Big 3 hope to top expectations

dmbarber@sunherald.comJuly 12, 2014 

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDPreseason sports magazines are out, telling fans what to expect of their favorite teams during the upcoming football season.

TIM ISBELL — SUN HERALD Buy Photo

With media days approaching for the SEC and Conference USA, it is interesting to see the predictions of the annual preseason college football magazines.

Chocked full of information and features to back up their predictions in their crystal ball, it is also important to remember that a year ago no one -- absolutely no one -- foresaw Auburn playing in the national championship game against Florida State.

And very few were predicting Florida State would win the national championship.

With Ole Miss and Mississippi State playing in the ultra-competitive SEC West Division, it is hard for the Rebels or Bulldogs to get traction as the favorites in that division.

None of the three magazines -- Athlon Sports SEC Preview 2014, Sporting News College Football or Lindy's Sports Southeastern 2014 Preview -- went out on the limb to pick the Rebels or Bulldogs at the top of the heap.

Athlon likes Ole Miss as third in the West, Lindy's likes Ole Miss as No. 4 in the West and Sporting News has the Rebels as No. 5.

Athlon has Mississippi State as No. 5 in the West, while Lindy's and Sporting News have the Bulldogs at No. 6 in the West.

And as all three magazines note, talent levels and coaching stability are reasons fans in both Oxford and Starkville have high expectations for 2014.

Southern Miss, which won one game a year ago, is trying to rebound from two sub-par seasons in a row. The Golden Eagles make a move from the East Division to the West Division in Conference USA. Still, the legacy of the past two seasons has its influence. Athlon and Sporting News project USM to finish fifth in C-USA West while Lindy's thinks they will finish sixth in the C-USA West.

Sporting News says that the continuity of having Todd Monken back as head coach is a plus. Lindy's Sports thinks the move to the West will help

the Golden Eagles. Athlon thinks that the combination of Monken and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will help along with the return of those who were injured on defense last year.

Athlon selects Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones (6-5, 300) as a first-team All-American. Athlon also likes four Ole Miss players to get All-American honors, either second or third team. They are defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (6-4, 277), and safety Cody Prewitt (6-2, 212) as secodn-team team All-Americas with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (6-4, 222) and WR tackle Laremy Tunsil (6-5, 315) as third team All-Americans.

Lindy's tabs Prewitt as a first-team All-American. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is a first-team All-American while Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins and Tulane defensive back Lorenzo Doss are Lindy's second-team All-Americans.

Ole Miss is ranked in the Top 25 in each of the three magazines. The Rebels are 18th in Athlon and Lindy's and 20th in Sporting News.

Florida State is No. 1 and Alabama No. 2 in both Athlon and Lindy's. Alabama is fourth in Sporting News. LSU is 11th in Lindy's and Sporting News and 19th in Athlon. SEC champion Auburn is ranked No. 5 nationally in Athlon and Sporting News while the Tigers are No. 6 in Lindy's.

Sporting News sees Oklahoma winning the national championship, with Oregon No. 2 and FSU No. 3.

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