Blog

SEC Over/Under Win Total Predictions

042512_ls_d1_sec_t618_rounded_corners.jpg

Written by Cole Locascio

A couple weeks ago, the gambling site, Bovada, released their over/under win totals for the SEC conference. Leading the pack, as most of us would expect, is Alabama with their win total set at 10.5. With just a few weeks left until kickoff, and fall camps getting underway, let's discuss each team's odds coming into the 2014 season...

Alabama - 10.5 (over)

Taking a look at Alabama's schedule, it's difficult to find two games that you can mark as losses. With, in my opinion, the best backfield in the SEC, consisting of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, and Kenyon Drake, the Tide won't even need to rely on their biggest question mark coming into this season -- a quarterback. Under Nick Saban, Alabama doesn't "rebuild", they "reload". This year should be no different, as the Tide should roll on to an 11-win season with a loss coming to either LSU on the road, or against Auburn in Bryant-Denny.

Potential Losses: @LSU, Auburn

Arkansas - 4.5 (under)

It's been tough to get a good read on the Razorbacks for the last few seasons. Ever since Petrino's premature departure from Fayetteville, Arkansas has struggled to maintain an identity. After finishing winless in the conference last season, HC Bret Bielema is desperately searching for answers to get his Hogs on the right track. Yet, with only 11 returning starters coming into the 2014 season (7 offense, 4 defense), this year might not be the year. Most of the responsibility on the offensive side of the ball must fall on QB Brandon Allen's shoulders. Last year the junior quarterback finished with a 49.6% completion percentage, which in the SEC just isn't gonna cut it. However, the one constant factor for this team comes in the backfield, as sophomore Alex Collins proved to be one of the most dynamic backs in the league last year as a freshman, and I'm interested to see the explosive tailback progress during his time at Arkansas. However, that doesn't cover up the fact that there are some serious glaring issues on both sides of the ball, especially with such an inexperienced defense entering fall camp, which in the SEC West, proves to be disastrous. Early matchups against Auburn and two solid non-conference teams (@Texas Tech, Northern Illinois) will be quite the test for the 2014 Razorbacks. 

Potential Losses: @Auburn, @Texas Tech, Northern Illiinois, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, @Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss, @Missouri

Auburn - 9 (over)

Seconds away from a national championship last season, Gus Malzahn's Tigers have a mighty steep road ahead of them for the 2014 season. However, this is a near identical team as the 2013 Auburn Tigers. While the reigning SEC champions lose a key blocker in Jay Prosch, and a reliable tailback in Tre Mason, Auburn reloads both positions with Brandon Fulse doing some great work at the H-back position, while Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne are splitting duties in the backfield. Auburn's rigorous schedule is the only factor that holds me back from calling a repeat, but nonetheless, there is no reason the Tigers shouldn't win at least 10 this year.

Potential Losses: LSU, South Carolina, @Georgia, @Alabama

Florida - 7.5 (under)

To call Will Muschamp's third season in Gainesville a disappoint is being kind. Florida's downfall last year stemmed from multiple factors, but the main being injuries to an abundance of key players. While the Gators' defense last season remained one of the best (#8 in the nation), their offense was extremely lacking to say the least, as they finished the season ranked 114th nationally in total offense. But for 2014, with a starting offensive line consisting of juniors and seniors, it can only get better, right? Right?! I think so... even with Jeff Driskel back making the calls from the shotgun. Florida makes a bowl, BUT doesn't get the over. It's unreasonable to expect an 8-win season after last year's disaster, especially with such a brutal schedule.

Potential Losses: @Alabama, @Tennessee, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, @FSU

Georgia - 9.5 (over)

Similarly to Florida, Georgia was hit by a serious injury bug during the 2013 season, and they hope to keep the word "injury" out of the fall camp headlines as much as they can. Unfortunately for Mark Richt and the Dawgs, Georgia has already suffered two key injuries in WR Malcolm Mitchell, who if you'll remember suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener last season, and TE Jay Rome who is currently recovering from surgery in his right foot. Rome, unlike Mitchell, will likely be 100% for the season opener against Clemson, and is poised for a breakout season this year. With nine returning starters on defense, I fully expect Georgia to achieve a 10/11 win season behind the arm of Hutson Mason (mark my words, this kid will be a stud). 

Potential Losses: Clemson, @South Carolina, @Missouri, Auburn

Kentucky - 3.5 (over)

As Mark Stoops realized last season, it's mighty tough to win at Kentucky. Winless in the SEC, as well as a loss to Western Kentucky to start his head coaching career, Stoops is looking for 2014 to be a sudden turn in the right direction -- he might just get that. With eight starters returning on defense, the former Florida State defensive coordinator is expecting a significant step forward this season. The air-raid mentality of OC Neal Brown disappointed in year one, but with two former 4-star recruits, Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, competing for the starting job this season, Brown is looking for the type of success he had instilling the same system at Texas Tech just a few years ago. Expect an improved Kentucky team that's headed in the right direction.

Potential Wins: UT Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt, ULM, @Louisville

LSU - 9 (under)

One thing we know for sure with this LSU team is that they will be relying heavily on the power-run game. Zach Mettenberger? Gone. Odell Beckham/Jarvis Landry? Gone. So what's left? An absolute dominating offensive line to lead the way for 2014's #1 recruit, Leonard Fournette. On the other side of the ball, DC John Chavis is looking for a much improved Tiger defense, as LSU allowed 5.7 yards per play last year (7th in the SEC) -- a stat that won't win an SEC west title. Are the Tigers good enough to be considered for an SEC west title this year? Absolutely not. This is a highly talented football team, but you can't win solely on talent in the SEC... just ask Florida.

Potential Losses: Wisconsin, Miss. St, @Auburn, @Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, @Texas A&M

Mississippi State - 7.5 (over)

Last season was a bit of a wild ride for Dan Mullen and the (other) Dawgs. With a 4-6 record and two games remaining in the season, Mississippi State pulled out wins against Arkansas and rival Ole Miss to become bowl eligible. To top off the hype and excitement for the 2014 season, the Bulldogs steamrolled Rice in the Liberty Bowl, 44-7. The main reason for the huge turnaround? QB Dak Prescott. This season's offensive strategy will be to focus the entire offense around Dak, while also implementing the run-game of senior RB Josh Robinson who proved to be a more consistent back last season over over-hyped RB LaDarious Perkins, who has since graduated. If Prescott and the offensive line can stay healthy, then watch out. Mississippi State will have one of the most dominant offenses not only in the SEC, but in the country. Dan Mullen will carry the momentum from last season to become the most surprising team of 2014 (and that's a good thing.)

Potential Losses: @LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, @Alabama, @Ole Miss

Missouri - 7.5 (over)

The reigning SEC East champs aren't receiving much love from the media this offseason. The most generous prediction I've seen for Mizzou was a third place ranking in the east behind the Dawgs and Gamecocks. What gives? The newbies of the SEC return QB Maty Mauk who played in ten games last season for the Tigers, as well as RB Marcus Murphy who could prove to be one of the most versatile players in the nation this season. However, the biggest question mark comes at the wide receiver position with the graduations of Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington, as well as the dismissal of Dorial Green-Beckham a few months ago following a second marijuana charge on the former #1 recruit. Maty Mauk will have his work cut out for him with new targets to work with this season.

On the defensive side, even with the losses of ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, Mizzou's d-line should be one of the best in the conference with heavy experience at the tackle position to lead the way. Gary Pinkel will have time to shape his team, as they open up the season against four fairly easy opponents (South Dakota St, Toledo, UCF, and Indiana), but key games at South Carolina and at home against Georgia loom right behind. If the Tigers can at least split a win from those two crucial matchups, expect an exciting SEC East race once again...

Potential Losses: @South Carolina, Georgia, @Florida, @Texas A&M, @Tennessee

Ole Miss - 7.5 (over)

The key to Hugh Freeze and the Rebels' success on offense stems from the arm of QB Bo Wallace and his play-making ability. The guy has plenty of options out wide for his choosing -- WR Laquon Treadwell and TE Evan Engram will lead the way for this year's receiving corps. 

