- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each year, each month, each week, each day, we try to play ultimate prognosticators around here. Predictions are fun, so the more the merrier.
Outside of our weekly picks, we've taken the time to list our 10 fearless predictions before the start of the season. I'll list mine below, while you can check out some of fellow SEC blogger Chris Low's predictions for the season in his weekly column on Friday.
Remember, I'm not a certified psychic, so a couple of these might seem a little off. But for the most part I'm pretty confident that at least 99 percent of what I write will absolutely happen ...
1. The SEC will win its eighth consecutive national championship. Alabama is the class of the SEC, and it continues to look down at the rest of the country. The Crimson Tide are the favorites to close out the BCS era with a title, and the SEC has some other worthy contenders. Alabama isn't perfect, but a lot of teams would kill for Alabama's weaknesses. It'll be a three-peat for the Tide.
2. The Heisman Trophy will stay in the SEC. Johnny Manziel has the talent to become the first Heisman Trophy winner since Archie Griffin to win the award twice. But can he keep pace with what he did last year? Even if he doesn't, the trophy isn't leaving the South. Alabama's AJ McCarron should be in the conversation with his stats and his team's status. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney has the best chance of any defensive player and might be the nation's best overall player. Keep an eye on Georgia's Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley and Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.
3. Manziel will miss out on the 3,000/1,000 club. I'm not saying Johnny Football will take a major stumble (though it's possible), but it would be tough for anyone to repeat what Manziel did last year. Tim Tebow failed to mirror his 2007 Heisman season but still had a fine career. People adapt and things change. Manziel could still have a great season, but he either won't rush for 1,000 yards or throw for 3,000.
4. The SEC will have 11 bowl-eligible teams. The SEC sent only nine teams bowling last year, but I expect that number to increase. All nine from last year should return to the postseason, but keep an eye on Auburn, which has the capability to surpass the six-win mark with Gus Malzahn back in town. And someone else will get to six wins. My candidates: Missouri and Tennessee.
5. Vanderbilt will pull a major upset. This is the year. This is the team that does it for James Franklin. He likes what he has coming back on both sides of the ball, and he's thrilled with his defensive depth in the front seven. Look out Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M. One of you will fall to the Commodores.
6. Jadeveon Clowney will get at least 15 sacks. It won't be easy, but a faster, more focused Clowney will surpass his mark of 13 sacks that he had last year. The pressure is on for Clowney to deliver, but if there's any player in the country who can live up to the hype, it's Clowney. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has said it before: If Clowney doesn't want to be blocked, he won't be. He won't be blocked much this fall. Teams will try to game plan around him, but you just can't keep a freak like that down.
7. T.J. Yeldon will lead the SEC in rushing. Gurley might be the SEC's best running back, but something tells me Yeldon is going to have a special year. Both will have to deal with sharing carries, but I don't see Yeldon sharing as much as Gurley. As a backup last year, Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards. Now, he's the starter.
8. Florida will get back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers. Believe it or not, the Gators have never had running backs rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive years. That will change this fall, as Matt Jones will follow Mike Gillislee's 1,152-yard season in 2012 with his own 1,000-yard season. He'll miss Week 1, but that won't stop him from have a four-digit season.
9. The targeting rule will cost a team a win. The rule is all about safety, and that's great, but it's tricky and will cost a team in 2013. Players are making split decisions and so are refs. Coaches are unsure about the rule -- and the ejections -- and in at least one SEC game the targeting rule will send a player to the showers early and cost his team a victory.
10. Ohio State will figure out a way to lose to the SEC ... again. Whether it's in the national championship or another postseason bowl, the Buckeyes will find a way to do what they do best: lose to the SEC. Urban Meyer had a ton of success while at Florida, but it'll be a rude awakening for him when he has to face the SEC again.
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf