Bruising, passionate football. The smell of bourbon in the air. Pretty sorority girls. Drunk frat boys who don’t know what day it is. And hedges. Lots of hedges. It must be the SEC.SEC EAST
Boring as this sounds, but everyone’s going to Gator bait this year. Although the Gators are missing no less than nine players on defence, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and the rest of the Gator crew have certainly got enough to win a shootout. It also helps that most of its Eastern Conference competitors really aren’t that good, either. Having said that, they DO have to go to LSU this year and face the music.
If Tennessee can beat California and Florida on the road this year, then get worrying about the Vols winning the lot this year. Erik Ainge is a very competent quarterback indeed, and although they are missing Robert Meacham, we like running back Lennon Creer – especially as talented runner LaMarcus Coker’s out until further notice.
3. South Carolina
South Carolina played well enough to have a monster year last year, coming within striking distance against Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas, but they weren’t able to pull the punch. QB Blake Mitchell’s back for his fifth year, and if Sidney Rice was the star that he was last year, then South Carolina could yet compete.
Matt Stafford is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC, scaring the hell out of just about every defense he went up against last year. Running back Kregg Lumpkin should pick up some of the slack, but its really up to the offensive line to keep Stafford and Lumpkin safe against tough opposition from Tennessee, Auburn, and Florida. One of the keys to the defence, though, will be how they cope with the firepower of the Oklahoma State offense at the start of the year. This year could be one of Mark Richt’s toughest.
One of the great surprises of the season was that Kentucky – a basketball superpower – made it to a bowl last year. And with QB Andre’ Woodson coming back for a fifth year (Ed: Do any of these players leave in four??), there may be a few upsets to come from the school which turned over Clemson and Georgia last year. Look out Louisville, there’s a new team in the Bluegrass State.
With Jay Cutler gone, the Vanderbilt Commodores looked ordinary again. Sure, they turned over the Georgia Bulldogs in the middle of the season, but otherwise they were woeful against SEC opponents. Expect more of the same this year.
One of the country’s favourites going into the season, the Tigers are prepped to go all the way. All they have to do is get through one of the toughest schedules in football. While Mississippi State won’t provide a monster of a banana skin to Les Miles’ side, you can bet that a fired-up Virginia Tech – as well as an away date at Alabama will do. We’re not sure how good Matt Flynn is (sorry, but one Peach Bowl performance does not provide enough evidence), but we know that the Tigers defence is absolutely incredible. These guys could go all the way.
OK, so it’s pretty common knowledge that Darren McFadden’s going pro after the 2007 season. McFadden was brilliant last year, putting up over 1,600 yards and 14 yards on the ground. And partner-in-crime Felix Jones (1,168 yds, 6 TD) is as frightening a prospect for defences. The key games will be the early season game against Alabama and the season closer at LSU. If they can get through that – and they decide who’s going to play quarterback – then Razorback football could well be going back to Atlanta.
Although no-one’s picking the Tigers to be brilliant this year, it seems almost certain that even the Nick Saban factor will help cross-state rivals Alabama win the Iron Bowl this year. Sure, they are missing Kenny Irons and the health of Brandon Cox is in question. But this young team – who have definitely got the talent to scare the defenses. Although people are talking up Kansas State as being a potential banana skin for this SEC superpower, if I were an Auburn fan I’d be more scared about back-to-back trips to LSU and Arkansas.
Nick Saban’s return to college football has been oft written about. And if he brings Alabama football out of the ashes, then good luck to him. However, it’s going to take a while. John Parker Wilson isn’t a terrible QB, but if the police do follow through their arrest of CB Simeon Castille on August 19th, things could well get a lot worse. ESPN.com are predicted Bama beat Tennessee and Auburn, but lose to LSU. Sorry Sabes, methinks you’ll lose the lot.
5. Ole Miss
Ole Miss only won four games last year, and if they get over five this year, then it’ll be a miracle. Sure, it’s great to watch a big party on The Grove, but when will the guys in Oxford finally get to a point where they want a good coach? I’m sorry, but Ed Orgeron simply doesn’t fit the bill – even if he was good enough to recruit OT Michael Oher and get a book written about him. Brent Schaffer should be fun to watch out of the pocket, but this will be another `rebuilding year’, I’m afraid.
6. Mississippi State
Opening up the season on a Thursday at home to LSU will prove how good Buddy Croom’s team truly is. Frankly, it would be great for football if the Tigers are upset. The saddest thing is is that we don’t think it’ll happen.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
LSU over Florida