The Rebels' defensive line is one that is loaded with talent, especially with the Nkemdiche brothers around. But last year, the pass rush was a bit lacking (91st in the country) -- ouch. However, with another year of experience under its belt, this talented unit should show a significant upgrade this year. An opening game against Boise State in the Georgia Dome could end up setting the tone for the rest of the season...

Potential Losses: Boise State, Alabama, @Texas A&M, Tennessee, @LSU, Auburn, Mississippi St.

South Carolina - 9.5 (under)

It's kind of shocking to me that the media has been loving up on South Carolina as much as they have. Spurrier's crew lost a quarterback, Connor Shaw, and one of the most dominant defensive linemen of all time, Jadeveon Clowney, yet they're still considered to be an SEC East favorite alongside Georgia. I do however believe that Dylan Thompson will be a fine replacement to Shaw, possibly an even better one, and the senior quarterback will have plenty of options when it comes to receivers -- the lone receiver to graduate last year was Bruce Ellington. But in the SEC you don't win games with speedy playmakers, you instead win them with the big uglies at the line of scrimmage, and while the offensive line should be one of the strengths of this team, the defensive line has some major holes to fill after being gutted by the NFL this past season. Can this team win the east? Sure, but I don't think it will. Thankfully, they get Georgia at home this time around.

Potential Losses: Texas A&M, Georgia, Missouri, @Auburn, Tennessee, @Florida, @Clemson

Tennessee - 5.5 (over)

For the last few years, Tennessee fans have expected disappointment, and rightfully so. Four coaches in six years is nothing to be bragging about. But the term I hear the most from Vols fans is "rebuilding year". Let's get this straight, to have a rebuilding year, you had to have had a foundation year with some form of success, otherwise it's just simply a "building year". Tennessee might be heading straight into the eye of the storm this season. Returning the least starters in the SEC (10) with not a single returning offensive lineman is quite ludicrous. But for some screwed up reason, Tennessee fans should have hope.

Butch Jones came into a dumpster fire of a program, one that desperately needs a leader to take charge. Jones is that guy. Tennessee recruiting is booming again, unlike the Dooley days when even Vandy was out-recruiting the Big Orange. Suddenly, 5 stars are committing, fans are actually showing up, and there's a sudden sense of pride of being a Tennessee Vol. Will this season be an absolute roller coaster? Yes. Will the team surprise some people? Definitely. Once the offensive line settles into place, watch out. The Vols will once again be a serious SEC East contender very soon. 

Potential Losses: @Oklahoma, @UGA, Florida, @Ole Miss, Alabama, @South Carolina, Missouri

Texas A&M - 7 (under)

Am I the only one that thinks this team will be completely dreadful? No defense, added with the fact that Johnny Football is no longer running circles around defenses equals a miserable season for Aggie fans. While the defense can only get better this season after a horrendous 2013 season, as DC Mark Snyder's unit ranked last or second to last in every major defensive category). The quarterback race is heating up with just a few weeks to go in fall camp, as 5-star freshman Kyle Allen is competing for the job against sophomore Kenny Hill. Whomever wins the job will have a tough road ahead to compensate for the amount of points allowed on the other side of the ball. Right now, I can't see the Aggies making a bowl game, as their SEC magic runs out.

Potential Losses: @South Carolina, @Mississippi State, Ole Miss, @Alabama, @Auburn, Missouri, LSU

Vanderbilt - 6 (under)

Even with only 11 returning starters, the biggest key loss to the Vanderbilt football program is former head coach, James Franklin. Franklin, in hopes of a more passionate fanbase, something he longed for while in Nashville, settled into his new office at the Penn State Athletic Complex back in January, leaving the Commodores to frantically search for a new head coach. Six days later, AD David Williams reached agreements with former Stanford DC Derek Mason. The defensive-minded Mason will be leading a team with just three returning starters on the defensive side of the ball -- a blow to an already wounded team. And with road games against Georgia, Missouri, and rising threat, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt's chances at a bowl game are pretty slim.

Potential Losses: Ole Miss, South Carolina, @UGA, @Missouri, Florida, @Mississippi St, Tennessee

Final Recruiting Odds/Predictions

                                                               Photo by Al.com

                                                               Photo by Al.com

Written by Cole Locascio

With 21 commitments on the board (5 already enrolled), the Auburn Tigers are shaping up to have a top-10 recruiting class for 2014. But Gus Malzahn and the Auburn coaching staff aren't finished yet, as they are still waiting on the decisions of a few more high school athletes tomorrow. Let me run you through Auburn's final targets and their chances of landing each one...

Rashaan Evans (Undecided) - "Star", Auburn (AL), 5 Star     (#1 OLB, #15 Overall)

Interests: Auburn, Alabama, UCLA

The hometown-hero, Rashaan Evans, is the top target for the Auburn coaching staff heading into the final stretch, as a commitment from the #1 outside linebacker in the country would likely guarantee Auburn a top-5 recruiting class finish. Gus Malzahn and the Auburn coaching staff are recruiting Rashaan for the "Star" position in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 system.

If we back up a few weeks, Evans was considered to be an "Auburn-lock", but since then Alabama, along with UCLA, has made a strong push for the highly-touted athlete. The recruiting "circus", as I like to call it, has picked up quite a bit of steam for Evans, as both Kirby Smart and Gus Malzahn were present for Rashaan's grandfather's 80th birthday party last Saturday. When coaches are meddling their way into the extended family of a recruit, that's when you know things are getting out of hand.

UCLA seems to be the least likely of the three at this point. While the Bruins offer immediate playing time on offense and defense, proximity to home, as well as a chance to play in the SEC would be too much to turn down for the Auburn High linebacker. Alabama, on the other hand, poses the biggest threat to the Tigers today. Promising Evans a shot at a starting spot as a freshman (wishful thinking), Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, thinks Evans would be a perfect fit for a hybrid-type linebacker spot in his system. 

The kid has grown up in Auburn, he has friends in Auburn, so his heart should lie with Auburn. After going back and forth between the Tide and the Tigers in the past week, I think Evans will pick Auburn -- I have a pretty good feeling with this one.

Odds he signs with Auburn: 62%

Braden Smith (Undecided) - OG, Olathe (KS), 4 Star (#3 OG, #63 Overall)

Interests: Auburn, TCU, Texas A&M

After garnering a more recent interest from the Auburn coaching staff, Braden Smith has been recruited hard by Coach Malzahn and offensive line coach, J.B. Grimes. Smith performed in the Under Armour All-American game/practices where he wow'd coaches from across the country with his athleticism, footwork, and sheer strength against some of the nation's top defensive linemen. 

At this point, it seems to be an Auburn/TCU battle for the Kansas kid with Texas A&M on the outside and looking in. TCU has been the heavy favorite for months, but after attracting the attention of Gus Malzahn, an SEC offer with an offensive system that relies heavily on the run-game, Auburn has made things awfully interesting. While TCU did get the final visit last weekend, I expect Braden to sign with the Tigers tomorrow -- it'll be a close one.

Odds he signs with Auburn: 58%

Andrew Williams (Undecided) - DE, McDonough (GA), 4 Star (#12 WDE, #231 Overall)

Interests: Auburn, Clemson, Georgia

Look at the Braden Smith recruiting scenario and take the opposite -- that's what you get with the defensive end from Eagle's Landing Christian, Andrew Williams.

After being recruited for the longest time by a pair of Tigers, Clemson and Auburn, Williams has recently attracted the attention of newly-hired UGA defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt. According to Williams himself, relationships are the most important part of the recruiting process, so while Georgia has made a valiant and strong push for the Georgia-kid as of late, I think this will continue to be a Clemson/Auburn battle for the signature. I'll give the very slight edge to Auburn because of the fact that he has two of his fellow Georgia friends, Carl Lawson and Montravious Adams, already at Auburn.

Odds he signs with Auburn: 52%

Steven Parker (Oklahoma Commit) - Safety, Jenks (OK), 4 Star (#9 S, #108 Overall)

Parker committed to the in-state Oklahoma Sooners yesterday at his high school. The Auburn coaching staff didn't feel too great about their chances in the race, which played a big role in the offer of safety, Markell Boston (who later committed to the Tigers), yesterday. I never like to leave out the possibility of a flip, but don't expect one from this kid tomorrow. 

Odds he signs with Auburn: 2%

Treon Harris (FSU Commit) - ATH, Miami (FL), 4 Star

Interests: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami

Yes, he is a Florida State commit, but a lot of insiders and recruiting analysts are predicting some sort of decommitment/flip from the athlete out of Booker T. High School today. Auburn has pitched the opportunity to play multiple positions on offense (QB, WR), as well as a shot on the opposite side of the ball at defensive back. I'm just not too sure how Harris would fit into Auburn's offense with his 4.58 40-time. Expect this kid to stay in the state of Florida.

Odds he signs with Auburn: 20%

Davon Godchaux (LSU Commit) - DT, Plaquemine (LA), 4 Star (#10 SDE, #148 Overall)

Interests: Auburn, Florida, LSU, UCLA

A bit of a loose cannon for LSU's coaching staff, Godchaux has visited Auburn and UCLA recently. While he believes that he would be a good fit in Ellis Johnson's defensive system, I think this is just a case of a recruit enjoying the recruiting process while he can. LSU won't let him slip out of the state of Louisiana. 

Odds he signs with Auburn: 15%

Top 10 Plays of the 2013 Auburn Tigers

Written by Cole Locascio

10. Dee Ford - Aaron Murray Takedown

After pulling off the first of Auburn’s miraculous feats, there was still work to be done on the defensive front. Georgia slowly churned their way down the field in an effort to catch Auburn’s winded defense by surprise for a score in the final minute of the game. Pulling up at around the 20 yard line, with a few ticks left on the clock, it was lockdown time for the Auburn defense. Murray dropped back to pass, was under pressure from the outside, decided to step up in the pocket before getting laid out by Dee Ford with the pass falling incomplete to end the game.

9. Nick Marshall - Touchdown Pass To Tie Alabama

Nick Marshall and Gus Malzahn were on the same page for this one. Both of the offensive minds could see the corner biting on the read-option, so Nick told Gus to run the same play -- he agreed. Same play, read-option to the left, Nick keeps it, looks like he'll get tackled in the backfield, no -- he's going to throw it, and he has Coates wide-open! Touchdown Auburn. Tie ball game.

8. Marcus Davis - 3rd Down Catch

Down by three, Auburn needed a third down conversion to keep the drive alive. At midfield with 1:55 to go in the game, Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense faced a 3rd & 9 situation at Kyle Field. A bullet throw to the sidelines intended for Marcus Davis is caught and braced on the helmet of Davis as he finally pulls it in for a big gain, which would then set-up an eventual Auburn score to take the lead and the win against the seventh-ranked Aggies.

7. Tre Mason - Touchdown Run Against FSU

This run would’ve been much higher on the list if the following events had a different result. Nonetheless, this was an amazing run by the Heisman finalist, Mason, as he broke four tackles on his way to the endzone to put the Tigers on top with 1:19 left in the game.

6. Dee Ford - Final Sack on Johnny Manziel

At the time, this felt like a true David vs. Goliath type of story. Auburn, winless in the SEC in 2012, visiting the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station. It was only fitting that the game ended with Dee Ford planting the Heisman trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, straight into the ground. This was the play that signified that the Auburn Tigers were back.

5. Sammie Coates - Stiff Arm

Who knew Sammie Coates had strength like this? After being wrapped up, and what looked to be a sure tackle, Coates threw the Aggie defensive back to the ground with a WWE-style bodyslam. Oh, and he also got a first down out of it, too. 

