**Alabama and coach Nick Saban were vying for a third straight national championship (an unprecedented feat over the last 50 years).
**South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had the relaxed demeanor of a guy who already knew he’d be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft — roughly 10 months later.
**There was a clear line of demarcation separating the coaches who favor up-tempo offenses (Gus Malzahn, Hugh Freeze, Dan Mullen, Kevin Sumlin) … and those who didn’t (Saban, Les Miles, Bret Bielema).
**The SEC had plenty of star power at quarterback, led by Aaron Murray (on the brink of becoming the SEC’s all-time passer), AJ McCarron, James Franklin, Zach Mettenberger, Connor Shaw and, of course, reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
Fast forward to 2014, and the media doesn’t have a consensus choice for the conference’s No. 2 quarterback, after Auburn’s Nick Marshall. Nor do we have a lightning-rod coach or player to sequester if things get a little dry in The Big Room of the Hyatt-Wynfrey hotel.
Unless you count the number of times Brent Musburger (the SEC Network’s No. 1 announcer) gets queried about the AJ McCarron-Katherine Webb wedding from last weekend.
But Slive is still holding the cards for other pressing issues surrounding college athletics — particularly the growth of the SEC Network, the possible unionization with private colleges and the new rationale for scheduling future nonconference opponents, among the ‘power-five’ leagues.
In 2013, the Tigers claimed the SEC’s first-ever team rushing title, cumulatively rolling for 328.3 yards per game. So why the negativity for repeating the feat, if Auburn returns four starters to the offensive line?
Well, for starters, running back Tre Mason (25 TDs in his final 10 games) bolted early for the pros, and lead blocker Jay Prosch has exhausted his eligibility.
On the surface, it wasn’t a total shock Georgia Southern upended Florida last November. After all, the Gators had dropped five straight games prior to that, and quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg — a true freshman at the time — was getting the baptism-by-fire treatment with SEC defenders.
And if memory serves, the two Florida offensive linemen were infamously blocking each other on a touchdown run in that same game. So …
The real surprise came with how Georgia Southern pulled off the monumental win, amassing 429 total yards without the help of a single passing yard in the 26-20 victory at The Swamp. And now, some eight months later, Muschamp will tout the Gators’ revival as a program — while simultaneously steering clear of last year’s 4-8 mark and the season-ending seven-game slide.
Driskel might have garnered more respect for his contribution as the Gators quarterback after suffering a season-ending injury last September (against Tennessee).
Yes, he accounted for only seven touchdowns in his last eight starts (dating back to the 2012 campaign), but the Gators were also 5-3 during that stretch — a period that predated Florida’s aforementioned tailspin (0-7) at the end of last season.