Way too early conference predictions: SEC
As the Eye noted in an earlier post, every May we break down each conference to see how they may shake out in the fall.
The SEC may actually live up to its reputation this year as the strongest conference in the country with three legitimate championship teams and six or seven that could win or finish near the top of any other conference.
Make sure to check back later this week as the Eye will give his thoughts on the Big East and later the Big 12, while I'll break down the Big Ten and ACC.
1. Florida 10-2, 6-2
In a normal year in the SEC East, Florida would be ripe pickings for Georgia, Tennessee or South Carolina. However, the East is weak and the Gators spot on top is safe. It’s a transition year in Gainesville. No longer will Tim Tebow lead the Gators onto the field or in some sideline rant that’s orchestrated for the cameras. Also the farce that Urban Meyer is taking a leave of absence has already been busted. QB John Brantley has some pretty big shoes to fill, but an offensive line led by OT Omar Hunter and C Mike Pouncey should help ease the transition.
2. South Carolina 10-2, 6-2
Steve Spurrier says he’s back to being a mean SOB. Poor, poor QB Stephen Garcia. The Gamecocks inconsistent Garcia is the still the go-to guy, but Spurrier is just looking for a reason to pull him. However, South Carolina has a strong defense again and it finally has a sort of breakout year under Spurrier.
3. Georgia 8-4, 5-3
It’s been awhile since the Bulldogs suffered consecutive average seasons, especially under Mark Richt. With the quarterback situation not as solid as most UGA fans and coaches would like, the Bulldogs should rebound a bit this season. WR A.J. Green remains one of the best in the country.
4. Kentucky 7-5, 4-4
There are some big shoes to fill on defense in Joker Phillips’ first year, but the Wildcats should reach a bowl game for a fifth consecutive year. Kentucky also must rebuild an offensive line that needs to protect QB Mark Hartline, who missed last season with a knee injury.
5. Tennessee 4-8, 1-7
Just one year after licking our chops as the Lane Kiffin era began, we sit here now at the beginning of Derek Dooley’s run in Knoxville. Dooley appears to be leaning toward Matt Simms as his QB, and the Volunteers have depth problems on the offensive line, defensive line and at linebacker. None of that smells like success.
6. Vanderbilt 1-11, 0-8
Remember 2008? The Commodores upset Boston College in the Music City Bowl and finished with a winning record. Then came last season and a 2-10 overall mark and a winless SEC campaign. Coach Bobby Johnson will need a number of things to come together before the fall to avoid a similar season.
1. Alabama 11-1, 7-1
How can you pick against the Crimson Tide? You almost can’t, but I see them losing one this season (at South Carolina), but still winning the SEC championship by beating Florida again in the title game. Why? Here are just a few reasons: QB Greg McElroy, WR Julio Jones, RB Mark Ingram, DE Marcel Dareus, etc.
2. Arkansas 10-2, 6-2
Bobby Petrino recently put his house on the market and fans in Fayetteville are panicking. We’ve all seen this with Petrino as he was flirting with jobs every year he was at Louisville. He may have a good reason for looking. QB Ryan Mallett will probably bolt after the season for the NFL, but he should lead the Razorbacks to a big-time bowl and give Bama a run for the West title.
3. LSU 9-3, 5-3
Look, the Tigers are loaded with talent. Les Miles does a great job of recruiting the players. Unfortunately he doesn’t do such a swell job of coaching them. Still, LSU will be tough to beat with Jordan Jefferson back at QB and CB Patrick Peterson leading the defense.
4. Auburn 8-4, 4-4
Junior college transfer and former Florida Gator Cameron Newton will start at QB for Gene Chizik in 2010. Auburn also has a slew of talented receivers and defensively should be tough. The Tigers should avoid the late-season swoon of last year, but are still a year away from really competing for the top spot in the West.
5. Ole Miss 6-6, 2-6
If QB Jevan Snead had returned for his senior season the Rebels could easily be the second or third in the West. My only concern about this pick is Houston Nutt. When expectations are low his teams usually surprises.
6. Mississippi State 4-8, 0-8
Mississippi State fans expect the Bulldogs to return to a bowl game in year two under Dan Mullen. That won’t be easy, though. Go through the schedule and try to find wins. It’s not easy. MSU does have some talent with QB Chris Relf, WR Chad Bumphis, DE Pernell McPhee and MLB Chris White, but the rest of the conference is so talented Mississippi State may take a step back in 2010.