Preview of the SEC (Part Deux)

So I am a little late on my SEC preview part II, but good things come to those who wait, so I guess you’ll just have to keep waiting.

In my SEC East preview, I said that the SEC Champion and Potential BCS Champion would come from the Eastern Division (if you didn’t read part 1 or have been in a coma for the last few weeks, it’s the Florida Gators).  However, from top to bottom, the tougher division will likely be the Western Division, where all 3 of the top teams have a legitimate shot at facing Florida in the SEC championship game.

Ole Miss Rebels: (7-1 SEC; 11-1 Overall)

2009 Predicted Finish

2009 Predicted Finish

Ole Miss is one of those teams that will either be very successful or will morph into the 2008 Georgia Bulldogs.  I happen to think they will be successful, much to my dismay and despite my hatred of all things Houston Nutt.  Reasons why…well, for one thing, they return 9 on offense and 8 on defense from a squad that went 9-4 last year, including a thrilling bowl victory over a tough Texas Tech team.  The players they did lose (draft, graduation etc.) were not big losses.  The most important returning player is Texas high school star QB Jevan Snead, along with 2008 All Conference WR Dexter McCluster.  The Rebels also have a decent defensive squad to help out with their quest for an SEC Championship. Their defense in 2008 ranked 19th in Total Defense allowing only 307.23 ypg and 20th in scoring defense allowing an average of 19 ppg.  Alabama and LSU stand in their way; however, I think Nutt and the Rebels will come out victorious.

Predicted Losses: Arkansas

Games on the Fence: Oct 10 vs. Alabama, Oct 24th vs Arkansas, not many have made it through an entire SEC schedule unscathed; Arkansas will be Paris’s arrow, Nov. 21 vs LSU

Underrated: The Nutt Factor

MVP: QB Jevan Snead

LSU Tigers (5-3 SEC; 9-3 Overall)
The Hat returns for his 5th year on the Bayou, and he’s bringing with him big RB- Charles Scott and WR- Brandon LaFell.  2008 was a rough year for Miles and Bayou Tigers, ending 2008 with the record of 8-5 with all 5 losses coming against SEC opponents, including an OT thriller to Alabama. Will 2009 be like 2008 (a disappointment) or more like 2007 (12-2 and a BCS National Championship)? The answer lies somewhere in-between.  Miles has continued to stock pile top ranked recruits at LSU year in and year out, now we just need to find out whether he’s all hat and no cattle.  Returning the likes of Scott and LaFell certainly don’t hurt, but LSU’s road to the championship is paved with too many potholes in the name of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss.  The key to LSU’s season will be the play of its quarterbacks or, more specifically, smoothing out the erratic play of its quarterbacks.  If they get any kind of consistency at the QB position, watch out college football world.

Predicted Losses: Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas

Games on the Fence: Oct 3 at Georgia, Nov. 7th at Alabama, Nov. 21 at Ole Miss if LSU has made it this far with only one SEC loss, look to this date to decide the Western Champ, Nov 28th vs. Arkansas

Underrated: Consistent QB play

MVP: RB-Charles Scott

Alabama Crimson Tide: (5-3 SEC; 8-4 Overall)
You have no idea how hard it is for an Auburn fan to predict good things for the Crimson Tide.  Unfortunately, they have a good coach, and even though they have some question marks on the offensive side of the ball they return a majority of past players on defense.  The realistic view is that the Tide will feature a “NASTY” defense for 2009, pretty much the same defense that ranked #7 in 2008 allowing 14.29 ppg and lead the Tide to a 12-0 start and an (albeit brief) #1 ranking last year.  Amongst the 9 returning starters for the Tide defense are 1st team All-SEC picks DL-Terrence Cody, LB-Rolando McClain, and DB-Javier Arenas.  The unrealistic view is that the Tide will again appear in the SEC Championship game.  While it is possible for them to make it, the losses of QB-John Parker Wilson, C-Antoine Caldwell, G-Marlon Davis, and T-Andre Smith will prove to be too much to overcome and the Tide will play second fiddle in this year’s Championship tune.

Predicted Losses: Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn

Games on the Fence: Sept 5th vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta), Nov. 7th vs. LSU, and Nov. 27th at Auburn- Iron Bowl = Throw out the records.

Underrated: K- Leigh Tiffin

MVP: DB- Javier Arenas

Auburn Tigers (4-4 SEC; 8-4 Overall)

Can Chizik, Roof and Malzahn lead Auburn to a New Hope?

Will Chizik, Roof and Malzahn give Auburn a New Hope?

