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One coach will make $4 million to finish last in the SEC West. But who?

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For all seven SEC West teams, expectations are as high as can be. But half the division will end up disappointed. Here are valid reasons for each to fall.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as details of Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen's contract extension went public last week, multiple SEC assistants shared the same thought. Now that all seven head coaches in the SEC West make at least $4 million annually, by far the nation's highest salary floor, the consensus is a stark truth.

"Somebody's gonna get $4 mil to go to Shreveport," one assistant coach summarized.

Not that making the Duck Commander Independence Bowl isn't a ... feat. It's just that the six- or seven-win total that usually earns such a trip would mean paying that head coach at least $666,666 per win. And what if the West's last-place team doesn't reach six wins and doesn't go bowling?

"A million bucks per win! That's exactly how it'll go. Everyone's patience just got shorter," the coach said.

It's no coincidence this happened during an offseason in which the division, on paper, has never looked deeper. Last-place Arkansas (7-6, 2-6 SEC) finished ninth nationally in Football Outsiders' year-end F/+ ratings. And 2015 is nothing but expectation, especially after the Hogs beat hated Texas, 31-7, in the first bowl of the Bret Bielema era.

So if the Hogs are on the way up, logic dictates some other West program must regress to take their place. Who?

"It's not about picking who. Doesn't matter," says the coach. "Somebody's gonna finish in last place and get paid really well doing it. And fans will want that guy fired."

So let's find out who's falling!

With great expectations comes great self-loathing. I've asked patrons of each West program to offer up worst-case scenarios for 2015.


Running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are back! So are four-fifths of the largest offensive line in the league. And most of a defense that gave up 21 total points in its last four games. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is out, but former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos is in.

Arkansas ExpatsDoc Harper:

Maybe Chaney was actually the mastermind behind this offense and Bielema was the one holding everything back. Also, the Bahamas Bowl. The Popeye's Bahamas Bowl used to make me think of sweet Popeye's. Now it terrifies me. Enos will call an amazing play then follow it up with a game-ending fade like he did in the Bahamas Bowl. I'm afraid of the Bahamas Bowl. And also losing to Toledo in Week 2. MACtion teams that don't give a damn are terrifying.

A&M's volatile combo

Texas A&M

SEC freshman sacks record holder Myles Garrett gets a new defensive coordinator in John Chavis. Even without Johnny Manziel, A&M still averaged more than 34 points a game in Kyle Allen's debut year!

Dr. Norris Camacho and Chuck GBH of Good Bull Hunting:

Kyler Murray chooses baseball and Kyle Allen chooses to become the youngest contestant in 'Bachelor' history, so [holder] Conner McQueen splits time at QB with [punter] Drew Kaser. Chavis focuses so intently on our strengths that we field a defense of 10 safeties and one Myles Garrett, allowing 8.9 yards per rush. We stumble to 6-6 and lose the Texas Bowl to David Beaty and upstart Kansas. The Longhorns celebrate the national title by placing a statue of Charlie Strong at Northgate.


The Tigers' lack of direction at quarterback isn't new, but Heisman contender Leonard Fournette's ascension could render that and Chavis' departure moot.

And The Valley Shook's Pod Katt:

[New defensive coordinator] Kevin Steele could turn out to be exactly the terrible hire we’ve spent the offseason trying to rationalize. [Offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron’s inability to develop a QB and a terrible injury or two leads to a losing record and an early 'retirement' for Les Miles. Then the true horror begins: watching AD Joe Alleva stumble through a head coaching hire. We’ll end up with Jack Del Rio. And for good measure, let’s say Ed Orgeron left to his own devices gets a little too creative on the recruiting trail.

The Muschamp fix


Currently the sexy pick to win the entire SEC! QB Jeremy Johnson might be a better pure passer than Nick Marshall was, plus Will Muschamp's here to fix that defense!

Auburn fan and blogger @thejuiceisgood:

Odd-year seasons are when Auburn needs to do big things, because we get UGA and Bama at home. So we need Johnson ready. We can't waste a hallowed odd year on getting him acclimated. My expectations are reasonable: Cam Newton frame, John Elway arm, Peyton Manning presence, and the fleet feet of Steve Young. But the biggest fear is that not even Muschamp can reprogram what's become of Auburn's defense, at least not soon enough. I hope they've already begun with 'Clockwork Orange'-style reintroductions to fundamentals. Will's going to have to break a lot of blackboards before spring ball is out.

Mississippi State

It's not often Starkville can boast a legitimate Heisman-contending quarterback, let alone a returning one. MSU lost more starters than any other team in the division, but hung onto Dan Mullen and Prescott.

Bulldog Sports Radio host Brian Hadad:

If Dak gets hurt early, or at all, it's completely over. The Damian Williams Variety Hour would drag MSU to four wins and potentially one of the biggest Egg Bowl blowouts in history. We'd watch Freeze parade the trophy around Davis Wade Stadium like a giddy beaver.

Ole Miss

Quarterback Bo Wallace is gone, but could that create more consistency on offense? The 2012 signing class will enter its peak third season, and the defense is still deep.

Rebel fan and EDSBS contributor Bunkie Perkins:

New quarterback Chad Kelly releases a mixtape about his spring break mission trip to Haiti. It becomes an uplifting anthem for the people of that country, so much so that they elect him president and he never makes it to Oxford. Or he's just not capable of competing at the SEC level. Left without much help on offense, the Landshark defense is forced to pitch shutouts. Without anything resembling an actual middle linebacker, Ole Miss allows 38.5 points per game. A six-win season gets them to the Independence Bowl, where they lose to David Cutcliffe's gutty Duke.


Seriously? No matter how cannibalistic the parity of this division, surely the defending league champions and perpetual national title contenders are immune. Right?

Roll Bama Roll writer Erik Evans:

9-3 would be a rosy apocalypse. In the worst of worlds: a feature back never emerges. Alabama is RB by committee, with a placeholder at QB behind an unsteady line and no Amari Cooper to bail out the offense. The secondary still lacks playmakers at corner and is breaking in new safeties. Combine those with a retooled A&M, a road trip to Auburn, a dangerous Tennessee, a physical Arkansas, an opening loss to Wisconsin, and a heartbreaker vs. LSU, and Alabama goes 6-6.