Sunday, July 3, 2011

College Football Preview Part 5: SEC

It's been pretty well documented that the SEC is the best conference in recent college football history. If you're like me, you recognize this, but you get a little sick of all the SEC worship. Well, today we must swallow our pride, because this post is all about the SEC. Can they produce a 6th consecutive BCS Champion? We'll have to see. So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you the Securities Exchange Commission!!.... I mean, Southeast Conference!!!

MY Preseason Rankings:


1. Alabama Crimson Tide-
It's not really any mystery that the Tide are the preseason favorites again. However, the race for SEC West champ should be very close, as this division seems to be deeper and tougher than it has in a while. The QB is unproven, but the talent around him is kind of redonkulous. The defense should be the real jaw-dropper, with 10 returning starters. Also, if you have not yet heard of RB Trent Richardson, start watching some tape. This guy is a workout warrior and a BEAST (in all caps). Most of 'Bama's tough games are at home and that should be enough to put them in another SEC title game. 

2. LSU Tigers-
With LSU, you are looking at a VERY close 2nd in the West, that has the potential to easily be 1st. 15 returning starters, including an improving QB, Jordan Jefferson, make this Les Miles' most experienced team yet. They will need every bit of that veteran savvy to go undefeated, as they play two fellow top 5 teams (Oregon and Alabama). The 'Bama game is in Tuscaloosa, and that's why I give the tide a slight edge. Still, 11-1 or 10-2 will be nothing to scoff at with their schedule, and likely still get them into a BCS game.

3. Arkansas Razorbacks-
I feel like last year for the Razorbacks was about missed opportunities. Every time I watched them they managed to underperform. But 2011 is a new year, and this team will still be very good, if not better. QB Ryan Mallett is with the New England Patriots, but his replacement, Tyler Wilson, looks to be very talented as well. If it weren't for an incredibly rough schedule, the Hogs might really make national waves, but with games against Texas A&M and South Carolina and LSU and 'Bama both on the road, 3rd place in the West looks like the best case scenario. I'm sure it's times like these when many old Hog-callers miss the SWC...

4. Mississippi State Bulldogs-
Dan Mullen has got the (maroon) Bulldogs rapidly improving and every year I am surprised by how much better they seem to be than I expect. The starting lineup is laden with Juniors and Seniors, and MSU could be more than just the team that pulls a few upsets if some chips fall their way. LSU, South Carolina, and Alabama are all home games, and if they pull those off, they could be a road win at Arkansas away from an SEC title appearance! Don't count on it though. 4th is likely where they'll stay.

5. Ole Miss Rebels-
Ole Miss football has fallen on hard times, unless you count DVD sales for The Blind Side. While they shouldn't finish last again in the West this year (lucky for them, Auburn will suck), spoiler is the best role they can play. Their 4 toughest conference opponents (Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia) are all home games, but that doesn't make them that much more winnable. The best thing that Rebel fans can hope for in 2011, is an upset against hated MSU in the Egg Bowl in Starkville. 

6. Auburn Tigers-
"From first to worst" is not a moniker that most fans want said about their favorite team. Alas for Auburn fans, such will be the case for the 2011 Tigers. I believe there's another saying that goes something like: "Karma's a bitch," but that's another discussion. Auburn returns just 6 starters (that's the fewest in the NCAA) and lose 31 lettermen! The Tigers also get the joy of playing the 3 best teams in the East (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina) in addition to their stout fellow West teams. Hope you enjoyed that "Magical" 2010 campaign, you War Eagle...ites? Don't worry (if you care), Auburn won't be down forever, but 2011 will be one to forget. Look on the bright side Auburn, at least Vanderbilt is still in the conference. 


1. Georgia Bulldogs-
I think this pick will surprise some people, but I have every reason to believe that UGA can bounce back from their first losing season since 1996, and compete for the SEC crown. QB Aaron Murray has a year under his belt and is one of 14 returning starters. Georgia also adds a solid JUCO NT, Jonathan Jenkins, who should shore up the d-line, and a true freshman RB, Isaiah Crowell, who should make a splash right away. Another reason I picked this Bulldogs team is that their schedule is oh so manageable. Their 3 conference road games are all against teams at the bottom of the SEC barrel (Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Tennessee). Facing South Carolina and Florida "Between the Hedges" should help considerably, not to mention Georgia does not have to play LSU or 'Bama. However, I do anticipate a game against one of the two... in the SEC Championship.

