Predicting When Every SEC Team Will Lose Its First Game in 2014
The Southeastern Conference has been the gold standard in college football for nearly a decade, and that trend won't end in 2014.
Several stars are departing from the league, including 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Georgia signal-caller Aaron Murray and LSU running back Jeremy Hill.
It'll make for an interesting dynamic, as several top programs will need to rebuild.
However, the southern schools have dominated on the recruiting trail, leaving the league's powers set to reload with a new influx of talent.
Come along as we take an early look at the 2014 SEC slate and predict when each team will take its first loss of the season.
Note: Schedules via FBSchedules.com.
2013 Record: 9-4 (4-4)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 6 vs. Ole Miss (Week 2)
Vanderbilt will be at the beginning of a new era next season with the departure of head coach James Franklin and the arrival of Derek Mason.
The Commodores had an impressive 9-4 finish last year and should be in contention for a bowl bid yet again. They have a breezy nonconference schedule that features Temple in Week 1 then Massachusetts in Week 3.
However, they'll take on Ole Miss in Week 2, which will be their first loss.
The Rebels figure to be on the rise with a senior quarterback and an outstanding class of sophomores on both sides of the ball.
Vandy should be bowling yet again, but SEC play might be an adventure. Eight starters from the Vandy defense will be gone.
Texas A&M Aggies
2013 Record: 9-4 (4-4)
First 2014 Loss: Aug. 28 vs. South Carolina (Week 1)
Texas A&M had the best offense in the SEC last season, tallying 538.4 yards per game. However, the Aggies will lose the three most productive players from that attack: quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and running back Ben Malena.
While the Aggies' strength is in question, their biggest weakness will remain. Can A&M make significant strides on the defensive side?
Talent won't be a problem, but it's tough to predict just how successful A&M will be without Manziel and Co. It certainly won't help that the new quarterback, whether it is Matt Joeckel, Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen, will have to go into hostile territory against a talented South Carolina squad in Week 1.
The new era could be off to a rocky start, but don't be surprised if A&M is a force by season's end.
2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 13 vs. Oklahoma (Week 3)
Tennessee had a solid first season under new head coach Butch Jones, and it could be on its way to a bowl game in year two.
The UT defense will bring back several key pieces, including leading tackler A.J. Johnson and top defensive backs Brian Randolph and Cameron Sutton.
But the Volunteers aren't making it easy, with a daunting nonconference test against Oklahoma in Week 3.
The Sooners are thinking Big 12 title and College Football Playoff after beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to close their 2013 season and will be a tough out for UT.
As Tennessee gains experience and integrates its outstanding 2014 recruiting class, it will move closer to SEC title contention.
South Carolina Gamecocks
2013 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
First 2014 Loss: Oct. 25 vs. Auburn (Week 9)
South Carolina will lose its two biggest leaders in 2014: quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Even with that duo departing, though, the Gamecocks will be one of the favorites to win the SEC East.
USC will bring back one of the most explosive running backs in the conference, Mike Davis, and an experienced quarterback, Dylan Thompson.
South Carolina will be tested early and often this season, including tough contests with Texas A&M, East Carolina and Georgia to open the season. However, all three of those games will come at home. It won't be easy, but that sets up for the Gamecocks to ride into Auburn in late October undefeated, at which point the first defeat will come.
Ole Miss Rebels
2013 Record: 8-5 (3-5)
First 2014 Loss: Oct. 4 vs. Alabama (Week 6)
Ole Miss just keeps improving under Hugh Freeze, and 2014 should be its next step up the SEC ladder.
Mississippi will have some difficult nonconference contests against Boise State and defending Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana-Lafayette. But with senior quarterback Bo Wallace and some highly skilled playmakers on offense and defense in tow, the Rebels will make it through those tilts and host Alabama unbeaten in Week 6.
At home, Ole Miss will have a chance to knock off the Crimson Tide, but it won't happen.
This Ole Miss squad will have some upsets in it, but one won't come against 'Bama.
2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 27 vs. South Carolina (Week 5)
Missouri's torrid run through the regular season wasn't expected last season, but now those expectations will be raised in 2014. The Tigers will again be in contention for the SEC East title, but they'll be without quarterback James Franklin and star defenders Michael Sam and E.J. Gaines.
The offense figures to be in good hands with Maty Mauk taking over after showing much promise in relief of Franklin, but the defensive losses are a source of worry.
Mizzou will head to South Carolina in Week 5 in search of vengeance, but that road win won't come unless it can find some new defensive stars early in the season.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
2013 Record: 7-6 (3-5)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 20 vs. LSU (Week 4)
Mississippi State showed some incredible heart late in the season, closing out with overtime wins over Arkansas and rival Ole Miss before clubbing Rice in the Liberty Bowl.
Judging from his play late in the year, quarterback Dak Prescott looks to be the quarterback who can lead the Bulldogs to some upsets in 2014.
MSU will have Texas A&M and Auburn at home, but it'll unfortunately have to travel to LSU to open SEC play.
That will be the first loss of the season for the Dawgs, but another strong finish will still be in the cards.
