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It's Ole Miss, for sure.
The Rebels were much better than their 7-6 record indicated a year ago. They are returning virtually every piece of the puzzle and have the benefit of a stellar recruiting class in 2013 to either build depth or push established starters out of the way.
I picked the Rebels to tie for third in the SEC West with Texas A&M but to win the head-to-head meeting with the Aggies and claim the tiebreaker.
Bo Wallace swung like a pendulum last season, tossing 22 touchdowns and 17 picks. His shoulder was nagging him all year, though.
The schedule is tough, no doubt. But if Ole Miss can get by Vanderbilt in the opener, a nine-win season will be attainable. Even if the Rebels fall to the 'Dores, they'll still be competitive in virtually every game.
@BarrettSallee more impressive in week 1, Ole Miss or Auburn?— Maddie (@Maddie_bruh) August 29, 2013
Definitely Ole Miss.
Auburn is in for a roller-coaster season. Depth at the back end of the defense is very much an issue. Up front, defensive end Dee Ford is out, and Auburn could end up counting on newcomers Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams.
Washington State likes to sling it around, and if Auburn's defensive line is inconsistent, quarterback Connor Halliday could take advantage.
That will put pressure on Nick Marshall, who is going to be high-risk, high-reward quarterback in 2013. He has everything he needs to be a star except experience and proven consistency.
That's going to be a problem early on for Auburn.
@BarrettSallee stat line for Nick Marshall in Week 1— Joey Whitlock (@joey_whitlock) August 29, 2013
I'll go with this: 226 passing yards, three touchdowns passes, two interceptions, 68 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
Look, I get the Cam Newton comparison. Nick Marshall is a dual-threat SEC quarterback who ran into trouble at an SEC school, went to junior college and came back to the nation's toughest college football conference.
Marshall isn't Newton. He will look like him at times, but Newton threw only five picks in his one season at junior college. Marshall threw 20. Ball security was a point of emphasis for Marshall during fall camp, and he apparently didn't have a turnover during any of Auburn's scrimmage.
That's progress, but it doesn't erase doubt.
Expect Marshall to make several jaw-dropping plays but also leave fans scratching their heads at times.
Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @BarrettSallee or at email@example.com.
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