*Auburn sticks out like a sore friggin' thumb. We've got two competing stories with War Eagle. I could go on and on about reasons to like this team:
- Gus Malzahn is a genius and has a year under his belt on the Plains;
- Gene Chizik, Trooper Taylor and Co. left the new staff with a talent-stocked cupboard;
- The Tigers bring back four starters on the offensive line and quarterback Nick Marshall;
- The D was young a year ago.
On the other hand, winning the SEC and playing for a national title buffed over the fact that Auburn went 6-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer, including miracles against Georgia and Alabama. That's living on the edge – save the "this team finds ways to win" junk for talk radio. A non-conference trip to Kansas State and replacing Tennessee with South Carolina on the league slate won't help the Tigers' case either.
Under is the play.
*Derek Mason owes the Vanderbilt athletic department huge for the Charmin-soft out-of-conference schedule lined up in his debut season: home dates with Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion. Hard to find many sure things after those four, though. Kentucky and Tennessee have padded the Commodores' win totals the last couple years, but both should be taking steps forward in 2014.
The Commodores will have a new starter at quarterback throwing to a group of receivers without Jordan Matthews. Sounds a lot like to the Vandy offenses of old to me.
Topping six wins is a stretch.
*Yada, yada – LSU lost its quarterback, a great running back and some top-flight receivers. Between a gaggle of experienced brawlers on the offensive line and loads of nastiness in his front seven on defense, this has the makings of the Les Miles teams that exceed expectations.
The Mad Hatter is probably sleeping soundly this offseason, which is probably like every other offseason for him. You should, too, if you're playing even money on over nine wins for the Bayou Bengals.
*Last year Missouri won the weakest edition of the SEC East in recent memory, albeit convincingly. The Tigers lost a ton of firepower from that squad, including the dismissal of Homeric receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, along with their best defenders in Michael Sam, Kony Ealy and E.J. Gaines. Topping eight wins just doesn't feel promising, especially if that likely means taking two of four road contests versus Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
*(Deep breath.) I'd take a long look at the under on Alabama.
I have the Crimson Tide and Florida State rated the same, better than any other team in the country, but I can't say that I have the same level of confidence in the two. Taking on a transfer QB doesn't speak well of Nick Saban's confidence in what he has at the position, and if you buy that Jacob Coker really gave Jameis Winston a run for his money in last year's competition at FSU, I've got some Publix crab legs to sell you.
On defense, Saban has some work to do cleaning up his back end. He's going to be attempting to do that with new faces dotting the secondary and stud safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off to the NFL.
'Bama still has more talent than any other team in the country not named Florida State. The Tide will outclass just about every opponent they face. However, a flyer at +115 on the under is intriguing.