Who Needs a Blog Poll '14: Preseason Part Three

We're going to begrudgingly love-hate this kid for three years. #YouSuspect - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, Ole Miss still sucks and I'm not ranking them until they beat a few teams.

Rank

Team

Final '13 Who Needs a Blog Poll Ranking

8

LSU Tigers

12

9

Auburn Tigers

3

10

South Carolina Gamecocks

4

11

Stanford Cardinal

13

12

Baylor Bears

15

19

Georgia Bulldogs

----

  1. LSU Tigers: Sure, the Tigers are missing the middle of the defensive line. And, yes, the Tigers lost their top receivers and top two RBs. Of course a Senior QB will be missed. But, you can't help but think with most of the defense and OL returning, an athletic Jennings at QB, the wealth of talent on hand, and a certain RB who may be a transcendent player, that LSU will be there till the end. Inconsistency has plagued Miles, but oddly, I think a return to a one-dimensional offense that just smashes people will be better, not worse, for the Tigers. This is going to be a very nasty, punishing team -provided the linebackers return to form (they were simply dreadful last season.) The Alabama and Wisconsin games set the ceiling for LSU; both are winnable, and both are smash-mouth wet dreams. Even if things break against the Tigers', they could be the nation's scariest 2-loss team

  2. Auburn Tigers: I'm not buying Marshall as a passing threat - aside from 3-yard downfield gimmes the OL gets. His accuracy is questionable and his biggest plays are wing-and-a-prayer miracles. Nor am I buying, no matter how talented Payne, Grant and Roc may be that they are equal to one Mason. Tre Mason was the best Auburn back since Carnell -but healthier and more versatile. I'm also not buying that Shon Coleman, a great story BTW, is as good or better than Greg Robinson, elsewise, he would have started last season. I'm not buying the Conference's worst LBs, nor a suspect secondary, nor the luck gods that swung three plays to make Auburn all obnoxious and fambly again, instead of the secret 7-5 team they really are. I am buying the rest of the offensive line; the fact that the defensive line will be physical (but less dominating versus the pass than last year); the fact that Gus Malzahn can coach; the fact that Auburn will always get great players; and, the fact that LSU, USCe, and Aggie come to Jordan-Hare. I'm also buying a 3-loss season, as UGA, Alabama and Bully are all on the road, as is Kansas State - a team which sees this same offense 5-6 games a season. In the SEC-West circular firing squad that is Auburn-Alabama-LSU, Auburn is the weakest link and the least complete team, which is why the Capital One Bowl beckons.

  3. South Carolina Gamecocks: The offense is loaded: QB Dylan Thompson, RB Mike Davis, and a bevy of veteran receivers behind a line that is both young, but experienced. The Gamecocks are going to score on people. The defense is another matter entirely. While the LBs are very good, as is the DL (though slightly thinner because of pro defections), the secondary is disorganized mess, especially at the corners. In a division where Florida, Mizzou, Kentucky, and UGA all figure to air it out, and with the season's climax v. Clemson, and a cross-division game v. TAMU, that can't be good news. The first half of schedule is very forgiving at least -getting a retooled UGA early, and four of the first six are at home (with only roadies to UK and Vandy.) The back half is where the trouble arises: at Auburn, at Gata, at Clemson. Consistency has been the Gamecocks' achilles heel, and I see that same problem now. USC could beat UGA, and still lose the division with two other inexplicable losses, and the Sugar Bowl as their consolation. And that's exactly what will happen.

  4. Stanford Cardinal: Hogan is not a good quarterback. He's not. Let's stop pretending otherwise. Inexplicable struggles throughout the season and an inability to make plays with his arm are what has separated Stanford from the nation's true crème de la crème. To make it worse, that manhandling 'Furd OL has gone pro in something other than crushing Oregon. Sure, the Cardinal have recruited better at OL than just about anyone, but returning 1 OL in that offense, with a mediocre QB ain't good; nor is losing all those veterans on a stifling defense. I love what Shaw has done. Love it, and love how Stanford mans up and squashes the speed demons. But this isn't the Cardinal's year, and this isn't the roster to get it done. The PAC 12 isn't a forgiving mistress -even the Washington and Arizona schools are competent again, and you can't rely on Kyle Whittingham to remain down at Utah.

  5. Baylor Bears: Ugh. I guess. Look, unlike other polls, I tell you my prejudices. I hate the crap with a passion. Oregon, Cal, Baylor etc? May as well be skeeball for all the interest that it holds, but skeeball let's me get two-foot long Pixies straws at least. So, I'm going to try to be objective here. Petty is perfectly servicable QB for that system: nice arm, decent accuracy, exploits bad defenses -which, let's face it, they're mostly bad defenses in the Big 12. And, yes, Baylor has a very fine offensive line and speed all over the place at WR and RB. And, yes, the defense was somewhat underrated last season. They gave up a ton of points and yards, but finished in the Top 25 across the board, and -like the Oklahoma State Ds- manufacture turnovers. Not everyone can be the '85 Bears; some teams like bend-don't-break, give-the-offense-the-ball. Baylor is such a team, and they do it pretty damned well. That said, the Big Twelve seems to be undergoing a slight renaissance with powerball (Oklahoma, Texas, K State, Ok. St.), and I think the pendulum is swinging enough to give the Bears 2-3 regular season losses, because they are very ill-equipped to deal with that, as the Cowboys and UCF showed last season.

  6. Georgia Bulldogs: Gone is Aaron Murray, a guy that just won and who took way more criticism than he deserved as a Dawg. The upside is that I wouldn't count on UGA throwing it all over the field, not with the nation's best running back to hand it to and backed by star-quality depth at tailback. But, it is reassuring to know that if Mike Bobo wants to call a balanced offense (spoiler: he does), then the crippling injuries on the outside and at TE that derailed 2013 shouldn't be a concern. UGA is going to be ridiculously good on offense -as usual. Defensively, the front seven will be a pass-rushing machine, with long, fast athletes at every position, esp. LB. The one serious flaw in this Georgia team, aside from replacing Murray, is the secondary. It was flat out mediocre-to-laughable at moments last season, and with the dismissals and transfers, it has gotten less reliable (if you can believe that.) Still, DC Jeremy Pruitt can get it done, and the pass rush should help the unproven secondary. The schedule is also forgiving: no Alabama, LSU etc from the West; Clemson and Auburn at home; and, as usual, the second week's game on the road against Sakerlina is for control of the division. These aren't the Grantham Dawgs: a mentally tougher UGA wins a few shootouts, loses a few, and at the end of the day represents the East in the SECCG.

Close, but no cigar (PAC 12, Big Ten)

Arizona State: Man, too many losses on a defense that was up-and-down all season. The offense will be legit. Underestimate this team at your peril.

Arizona: Rich Rod got screwed royally by the Powers That Be and true "Michigan Men." Michigan is the only job where he underperformed. Tucson is more his speed, and 7-9 wins perpetually await, provided that Rodriguez bugaboo, defense, can finally be tamed. That won't happen this season. Like their Tempe counterparts, a bowl team and a danger to conference elite.

Washington: Got a much, much better coach with Sark's departure. Will be a fundamentally-sound, balanced offense from the word go. Offensive line and defensive turnovers should improve tremendously. It will take a year or two to establish this identity.

USC: All the talent of the Gods. But, if you trust Sark to do better than 7-8 wins, I have a London Bridge to sell you in Havasu...only problem is the London Bridge is in Havasu, while Sarkisian will bang out 7-wins like mayflies die in a day. This team will never upset anyone, and it starts at the top.

Penn State: Franklin is a terrific motivator, recruiter, salesman, and not at all good making in-game decisions. He'll upgrade the talent considerably before moving on to the NFL, but will make some baffling (and costly) X/O mistakes along the way...and still inexplicably, beat Ohio State etc once or twice. It's his MO.

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