6. "I was gonna rate Vandy #6" In response to Reply # 3
I was being a bit facetious, my real top 5 would be a lot closer to what yoose has and I might knock aTm and Oregon down a peg but it's way early... the only real certainty is I'd probably have Bama and tOSU as #1 and #2... best coaches and they'll return more than enough talent.
The Alabama Crimson Tide played a near-perfect game Monday night in a crushing defeat of previously unbeaten Notre Dame. The win was an emphatic exclamation point on coach Nick Saban's third BCS championship title in four years, cementing his and Alabama's reign at the top of the college football world.
We produce a series of ratings each year called Program FEI (PFEI), a five-year weighted measure of college football drive efficiency. PFEI is a strong indicator of next-year success, which is why it is used as a primary factor in our annual projections. There are six SEC programs ranked among the top 20 in the latest PFEI ratings, but No. 1 Alabama has distanced itself from the others, as well as from every other top program in college football. The gulf between the best program and the next best has never been wider than it is now, according to this metric.
But that doesn't mean the best can't be beaten, as Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel proved this season in a thrilling win in Tuscaloosa that temporarily shook up the BCS standings. For as dominant as Alabama has been and projects to be, there is still a significant likelihood that it will trip at some point. Which SEC teams are best positioned to take advantage if it does?
We ran two sets of preliminary projections for the recently published 2013 SEC schedules. One projection was based exclusively on possession efficiency data from 2012. The other projection was based on Program FEI. The projection model will develop throughout the offseason to include roster change data and other transitional factors, but these two measures are our first glimpse at the SEC pecking order for 2013.
Here are the top conference challengers to the Tide for next season.
1. Texas A&M Aggies (PFEI No. 18) 2013 projection per 2012 FEI: 6.9 conference wins 2013 projection per PFEI: 4.9 conference wins In 2012, the Aggies had as impressive a debut season in the SEC as could have been imagined. Led by Heisman winner Manziel, Texas A&M scored 44.5 points per game (fourth-most nationally) and ranked first in offensive efficiency (scoring versus average scoring expectation based on field position). Manziel was a dynamic performer in coach Kevin Sumlin's offense (the 2011 offense at Houston, where Sumlin previously was coach, also ranked first in offensive efficiency), and the Aggies improved throughout the season. Texas A&M posted its top four marks in opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency after Nov. 1.
It will be interesting to see how the Aggies pick up where they left off, though the schedule looks to be slanted in their favor. Texas A&M dodges all of the projected top teams from the SEC East, and Alabama will have to make the trip to College Station in mid-September. The Aggies will be a favorite in six of their conference games, according to both of our projection models.
2. Florida Gators (PFEI No. 5) 2013 projection per 2012 FEI: 6.5 conference wins 2013 projection per PFEI: 5.9 conference wins Program FEI helped identify Florida as one of the likely contenders for the 2012 SEC conference title this time last year, and the Gators just missed a BCS championship game berth with an 11-1 regular-season record. It wasn't the prettiest regular season -- Florida ranked 109th offensively in avoiding three-and-outs and ranked 73rd in offensive points per drive. But the defense was outstanding, ranking No. 1 nationally in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency, better than any defense since 2007, according to our data. A productive defense, coupled with an elite special teams unit, won the Gators a lot of games.
The 2013 season may be special as well, though Florida will face its three toughest opponents away from The Swamp. Florida visits LSU in mid-October, meets SEC East contender Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 2, and travels to South Carolina two weeks later. Our Program FEI model favors Florida in all three of those games, but gives the Gators only a 19 percent chance of winning all three.
3. Georgia Bulldogs (PFEI No. 10) 2013 projection per 2012 FEI: 6.3 conference wins 2013 projection per PFEI: 5.5 conference wins Mark Richt's team came within a few yards and a few seconds of beating Alabama in the SEC championship game and punching a ticket to a berth in the BCS title game. The Bulldogs were balanced, joining only Alabama and Oregon this season as teams ranked among the top 20 in both offensive points per drive and defensive points per drive. Led by Aaron Murray (No. 2 nationally in passer rating) and a pair of star freshman running backs (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for more than 2,100 yards rushing), Georgia had one of the most prolific offenses in the country. No other team recorded a higher percentage of explosive drives -- 26.5 percent of Georgia's possessions averaged at least 10 yards per play.
Georgia has turned the easiest SEC conference schedule into a trip to the SEC title game two years in a row, and the 2013 schedule appears to be favorable yet again. None of the Bulldogs' toughest games will be played at the opponent's home stadium. A fast start will be critical for Georgia to make a run to another SEC East crown, as September home games against South Carolina and LSU may be the biggest obstacles until the Nov. 2 game against Florida.
4. South Carolina Gamecocks (PFEI No. 12) 2013 projection per 2012 FEI: 6.3 conference wins 2013 projection per PFEI: 5.5 conference wins South Carolina wasn't as impressive offensively as Georgia, nor as impressive defensively as Florida, but the Gamecocks were efficient where it mattered most. South Carolina gave up touchdowns on only 45.5 percent of opponent red-zone trips, the 10th-best rate nationally. Menacing defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney spearheaded the attack that collected 43 sacks, sixth-most nationally. Those plays in particular helped South Carolina rank among the nation's best in overall game efficiency, despite having average field-position management and below-average special teams.
The biggest obstacle for South Carolina was a brutal stretch in the schedule -- consecutive weeks against Georgia, LSU and Florida. The 2013 schedule is much more manageable and balanced, especially relative to its division rivals, which should keep coach Steve Spurrier from complaining about intraconference scheduling. The Sept. 7 game at Georgia opens the conference schedule for South Carolina, and concludes with a Nov. 16 visit from Florida.
5. LSU Tigers (PFEI No. 4) 2013 projection per 2012 FEI: 4.8 conference wins 2013 projection per PFEI: 5.6 conference wins LSU had a disappointing 2012 season, one that began with hopes of national championship contention but ended with three single-digit losses to Florida, Alabama and Clemson. With few exceptions, the Tigers' offense never really clicked, ranking 74th nationally in points per drive and 76th in percentage of available yards earned. The Tigers did earn a top-10 ranking in special teams efficiency for the sixth straight year, twice propelling LSU to victory in games in which it otherwise would have lost -- the special teams value earned against both Ole Miss and Arkansas late in the season exceeded the scoring margin of those games. In other words, this was a 10-win team that played more like an eight-win team, and that's a big step behind the other contenders on our list.
The biggest reason they are far down our list is due to schedule strength. LSU has ranked among the top 5 according to our strength of schedule ratings in each of the past five seasons. This fall, the Tigers will face both SEC West juggernauts, Alabama and Texas A&M, plus the top two teams from the East according to our projections, Florida and Georgia. According to our 2012 data model, LSU has less than a 1 percent chance of winning those four games, and only an 8 percent chance of winning three of them.
Best of the rest:
The Ole Miss Rebels (PFEI No. 51) and Vanderbilt Commodores (PFEI No. 55) are next in line, according to our projection model, but neither figures to make a major run at Alabama for an SEC title. Ole Miss has games against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU next season, and Vanderbilt faces Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt play head-to-head to kick off their respective SEC seasons, and the best the winner of that game may be able to hope for is a 5-3 conference record. ______________________ Young Jeezy- It's Tha World Raekwon - Shaolin vs Wu-Tang Obie Trice - Cheers