SEC bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff will occasionally give their takes on a burning question or hot debate facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
With the Sweet 16 runs made by Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle capturing the hearts of the nation, we decided to check out potential Cinderellas in the SEC this fall.
Today's Take Two topic: Who has the best chance of playing SEC Cinderella in 2013 -- Auburn or Missouri?
Take 1: Edward Aschoff
Who will be the FGCU or La Salle of the SEC this fall? I’m going with the Missouri Tigers. This group was battered and bruised for most of 2012, and no one is giving them much respect at all in 2013. But those injuries should be healed up by September, and the Tigers could shock a few people this fall.
The offense was in shambles last year because neither the offensive line nor quarterback James Franklin stayed healthy. However, Missouri returns just about everyone up front and Franklin says his shoulder is better than ever. A good shoulder leads to a better throwing arm and a more confident quarterback. Plus, he’s extremely motivated to prove he’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Along with that healthy line, Franklin will have a wealth of talent to work with, starting with a deep receiving corps led by Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas, who totaled 904 yards and eight touchdowns last year, and a backfield that should have a healthy Henry Josey back. Remember, he was the Big 12’s best running back in 2011 before his devastating knee injury midway through the year.
The defense does worry me because of the holes in the front seven, but a healthier Mizzou offense will score more points next year and will make this team better equipped to challenge opposing SEC defenses. The Tigers will pull a big upset this year, and getting Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M at home works in their favor.
Take 2: Chris Low
All this Cinderella talk has me thinking glass slippers and fairy godmothers. But, hey, we’re talking football Cinderellas, and my pick for the 2013 season is Auburn, which is coming off a train wreck of a season a year ago that saw the Tigers go winless in the SEC and Gene Chizik lose his job two years removed from winning a national title.
A familiar face on the Plains, Gus Malzahn, is back as head coach, and I have no doubt that he will find a way to put an offense on the field next season that will move the ball and score points. He’s done it everywhere he’s been. And on defense, veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson will see to it that the Tigers play to their talent level, particularly up front. They’re experienced and deep at tackle, and that’s always a good place to start in the SEC.
A fresh start should do wonders for the Tigers, who were a disjointed bunch last season. Talent wasn’t the problem. They were far more talented than they played a year ago, and Malzahn has assembled a staff loaded with SEC experience that will maximize that talent. All the Tigers need is a little confidence early, and the schedule is tailor-made for that. They play five of their first six games at home.
If Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee can get the quarterback position up to speed, this is a team that could easily bounce back with an eight-win season and play in an attractive bowl game.