2013 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings
Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
Posted Jan 22, 2013

The too early look at how good the SEC West teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

SEC West

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

FINAL 2012 Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
- MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC
- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25 
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC West Rankings

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It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2013 based on how good they appear to be at the moment. 

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings
1. Alabama (13-1)

Remember, 2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. There are certainly holes to fill, and there were some hiccups late in the season, but the talent is in place and the expectations will be there for a third straight national title and a fourth in five years. While others will be able to make the case for being the No. 1 team in the country, it'll be hard to argue for anyone else but the defending national champion for the top spot.

The big concern right away will be on offensive line that has to replace center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker, but will revolve around all-star left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo and guard Anthony Steen. There are several good prospects ready to step in, but it'll be a lot to ask of the line to dominate like it did in key moments like it has over the last few years.

BCS championship game star running back Eddie Lacy is off early to the NFL, but electrifying super-soph T.J. Yeldon will lead a loaded stable, helped by a great recruiting class coming in. AJ McCarron is a crusty veteran, and he'll be front and center in the Heisman race with Amari Cooper and a strong group of receivers returning.

Defensively, it's Alabama. It had to overcome massive losses last year and still finished up No. 1 in the nation in total defense, run defense and scoring defense. Top corner Dee Milliner is gone, but the rest of the secondary will be more than fine. The return of Trey DePriest, C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson form a tremendous linebacking quarter working behind a retooled front three that loses nose tackle Jesse Williams and end Damion Square. Again, it's Alabama. There are more top prospects ready to step up.

2. LSU (10-3)

Is the team getting anyone back? Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, Tharold Simon, Brad Wing, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are all bolting early to the NFL, and that doesn't even count Tyrann Mathieu, who was at least back at the school. Of course, LSU loses players to the big league on a regular basis and still comes back roaring. This year isn't an exception.

The line struggled in pass protection after needing to do some major reshuffling and retooling, but the payoff should come with guards Trai Turner and La'el Collins, and tackle Vadal Alexander, all experienced and ready to roll. The running back corps might have lost Ware and Ford, but that's partly because the writing was on the wall that Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard were going to handle the workload. Of course, all the focus will be on Zach Mettenberger and whether or not he can be more consistent and more efficient after spending 2012 trying to find his way.

The defense suffered the biggest hit in lost talent, but safety Craig Loston is a talented player to start with. The secondary is a revolving door of top-shelf playmakers with more where Reid, Simon, Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne came from. However, the entire front four needs to be replaced and linebacker Tajh Jones has to shine after spending most of last year with academic problems.

3. Texas A&M (11-2)

Get ready to handle the bull's-eye. The Aggies snuck up on the college football world in 2012 with a thrilling team led by a transcendent quarterback, and after coming within eight points of being unbeaten, even more will be expected. Johnny Manziel will have to carry the burden of trying to be Johnny Repeat, and Kevin Sumlin will have to play down rumor after rumor that he's destined to go to the NFL. With a loaded recruiting class coming in, and with a ton of talent to build around, it's time to have more fun.

Of course, the team will revolve around Manziel, but he loses a several key targets led by Ryan Swope. Fortunately, Mike Evans is one of the nation's brightest young receiving stars. Losing star tackle Luke Joeckel hurts, but it's not unexpected, while getting back Jake Matthews for another season before starring in the NFL was a nice surprise. Ben Malena is an unsung back who should shine behind the slightly retooled front five.

The defense that's been so great at getting into the backfield over the last few seasons has to replace pass rushing terror Damontre Moore and linebacker Sean Porter, but the secondary appears able to reload despite losing corner Dustin Harris and safety Steven Terrell. Steven Jenkins needs to come up with a big year for a linebacking corps that needs some work. Punter Ryan Epperson has to be replaced after coming up with a terrific year.