2013 Record: 10-3 (5-3)
First 2014 Loss: Oct. 4 vs. Auburn (Week 6)
Most programs would be crippled by the widespread turnover that LSU will have to deal with, but the Tigers are somehow poised to reload with the next crop of talented players.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Jeremy Hill and receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham will be gone from the offense, while Craig Loston, Lamin Barrow and several others will be missing from the defense. But LSU will again be one of the toughest teams in the SEC.
That new group will face perhaps the toughest opening game of any team in the league against Big Ten title hopeful Wisconsin.
If LSU makes it out of that game with a win, all will be well in Baton Rouge. With an incredible recruiting class coming in, the Tigers will be talented, but that won't be enough for them to take down Auburn on the road.
2013 Record: 2-10 (0-8)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 13 vs. Florida (Week 3)
Mark Stoops knew Kentucky wouldn't magically become an SEC contender right away, but even in a 2-10 season, UK showed signs of improvement.
The Wildcats have some talent and are building their depth on the recruiting trail.
Some of the close losses from a year ago could turn into wins this next season, but the team won't win its SEC opener on the road against Florida.
UF has beat UK 27 straight times, and it'll make it 28 next year. The Gators also struggled in 2013, but they will be in a much better place next season, with several players set to return from injuries that sidelined them during last year's trying run.
Kentucky could finally stop that streak in the coming years, but it won't end in 2014.
2013 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 13 vs. South Carolina (Week 3)
Georgia had SEC and national title hopes in 2013, but injuries kept that from happening.
With star quarterback Aaron Murray gone, the Bulldogs figure to take a step back, but the entire SEC East will suffer similar losses.
UGA might have the deepest running back corps in the country, headed by Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The Dawgs will also bring back a great group of receivers.
Defense was Georgia's biggest weakness last year, but the young unit that struggled a season ago will improve with age and experience.
Unfortunately, UGA's schedule doesn't set up for a team that might need some time to adjust with a new quarterback, presumably Hutson Mason. The Dawgs should be able to beat a rebuilding Clemson team at home in their opener, but they'll head on the road two weeks later for their SEC opener against South Carolina.
That game could swing either way, but South Carolina will have the slight edge at home.
2013 Record: 4-8 (3-5)
First 2014 Loss: Sept. 20 vs. Alabama (Week 4)
Florida faced a very difficult schedule last year and was simultaneously ravaged by injuries, resulting in one of the most disappointing finishes in school history.
If the Gators are healthy, they could win the SEC East.
They'll have South Carolina and Missouri at home and Georgia in neutral territory, all games that will decide the East title.
But before UF can make it that far, it'll have an early trip to Alabama, which will be its first blemish.
With several skilled running backs, quarterback Jeff Driskel and several elite defenders coming back, Florida will be much better than it was last year, but it still won't be up to snuff with 'Bama.
2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
First 2014 Loss: Nov. 29 vs. Alabama (Week 14)
Auburn was the biggest surprises of the 2013 season, and it also provided some of the most incredible moments of recent college football history.
The Tigers were more than just lucky, they earned the SEC championship with their talent and well-run offensive scheme—and they nearly won a national title as well.
AU will bring back quarterback Nick Marshall, four starters on the offensive front and several top defenders, including Robenson Therezie and three stud defensive linemen. It will also welcome in one of the nation's best recruiting classes. All of that will have Auburn back in the SEC and national title hunt.
It'll also set the stage for the Iron Bowl to again decide the SEC West. Auburn won that game in miraculous fashion last year at home, but this time around, that won't happen at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
At 11-1, Auburn could still end up in the College Football Playoff.
2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)
First 2014 Loss: Aug. 30 vs. Auburn (Week 1)
Bret Bielema's first season at Arkansas didn't go to as planned. The Razorbacks won their first three games, only to lose their last nine. However, even through their murderer's row schedule, they showed that they aren't about to lay down and be the SEC's doormat.
UA improved as the season went on and nearly closed with an upset of LSU. The Hogs fell short in that game, but as they continue to build back up under Bielema's power system, they'll continue that improvement.
With running back Alex Collins looking like a future star in the league, a bowl berth isn't out of the picture. However, defending conference champion Auburn will come calling in Week 1, so loss No. 1 will be tacked on right out of the gates for Arkansas.
Alabama Crimson Tide
2013 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
First 2014 Loss: N/A
The last time Alabama fielded a first-year starter at quarterback, it won a national title. Obviously, that doesn't mean it'll automatically happen again, but it just might.
With four straight No. 1 recruiting classes pumping through the system, Alabama will have all kinds of talent at all positions, particularly running back, where physical freak sophomore Derrick Henry will challenge established junior T.J. Yeldon for starting time.
The Crimson Tide will also lose their top defender, C.J. Mosley, but the aforementioned recruiting success will have them reloading as usual.
'Bama will face a stiff opener in the Georgia Dome against West Virginia and will host Florida in its SEC opener. It'll also travel to LSU on Nov. 8, just when the new-look Tigers should be reaching their full potential.
However, Nick Saban's club knows how to replace stars and still compete better than any program in the nation. As previously mentioned, it looks like all roads will lead to an Iron Bowl to decide the SEC West.
At home, 'Bama will have its revenge against Auburn. If the Tide take a loss this next season, it won't actually happen until 2015.