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SEC: Which teams are most likely to flop, most likely to surprise

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Auburn is hoping new coach Gus Malzahn can turn the program around in a hurry. (Source: Todd Van Emst/AU) Auburn is hoping new coach Gus Malzahn can turn the program around in a hurry. (Source: Todd Van Emst/AU)
Alabama is picked No. 1 in preseason polls, but an injury to quarterback AJ McCarron could change all that. (Source: UA media relations) Alabama is picked No. 1 in preseason polls, but an injury to quarterback AJ McCarron could change all that. (Source: UA media relations)
Mizzou star James Franklin's rash of injuries last year caused the Tigers to underperform. He's well now. (UM athletics) Mizzou star James Franklin's rash of injuries last year caused the Tigers to underperform. He's well now. (UM athletics)
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(RNN) - Every football season, one or two SEC teams exceed all expectations. Likewise, it seems, a couple of others find ways to stink it up more than anyone could have anticipated.

Last year's king of all surprise was newcomer Texas A&M, winner of the Cotton Bowl, shocker of Alabama, producer of Johnny Football and all that entails.

There were other unforeseen delights, depending on your point of view:

Vanderbilt, which won nine games, the most since the Earth's crust cooled.
Ole Miss lost some it should have won, won some it should have lost and was never dull.
Alabama turned out to be far more juggernaut-y than anticipated.

Last year's biggest disappointments:

Call it a tie between Arkansas and Auburn, which matched each other blow-for-blow in the weekly struggle to create an epidemic of clinical depression among its fan base.

With the season just days away, here is our overview of the teams most likely to spread unlikely joy and unforeseen sorrow.

Possible disappointments:

Alabama - The Crimson Tide has the furthest to fall – and two losses would be the apocalypse. Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU are all capable of sending Alabama to the Capital One Bowl. And if quarterback AJ McCarron gets hurt,  Bama will need to break out the old wishbone playbook.

LSU -  Half the team came out early and went to the NFL. And there is a feeling that the karma may be shifting for the ever-lucky Les Miles and his Tigers. For a quick barometer of what to expect, catch the season opener against TCU, which has 17 starters back off a pretty sporty little team.

Texas A&M - If Johnny Manziel is declared ineligible for writing his own name on stuff for people crazy enough to give him fat stacks for it, expect Texas A&M to tumble to the realm of upper-middle mediocrity. If he starts making passes as dumb as his off-season tweets, oh lawd.

Ole Miss – With their wickedly top-loaded schedule, the Rebels could be 1-6 before the leaves turn. If things go the other way and they are 7-0 at the same time, Hugh Freeze will be one miracle short of sainthood.

Vanderbilt – Was 9-4 a once-in-a-century achievement? Chances are.

Possible surprises:

Tennessee - Last year's spiral into utter ineptitude was an anomaly in the Orange World. New coach Butch Jones, unlike his past two predecessors, is an actual football coach and has put together a good staff and recruited well. The Vols are young, but are a good bet to make a bowl this year – and they have a home schedule that could produce a goal-post-threatening signature win.

Auburn - The Tigers weren't as bad as last year's 3-9, no-wins-in-the-SEC record indicated. They were bad, really, really bad, sure. But not 140-21 total score against A&M, UGA and Bama bad. Gus Malzahn is an offensive wizard, and it's hard to imagine a scenario under which the defense won't be better.

Missouri - After a rough first year in the SEC, the Tigers have a better idea of what to expect - and a much more favorable schedule. If Dorial Beckham-Green comes out of his coma and James Franklin stays well, at least six wins and a bowl trip are likely, and even better things are possible.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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