2. South Carolina Gamecocks-
It's good to see a team like USC in this position. Last year's surprise SEC East Champ, has the talent and the ability to repeat. Like LSU in the West, I consider South Carolina to be a VERY close 2nd and possible 1st in the East. RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffrey are something of an Offensive coordinator's dream. The defense is also among the nation's best. An early matchup with Georgia will likely decide the SEC East champion. It's theirs for the taking.

3. Florida Gators-
After a comparatively disappointing 8-5 season last year, Florida goes into 2011 with basically an all-star coaching staff. Charlie Weiss will be Offensive Coordinator (The Gators are well suited to run his pro-stye offense) and ex-Texas Defensive Coordinator, Will Muschamp, will be head coach. While Florida is very talented, the key reason I have them at third is that they must play both LSU and Alabama, whereas USC and Georgia play neither. The Gators will give teams fits, but likely not vie for the conference championship.

4. Kentucky Wildcats-
Kentucky is on a streak of bowl game appearances and goes into 2011 with one of their best teams in years. 16 starters return, including solid LB, Danny Trevathan. The Cats, like MSU, are slowly moving out of obscurity and into a competitive position. They will be in an all out race with Tennessee for this 4th spot, but due to veteran savvy and the Tennessee game being at home and the season finale, I give UK the edge.

5. Tennessee Volunteers-
While I have picked Tennessee to repeat as the worst team in the East besides Vanderbilt, I don't think they are far from coming to a point where they can be competing for titles again. This team has talent, but is very young. As if youth weren't enough to set them back, they drew games with all the top 3 teams in the West (Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas). As mentioned before, I give Kentucky the surprise edge in the season finale, and that will be enough to keep the Vols down, at least for one more season.

6. Vanderbilt Commodores-
Ok... I don't know what I need to say about this. The SEC's perennial cellar dweller doesn't have anything new to bring to the table. They return 19 starters, but seriously? They might win one conference game at best. 5 wins won't be enough for a bowl. Sorry Vandy.

MY All Conference Team:
Trent Richardson, Alabama

QB- Aaron Murray, Georgia

RB- Trent Richardson, Alabama

RB- Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

WR- Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

WR- Greg Childs, Arkansas

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
WR- Rueben Randle, LSU

TE- Orson Charles, Georgia

C- Ben Jones, Georgia

OG- Barrett Jones, Alabama

OG- Larry Warford, Kentucky

OT- Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss

OT- Cordy Glenn, Georgia

Jake Bequette, Arkansas
DE- Devin Taylor, South Carolina

DE- Jake Bequette, Arkansas

DT- Jaye Howard, Florida

DT- Malik Jackson, Tennessee

LB- Danny Trevathan, Kentucky

LB- Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

LB- Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
CB- Morris Claiborne, LSU

CB- Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

S- Robert Lester, Alabama

S- Mark Barron, Alabama

K- Blair Walsh, Georgia

P- Drew Butler, Georgia

Ret- Joe Adams, Arkansas

5 Games to Watch:
* Because there are so many great/key games in the SEC this year, I am excluding games that I have mentioned in previous posts.

1. LSU @ Alabama: The top teams in the SEC West square off, likely for a shot at the SEC title. This game will be hard-hitting, great football. Need I say more?

2. South Carolina @ Georgia: It will only be the 2nd week and conference title hopes for both teams will already be on the line. Both teams are very talented. This one should go down to the wire.  

3. Alabama @ Florida: Considering the hostile environment, this is probably Alabama's toughest game. It's also developed into a strong rivalry, and will be a major measuring stick for a Gator program under new management. You can bet LSU fans will be rooting hard for Florida this week. Another tough game, that could be decided in the 4th quarter.

4. Georgia vs Florida (Jacksonville): Formerly known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, this intense rivalry is always a tough, smashmouth game. This year will be no different, as the SEC East will be on the line. The winner will be a giant step closer to achieving that goal. 

5. Arkansas @ LSU: Intense rivalry and season finale. This game will have major bearing on the outcome of the SEC West standings. If Alabama has lost a game or two, the winner of the Golden Boot could very well also play for the SEC title. You can bet that this will also be a close and fun game to watch.

Next up my Conference-by-Conference preview marches on with the only collection of schools arrogant enough to refer to themselves as "Legends" and "Leaders". That's right, it's the "We're one step slower than you, but still think we're better and justify ourselves by Ohio State's recent occasional success"Big 10 (who used to have 11 teams, but now actually have 12). What a bunch of morons.

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