4. C.J. Uzomah - Game-Winning Touchdown Catch

A very underrated play of Auburn's 2013 campaign -- the first reason being that is was towards the beginning of the season, and the second is that I can think of two plays in particular that overshadowed this one towards the end of the year. I'll be honest -- I was perfectly content with just killing the clock and kicking a field goal to send this game to overtime, so what does Gus do? The exact opposite of what I want. Turns out it worked for him this time... who knew?

3. Nick Marshall - Tipped Catch Off Defender

A bad pass turned into one of the most athletic plays I've seen in my lifetime. Nick Marshall rolled out to his left in an attempt to find an open receiver, but instead his pass tipped off the hands of a Bulldog defensive back and back into his own. Any sane quarterback would've just fallen to the ground to praise the football gods that it wasn't an interception, but what does Nick Marshall do? Spins and runs wild down the sideline for a huge gain. 

2. Ricardo Louis - Miracle In Jordan-Hare

Here's the first obvious choice for the top two spots of the year. I'll admit it, I thought this game was over. 4th & 18 with 36 seconds on the clock? No way, stick a fork in it -- we're done. After blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, it was about to be one of the biggest meltdowns in Auburn football history. So when Nick Marshall threw a long-ball straight into the vicinity of two Georgia defenders, I was ready to grab my shaker and leave Jordan-Hare in a furious, rage-filled mess. "And Louis caught it on the deflection, Louis is gonna score, Louis is gonna score... A miracle in Jordan-Hare!" 

1. Chris Davis - Kick Six

Nothing could top the end of the Georgia game, right? Right?! 

Just two weeks later, in the biggest game of the season, the greatest play of the season, no -- the greatest play in college football history occurred. After fighting to get one second back on the clock to kick a field goal, Nick Saban sends out his backup kicker, Adam Griffith, to attempt a 57-yard field goal for the win. Kick's up, oh no... it looks good -- nope, it's short. Wait, he can return that, can't he? He's got room, but surely someone will end up knocking him out of bounds. 35, 40, 45, 50, 45, 40 -- he's gonna do it, he's gonna do it! Ballgame. 

Be careful what you wish for, Nick.

Fearless and True

Written by Cole Locscio

Stunned, distraught, heartbroken.

Sitting in the Rose Bowl with confetti flying in the air, fireworks blasting in the sky, fans screaming to their heart's content -- but it was the wrong side, wrong team, wrong everything. 

I could feel the tears pouring down my face as it sank into the deep abyss of my palms. I crashed onto the cold metal bench after witnessing Auburn's final attempt at a miraculous feat come to a crashing halt. I wanted this one -- badly. But not for my own selfish reasons, instead for our players. The guys who put everything on the line to provide us, the fans, with a reason to show up, and a reason to believe.

USATSI_7657561.jpg

It would've been awfully nice to have hoisted the crystal ball on Monday night, but don't think for a second that this Auburn Tiger team will follow in the footsteps of the "forgotten" teams of years past -- teams that weren't able to make the cut. Let's go back to last year (I know, it hurts, but bear with me on this one). Quitters, incompetent, mind-numbingly awful. All fit the description of the 2012 Auburn team. Towards the end of the season, my heart became detached from Auburn football for the first time in my life. Why should I put my heart and soul into a team that simply gave up when faced with adversity? Coming into the 2013 season, with a new coach at the helm, Auburn continued to be forgotten, doubted, and thrown to the wayside in the eyes of the media. Hell, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't preparing myself for complete and utter disappointment from Gus Malzahn's squad. But Auburn didn't care -- they were focused on only one goal throughout the season... Pasadena.

These boys, individually, may not be the most talented at their respective positions, but together as one, the sky's the limit.

