7. South Carolina Gamecocks
For one, Steve Spurrier brings in the No. 24 (Scout.com) and No. 16 (Rivals.com) ranked recruiting class.
Second, there's a Heisman Trophy candidate in Jadeveon Clowney. In just two seasons for the Gamecocks, Clowney has racked up 35.5 tackles for loss and has forced eight fumbles. His presence coming off the edge will continue to be an extreme competitive advantage.
South Carolina also sports two dependable quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. The two combined for 27 touchdown passes to just nine picks in 2012.
Needing the passing game to remain technically sound, South Carolina has the defense to rely on consistently. The offense must simply match that level to reach the SEC title game.
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly has some strong pieces together on each side of the ball. Everett Golson was a reliable decision-maker last season, and that only assists his development for 2013. The Irish also have more talent defensively than given credit, as evidence of playmakers such as Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Bennett Jackson.
9. Georgia Bulldogs
Mark Richt lost a boatload of talent on defense to pro football. So, that puts more pressure on the offense. At least Aaron Murray is still under center, though, and he'll capitalize off the reliable running game. Still, getting past South Carolina will be challenging in the SEC East.
10. Clemson Tigers
With the offense to push the pace Clemson has the talent to compete for the ACC title. Tajh Boyd is among the best signal-callers around, which keeps the Tigers offense moving. Provided the defense plays all year like it did down the stretch in 2012 and Dabo Swinney's crew will make noise.
11. Michigan Wolverines
Expect Michigan's offense to be much more efficient in 2013. Devin Gardner knows how to spread the field, which will help set up the run. Controlling the tempo is what's needed, because the Wolverines lost some important defenders to pro football.
12. Florida Gators
Unless Jeff Driskel improves mechanics to stretch defenses downfield, Florida's offense will echo 2012's inconsistencies. As for the defense, it lost impressive talent but Dante Fowler and Ronald Powell are capable of leading.