4. Ole Miss (7-6)

The overall talent might not be in place for Hugh Freeze to win the loaded SEC West, but his Rebels might have just enough to come really, really close. After a great rebound year with impressive wins over Mississippi State and Pitt to close things out. Now the sky's the limit for one of the nation's most experienced teams. For good and bad, the NFL talent wasn't there to leave early compared to other SEC teams, but that's going to change.

Nine starters are back on each side of the ball, starting with quarterback Bo Wallace leading an offense that started to find its groove late in the year. Jeff Scott is a solid back, Donte Moncrief is a dangerous target, and the line should be better with four starters returning and as much depth as it's had in several years.

The defense was among the best in the nation at getting into the backfield, leading the SEC and finishing fourth in tackles for loss. Ends C.J. Johnson and Cameron Whigham should camp out in opposing backfields, while Mike Marry and Denzel Nkemdiche form one of the league's best linebacking tandems. Depending on the formation, nine starters are back on the D, with everyone back in a secondary that struggled considering all the help from the front line.

5. Arkansas (4-8)

Could the loss of Bobby Petrino really have been that big a deal? Apparently so for a team that didn't have much of a direction, couldn't stop screwing up, and was horrendous defensively, especially against the pass. Bret Bielema is coming in looking to turn things back around right away, and while the expectations won't be at national-title-or-bust level like they were before the Petrino fiasco, the Hogs are supposed to be factors again.

Don't expect the Wisconsin running game right away after finishing 104th in the nation last year. Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis are gone, meaning Jonathan Williams will get fed the ball right away behind a decent-looking line that returns four key blockers. Also gone is quarterback Tyler Wilson, putting the spotlight on Brandon Allen to keep the passing attack rolling despite the loss of No. 1 receiver Cobi Hamilton.

The defense should be the strength, especially against the run after allowing just 124 yards per game last season. Five starters return on the defensive front seven, and the young secondary that was toasted time and again throughout last season gets everyone of note back. The loss of punter Dylan Breeding will be felt.

6. Auburn (3-9)

Last year at this time, Auburn was an up-and-coming team going through a few growing pains, but hopeful that all the top young recruits were going to rise up in a hurry. And now Gus Malzahn is the head coach.

The offense can't be an worse after finishing last in the SEC in yards and second-to-last in scoring thanks to a line that was disastrous in pass protection and didn't generate enough of a push for the speedy backs. The raw talent is there thanks to a few great recruiting classes, but everyone has to stay healthy and everyone has to gel after finishing last season starting four freshmen and a sophomore. The receiving corps has to be better and the starting quarterback situation has to be settled in spring ball. If nothing else, Tre Mason is a good back to hand off to.

The defense also needs a big boost after finishing last in the SEC against the run and getting torched by anyone with an offense. Pass rusher Corey Lemonier is gone early to the NFL, but depending on the formation, as many as nine starters return. Losing star tackler Daren Bates will hurt, but the secondary has upside and the defensive line should be tougher.

7. Mississippi State (8-5)

Can Dan Mullen's team show up against the stronger teams? 8-5 was nice, but the best win, technically, came against Middle Tennessee – the only team the Bulldogs beat that finished with a winning record. The big concern is that Ole Miss is quickly improving, and Arkansas and Auburn won't stay down for long. This might be a turning point season, needing to rise up and show that there's hope to potentially challenge for the division title.

The offense fizzled over the second half of the year against the better teams, and now it needs to get more out of the passing game and quarterback Tyler Russell, who was good, but not great. The receiving corps loses just about everyone of note, but Ladarius Perkins is a terrific back who should be in for a big year behind a line that welcomes back four starters.

The defense that was a rock against the run at times needs to generate more of a pass rush after finishing last in the SEC in sacks. Preston Smith was part of the rotation on the end, and now he should see more of a role even though Denico Autry and Kaleb Eulls are back on their starting spots on the outside. Top tackler Cameron Lawrence is gone, but the linebacking corps will be a plus. It'll need to be with the fantastic secondary losing three starters including future NFL mainstays, Johnthan Banks, Nickoe Whitley and Darius Slay.
- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings