The Rootability Pros And Cons Of Each Team In The SEC

What’s good (and maybe not so good) about each of the 14 members of college football’s reigning power conference, in rough order of their expected finish.

Almost every fan has a primary team, of course. But we also all end up playing favorites when we flip through the channels, or end up watching a lot of another team when our own is on a down year. (Many non-Big Ten fans take a side in the perennial Michigan-Ohio State war, for example.) Below, an evaluation of each SEC team’s potential for spontaneous, secondary fandom, in rough order of their expected finish.

1. The Alabama Crimson Tide

Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

Pros:
– AJ McCarron, he of the beauty queen girlfriend and nation-leading passing efficiency, will be gunning for his third straight national championship as quarterback. That’s potentially pretty epic.
– Nick Saban (68-13 as Alabama head coach) has just enough Bond smarts and Bond villain smarm to pull off both roles.
– Protecting the blind side is future NFL first-round pick and Great Football Name™ Cyrus Kouandjio.
– T.J. Yeldon, the first freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards, will only be better this time around, even with three new starting O-linemen.
– Junior defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. (That’s all.)
– ROLL TIDE. ROLL TIDE? ROLL TIDE!

Cons:
– Saban doesn’t command the abject fear (Bear Bryant) or familiar-feeling folksiness (Gene Stallings) of other great Crimson Tide coaching legends.
– Alabama players head to the NFL with such frequency and rapidity that there’s little time to appreciate their individual greatness.
– Ignorantly yelling ROLL TIDE! in the wrong part of the state could be an unwise (last) move. Roll with caution, always.

2. The Georgia Bulldogs

Pierre Ducharme / Reuters

Pros:
– Senior QB Aaron Murray could be the one (dare to dream!) to finally bring the Bulldogs to the upper echelons of college football. There’s an Alabama-sized problem in his way, but the school’s all-time career TD passer (95) is far from finished. (He also very well may break the SEC record for career passing yards in the process.)
Uga IX.
Very favorable schedule tops out with South Carolina and LSU at home. Georgia could be a fun wagon to jump on this year.

Cons:
– Georgia seems determined to break hearts, like a peach withering on the…stalk…of the…peach plant? I grew up in Queens.
– Bulldogs fans probably knew all about that really cool, under-the-radar band before you did.

3. The Texas A&M Aggies

Dave Martin, File / AP

Pros:
– Johnny Football is dead. Long live Johnny Football.
– Texas A&M is not Alabama.
– In all seriousness, Johnny Manziel is everything you should love about college, not just college football.
– Saying “Yeah, I go to school at College Station” just sounds really bad-ass.
– Q: What the hell’s an Aggie? (A: It does not matter.)

Cons:
Arguing about Manziel and whether he’s embarrassing the game and ruining his NFL chances is being on a hamster wheel from hell that never stops.
– The Johnny Football Phenomenon could come to an abrupt conclusion without a home win against Alabama on Sept. 14.

4. The South Carolina Gamecocks

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Pros:
– Jadeveon Clowney said KNOCK YOU OUT.
– Head coach Steve Spurrier has remained thoroughly relevant after all those years, and you must respect that.
– QB Connor Shaw has a future fronting a Billy Corgan tribute band, if that’s his thing.
– South Cackalack traditionally plays a lot of Thursday games — in fact, they open the season on a Thursday this year against UNC — and for expanding the possibilities of the paradigm of football scheduling, they are owed our gratitude.

Cons:
Shirtless Steve Spurrier.

5. The Louisiana State Tigers

Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Pros:
– Senior QB Zach Mettenberger now has former NFL head coach Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator, and that should bode well for an offense that is jacked-up with top recruits but last year ranked 85th in the country (and 10th in the SEC).
– You have absolutely no idea what Les Miles is going to do next and that’s exactly as it should be.
Pistol Pete.
– There can’t be a more perfect place for highly-anticipated Saturday-night games than Tiger Stadium. You can smell the Musburger on the wind.

Cons:
– Defensive end Barkevious Mingo, a Great Football Name™, is now in the NFL.
– It appears that running back Jeremy Hill will not miss a single game despite being found to have violated probabtion (which he’s on for “misdemeanor carnal knowledge” of a 14-year-old girl) by attacking a man in a bar parking lot.

6. The Florida Gators

Joshua C. Cruey / Orlando Sentinel / MCT

Pros:
– QB Jeff Driskel is a dead ringer for Ken Jennings. This is a fact.
– Will Muschamp is just about the most lovable psychopath coach you could possibly dream up.
– There’s finally been enough time away from The Tebow Years that it feels OK to unabashedly root for them again.
– Stadium nickname is “The Swamp.”

Cons:
Chomp chomp feels like a small (though, granted, important) step above the Tomahawk Chop.
– Um, a certain alum in the news recently.

7. The Ole Miss Rebels

Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman / AP

Pros:
– This two-time Super Bowl MVP used to be their quarterback.
– Their coach is named Hugh Freeze, which is just this side of being a Dashiell Hammett villain.

Cons:
– Almost had Admiral Ackbar as your mascot and you blew it.

8. The Tennessee Volunteers

The Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess / AP

Pros:
Wide Receiver U. doesn’t rebuild. It reloads, as freshman Marquez North is ready to prove.

Cons:
– Well, Wide Receiver U. did lose Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, so reloading isn’t an option. It’s mandatory.
– Butch Jones will be the school’s fourth coach in six seasons, and that ain’t a recipe for success.
– It’s been far too long since this guy suited up.

9. The Auburn Tigers

Michael Chang / Getty Images

Pros:
– In returning as head coach, former offensive coordinator and speed-spread specialist Gus Malzahn has overcome his wife’s transcendently incredible P.R. disaster.
– They can’t possibly go 0-8 in the SEC again. (Can they?)

Cons:
– It’s been a long, hard fall since the 2011 BCS championship. Has the energy ever been sucked out of a program so fast?

10. The Vanderbilt Commodores

Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Pros:
– Senior WR Jordan Matthews (2012 First Team All-SEC; 1,323 receiving yards) is a stud.
– A manageable schedule (at South Carolina, vs. Georgia, at Florida) means an outside shot at equalling last season’s 9-4 record.

Cons:
– No national name recognition.
– Stuck in the middling middle of the nation’s toughest conference.

11. The Arkansas Razorbacks

Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

Pros:
– Highly successful ex-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema looks like a sentient slab of smoked ham but promises to inject relevancy and importance into an Arkansas program that demands it.

Cons:
– John L. Smith was far more interesting than Bielema could possibly hope to be.
– They have no experience at QB, which could be a problem, since the quarterback…[cross-tabulates spreadsheet formula equations]…yep, quarterback is still an important football position.
– A scoring offense that ranked 89th and lost seven offensive starters is going to mean a lot of lopsided losses during a rebuilding year.

12. The Missouri Tigers

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Pros:
– RB Henry Josey (1,168 yards rushing yards and nine TDs in 2011) is back after shredding his knee and missing the entire 2012 season.
– Head coach Gary Pinkel had one of the friendliest, most non-combative DWI arrests you’ve ever seen.
Don Draper himself has your back.

Cons:
– It’s hard out there for a non-blue blood SEC team. Root for Missouri and you’re going to be on the wrong end of a lot of blowouts.

13. The Mississippi State Bulldogs

Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Pros:
– QB Tyler Russell (above) started off the season 7-0.
– They get to play Alabama at home.

Cons:
– It’s hard to root for a team that’s so far down the pecking order that they’re rarely on TV.
– QB Tyler Russell finished the season 1-5.
– They have to play Texas A&M on the road.

14. The Kentucky Wildcats

Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader / MCT

Pros:
– They have a top-five punter in Landon Foster.
– One of their players is named Mister Cobble, and that’s the best Great Football Name™ in the entire SEC.

Cons:
– Fans haven’t left home since March; they’re all still staring uncomprehendingly at the box score indicating their thousand-star blue-chip basketball team lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris.

We officially recommend that you root for Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and the legend of Johnny Football. Leave your own pros and cons in the comments.

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