in 2013 to a team that finished in the top half of the SEC in total offense, passing offense, rushing offense, rushing defense and scoring offense.
Hugh Freeze definitely has things moving in the right direction in Oxford, but they’re not quite ready to challenge the big boys just yet.
The way the schedule works out, I see Colonel Reb losing four straight in the middle of the season to Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU.
5.  Auburn – I’m not sure anyone really believes the Tigers are quite as bad as their 3-9 fiasco last year may have indicated.
Gus Malzahn’s return promises instant offensive rejuvenation (assuming they find a quarterback), and a grizzled veteran like Ellis Johnson should at least be able to raise the level of defense to mediocre.
If AU beats Mississippi State, they’ll go 7-5.  If they lose, they may go 4-8.
It’s as simple as that.  Obviously, I think they’ll win.
6.  Arkansas – the Hogs must replace QB Tyler Wilson, RB Knile Davis and WR Cobi Hamilton along with transitioning to a more run-oriented offense in 2013.
Bret Bielema has already proven to be a good coach at Wisconsin, but I just don’t see immediate results forthcoming.
Patience is the word of the day in Fayetteville.
7.  Mississippi State – the Bulldogs have never been able to get over the hump with HC Dan Mullen, and that won’t change in 2013.
I don’t think MSU beats Oklahoma State in the opener ,and their struggles will only continue.
They better beat Auburn if they have any hope of a winning season.
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.