Tre Mason, along with Dee Ford and Carl Lawson, felt obligated to apologize to the Auburn family. Get out of here with that, guys. If anyone's doing the apologizing, it should be me. I didn't think you could do it, even after you showed the most fight I've ever seen from an Auburn team in the second-half at LSU, after you traveled to College Station and beat college football's best quarterback on his home-turf, and after you miraculously found a way to win against Georgia. Each week, I predicted loss after loss. But that's not because I'm a pessimist -- far from it in fact. I don't know, I guess I was sheltering myself from more heartbreak -- I already get enough of that from other branches of my life. What took time for me to realize was the fact that while the roster may be extremely similar on paper, this is far from last year's team on the field. Think about it: Aside from Nick Marshall, this is the same team that caused so much grief, suffering, and pure embarrassment for Auburn fans last season. It's remarkable that they could turn things around to become bowl eligible, let alone coming up just three points short of winning the whole damn thing.

I know, it hurts like hell now -- trust me, I get it. A win would have made the perfect storybook ending to a fairytale kind of season. Seriously, they make movies about this stuff!  Now, everyone take a deep breath. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to cherish this season, hold it closely to your heart… forever. The 2013 Auburn Tigers have already gone down in history as the greatest turnaround in college football history, and in my mind… the toughest team to ever dress in orange and blue. The media, scratch that, everyone pushed this team down. But did they ever give up, did they ever stop fighting, did they ever listen to what anyone had to say? Never. 

No matter how much last Monday night hurt me, it's good to finally feel something for Auburn football again. That's why we love football, isn't it? It's an escape from life, a time to feel like a little kid, and a time to throw all of your problems straight out the window for three and a half hours to cheer for something in which you have no control. 2013 was the toughest year of my life. Without getting too far into my personal side, I felt alone. I was having a tough time relating with anyone. But each Saturday in the fall, that all changed. Suddenly, I found myself in a place filled with other people that shared the same passion as me. Sure we may have completely different backgrounds and live in different areas, but that stuff doesn't matter once the ball is tee'd off. Auburn is a special place. Auburn is my home away from home, a place where getting emotional over a "game" is actually praised. So to end this miraculous season and rollercoaster of a year, I'll close with this...

Hold your head high. Whether you're a player or a fan, this year was more than we ever could have expected. A team that was constantly beaten down and discredited because of "lucky and miraculous" wins proved last Monday night that they were the real deal. To the players: We stand behind you. Auburn is a family, and families pull through together when faced with hardships. Nobody is disappointed in you, and I think I speak for the whole Auburn family in saying that words cannot even begin to describe how incredibly proud we are of this miraculous and unforgettable season. You guys gave Auburn fans a reason to show up to the games, to believe, and to proudly scream "War Damn Eagle" until the day we die. It's been a fun ride, so never forget the 2013 team -- the orange and blue, fearless and true.

It's Great To Be An Auburn Tiger.


Bowl Predictions: 12/28-12/31

130427.mca_.ODE_.fbc_.Spring.Game_.163.jpg

Written by Cole Locascio

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

First off -- football should never be played in a baseball park, okay? The logistics of it just don't fit -- at all. Last night's game in AT&T Park out in San Francisco forced both teams to share the same sideline. This is football, not hockey. 

Prediction: Notre Dame W 24-19

Belk Bowl - Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

Oh, goody! A bowl game named after a department store. And who said that there are too many bowl games? Coach Tommy Tubbs coaches the Bearcats -- that's about all I can tell you for this preview.

Prediction: Cincinnati W 31-23

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami vs. Louisville

Does anyone actually wear Russell's gear since Auburn dropped them in 2005? No? That's what I thought. Can you believe that Louisville only has one loss? I surely can't. Teddy Bridgewater might be the most overrated quarterback in college football. For a guy who is/was supposed to be the #1 quarterback drafted, he sure does throw some wobbly passes. 

Prediction: Miami W 34-27

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - Kansas State vs. Michigan

The key to this one will lie with Michigan's offensive production without star quarterback, Devin Gardner. The Wolverines gave Ohio State quite a scare in week 14, as they lit up the scoreboard for 41 points in a one-point loss. Kansas State, on a similar note, suffered a shaky start to their year, as the Wildcats limped through a 2-4 record before finally leveling out their play to finish out with a 5-1 record to end the second half of the season. I think the loss of their starting quarterback will prove too much, as Michigan loses in a close one to a red hot Kansas State team.