A new season begins on the Plains, and for the first time since 1998, Tommy Tuberville won’t be running out of the tunnel and onto the field.  Last year was a tough one for Tuberville and the Auburn Tigers, ending the season 5-7 and eliminated from bowl contention.  Right or wrong, new Head Coach Gene Chizik has taken the reins as Tuberville’s successor and brings a new hope tinged with uncertainty to Jordan-Hare Stadium.  The first thing Coach Chizik must do is find a way to truly turn this disjointed collection of players into a team.  Last year’s team found it difficult to stay focused during games, especially when things got rough, and this led to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.  By the end of the season, the team for the most part, just gave up.  Building a cohesive unit, and getting them to stick together through thick and thin is not a task so easily accomplished, considering Auburn’s schedule and lack of depth in key positions.  The Tigers must play in 11 straight games before finally getting some much needed R&R before the season ending Iron Bowl.  On offense the Tigers return 6 from 2008 and what can only be described as a disaster of an offensive scheme.  Those 6 including new starters, WR- DeAngelo Benton, WR- Terrell Zachery and true freshman RB- Onterio McCalebb hope to star in OC Gus Malzahan’s new system.  A rebuilt Chris Todd keeps the reins as QB1 and with a plethora of new targets and a new shoulder should have this offense producing more than 3 points.  On the opposite side of the ball, the Tigers are poised to again be one of the top rated SEC defenses. With the return of Senior Antonio Coleman -DE and newcomer Eltoro Freeman -LB this defense should help keep the Tigers close in all of their games. The offense just needs to put numbers on the board.  While they won’t be world beaters this year, a new coaching staff and some consistency should allow the Tigers to get back on track and hopefully looking for a New Year’s Day Bowl game.

Predicted Losses: Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia

Games on the Fence: Oct 3 vs. Tennessee, Oct 24th  at LSU – If  Auburn can stay healthy they could be riding a nice winning streak to this point, win this game and all bets are off, Nov. 28th vs Alabama

Underrated: New beefier Offensive Line

MVP: RB/WR Mario Fannin

Arkansas Razorbacks (4-4 SEC; 8-4 Overall)
Can Coach Bobby Petrino turn the Hawgs around in his second season?  The man can coach and has been a hot commodity wherever he has gone.  A 41-9 record at Louisville is a testament to that.  He has also not been without controversy (see 2003 Auburn Jetgate and the 2007 Atlanta Falcons).  This year will be different for Petrino and the Hogs though.  All of the controversy is behind him, and he has the Razorbacks headed in the right direction.  No one is talking about Arkansas and that’s dangerous, for they might just have some good things going for them.  The biggest player on any team is still the quarterback, and on this Arkansas team that definitely rings true.  At 6’7” (5 star rated) Ryan Mallett could be the next Brian Brohm for Petrino and company. From what I’ve read he has one of the strongest arms in college football and for a coach that loves to spread the field. That might be just what the doctor ordered.

Can Mallett win for the Hogs?

Can Mallett win for the Hogs?

Predicted Losses: Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida

Games on the Fence: Sept 26 at Tuscaloosa, Oct 10th vs. Auburn, Oct 24th at Ole Miss win this game and it could be enough of a confidence booster to finish the season strong, Nov 28th at LSU

Underrated: WR’s

MVP: QB- Ryan Mallett

Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-6 SEC; 6-6 Overall)
A guy named Dan Mullen takes over the reins for Sylvester Croom.  Mullen’s credentials?  He was the man that got to talk to Tim Tebow via a headset.  Mullen, who has been with Urban Meyer since his Utah days, has much rebuilding to do at State. Starting on the offensive side of the ball, last season’s QB play was sporadic at best and QB Tyson Lee will need to step up and become a playmaker.  The good thing for Lee he has a mentor in Mullen, who has plenty of experience with some highly rated QB’s.  Behind Lee are RB’s Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre, both equally dangerous and poised to be a great one-two punch against tiring defenses.  Speaking of defenses, Mississippi State’s usually strong defense was a bit weak last year, especially when it came to stopping the run.  Ranking 73rd in the nation and giving up an average of 150 ypg on the ground does not bode well in a “run-first” conference. Best case scenario for this year will be getting back to a bowl game, and I think Coach Mullen could be the man to do just that.

Predicted Losses: Auburn, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss

Games on the Fence: Sept. 12th at Auburn, first SEC game for both new coaches, winning this game sets the tone for 2009, Oct. 3rd vs. Georgia Tech, Nov 21 at Arkansas

Underrated: QB Tyson Lee

MVP: RB Anthony Dixon

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