Prediction: Kansas State W 31-27

Armed Forces Bowl - Middle Tennessee vs. Navy

*Insert decent Armed Forces team* *Insert decent team with 9-10 wins against cupcake teams* There. That just about sums up this bowl game. With a month to prepare, I expect Middle Tennessee to shut the triple-option down.

Prediction: Middle Tennessee W 26-19

Music City Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech

Like Navy, Georgia Tech's triple-option offense can be fairly simple to stop with a little bit of preparation. Basic assignment football should do the trick against the Jackets, as the talented Rebel defensive line will give Paul Johnson fits. Remember what Iowa did to Georgia Tech in the '09 Orange Bowl? Expect a similar result this year in Nashville. 

Prediction: Ole Miss W 35-24

Alamo Bowl - Oregon vs. Texas

According to my "sources", Nick Saban is not, not going to stay at Alabama. See what I did there? On a serious note, Oregon should handle this game from start to finish. With all the hype that will surround Mack Brown's final game, I'll admit that it'd be quite a sight to see an upset at the Alamo. Don't count on it, though... it won't happen.

Prediction: Oregon W 38-27

Holiday Bowl - Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

The attractive, uh, I mean... young Kliff Kingsbury is the definition of a new age coach -- too bad his offense is a bit dated. Everyone knows the air raid is so 2008. After a hot 7-0 record to start the season, Texas Tech has suffered five straight losses. Don't expect that trend to change on Monday, because the Sun Devils are on fire this season. Frankly, I'm shocked that this is even a matchup, because Arizona State, with their strong pass defense, should win handily.

Prediction: Arizona State W 34-21

AdvoCare V100 Bowl - Arizona vs. Boston College

Run, run, run. Two of the best running backs in the country, Andre Williams and Ka'Deem Carey, will face off, head to head, in this matchup on Tuesday. One of the few teams to give Florida State fits on defense this season was Boston College with their superb rushing attack, but watch out for Arizona's spark that triggered toward the latter part of the season. The Wildcats are still flying high from their upset win against Oregon a few weeks back, while Boston College has maintained their steady, one-dimensional offensive attack with Andre Williams in the backfield. I feel like the more complete team, Arizona, will win this one in a back-and-forth match. 

Prediction: Arizona W 38-34

Sun Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. UCLA

I cringe when I watch Virginia Tech's offense. Scot Loeffler (yes, that one) is in control of the play-calling up there. Luckily for the Hokies, they have a very underrated defense holding their opponents to 17.4 points per game, good enough for eighth best in the nation. The bad news? Their opponent is UCLA this time. The Bruins are averaging 448 yards per game, and with dual-threat quarterback, Brett Hundley, under center, it spells trouble for the Hokies' defensive ends. The key for a Virginia Tech win? Contain the QB, and force him to make mistakes in the pocket instead.

Prediction: UCLA W 28-24

Liberty Bowl - Rice vs. Mississippi State

The cowbells snuck their way into a bowl game when Bo "Sunshine" Wallace watched the Egg Bowl slip away from his very own hands when he fumbled the football on his way to a sure touchdown run in overtime. Wait, who's Mississippi State playing? Rice? Is this baseball, because that would be a whole lot more believable. Rice is coming off of a remarkable 10-win season (in the Conference USA), but the SEC will prove too much for the forgotten team in Texas, as the "clangas" will roll on to victory.

Prediction: Mississippi State W 37-17

Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Duke vs. Texas A&M

The last game of the New Year should be a real snoozer. I just picked up a ticket on StubHub for $22 -- a lower level seat, nonetheless. Johnny Manziel will shred the Blue Devil defense in what should be his last game starting in the college ranks. Don't worry, Duke could keep it close for a while, and should be able to put up some points due to that pathetic Aggie defense.

Prediction: Texas A&M W 38-23

Stay tuned for my New Year's Bowl Predictions next week....