Hello college football fans! I'm sure you're all excited about the upcoming season. I know I am. In this blog post I will attempt to predict how each team in the SEC will fare this year. They will be listed in the order I project them to finish in their division.
1. Florida - The Gators are clearly the easy favorite to win the East division again this year. After all, they return all eleven starters on a defense that was one of the nation's best last season. On the offensive side of the ball the Gators are only slightly worse off. They still have Tim Tebow who some believe to be the greatest college football player of all time. The Gators will miss Percy Harvin, who was probably the nation's most dynamic player last season, and Louis Murphy. However, Urban Meyer has done very well in recruiting the last few years meaning that the Gators should have plenty of young talent to step up this season and fill the few holes in the lineup.
2. Georgia - The Bulldogs were the early favorites to win the national championship last season, but they failed to live up to those lofty expectations. This year, expectations are considerably lower in Athens after the early departures of quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno to the NFL. Nevertheless, the cupboard is far from bare this season for Georgia. The offensive line should be one of the SEC's best this season and sophomore wide reciever AJ Green should have another great season this year. Replacing Stafford and Moreno will be difficult but Richt has recruited well the past several seasons and the Bulldogs should be able to reload well enough to finish 2nd in the East.
3. Kentucky - The Wildcats won 7 games (including a Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina) last season and hope for even greater success this season. Kentucky returns 8 starters on offense and 4 on defense. With an easy out of conference schedule and the good fortune of not having to play West Division powers LSU and Ole Miss a 9 win season seems like a realistic possibility assuming Kentucky gets decent quarterback play from junior Mike Hartline. That should be good enough to propel the Wildcats to a 3rd place finish in the East.
4. South Carolina - Steve Spurrier has not been yet able to transform the Gamecocks into a championship caliber team. I don't expect he will be able to do it this year either. The Gamecocks have only 10 returning starters back from a team that won 7 games last season. Stephen Garcia will have to show drastic improvement as a quarterback if South Carolina wants to have any success this year. The Gamecocks have the misfortune of playing both Alabama and Ole Miss from the West as well as their Eastern division foes. A 7 win season is probably the best case scenario for the Gamecocks.
5. Tennessee - The Vols have generated a lot of news this offseason because of new coach Lane Kiffin's tendency to say things he shouldn't and accuse everyone of cheating while he and his staff are knowingly doing it on ESPN. Kiffin wanted to use all that publicity to help recruiting which it probably did. Kiffin will probably turn things around at Tennessee eventually but it won't happen this season. The Vols return 11 starters from a team that went 5-7 last year. The schedule is difficult this year. The Vols have road games at Florida, at Alabama, and at Ole Miss. The Vols have no proven quarterback and will be lucky to get to 6-6.
6. Vanderbilt - The Commodores won a bowl game for the first time in ages. The Commodores return 17 starters and should be competitive in most of their games. Nevertheless, Vandy has a more difficult schedule this season, with games against Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Ole Miss at home and LSU and Florida on the road. The Commodores will probably not be able to go to another bowl game this season.
1. Alabama - Nick Saban's Crimson Tide stunned the college football world last season going 12-0 in the regular season and capturing the SEC West title which was better than even the most diehard Bama fan could have imagined in only Saban's second year with the Tide. Now as year three draws near Alabama fans everywhere are wondering if another division title (and possibly even more) is possible. With nine starters from a stellar defense returning, another top notch recruiting class coming in, and unstoppable sophomore receiver Julio Jones another division title seems like an attainable goal for the Tide this season.
2. LSU - LSU has 13 starters back this season from an 8-5 team. Les Miles and his team hope to do better this season. The Tigers had some trouble finding a quarterback last season. Sophomore Jordan Jefferson seems to have claimed the starting job for this season. Running back Charles Scott is probably the best in the conference. If the athletic Jefferson performs well the Tigers have the potential to challenge Alabama and Ole Miss for the West Division title.
3. Ole Miss - Houston Nutt led the Rebels to a 9-4 season last year in his first year as the Ole Miss head coach. A big reason for that success was quarterback Jevan Snead who established himself as one of the nation's best last year. Dexter McCluster is one of the best all-purpose players in the country. Last season he was the team's leading rusher and second leading reciever. Snead and McCluster will attempt to lead the Rebels to a West Division title. The Rebels get LSU and Alabama at home. However, the Rebels will not sneak up on anyone this season like they did last year. Ole Miss will have to prove that they can live up to the hype. I think they will do what Georgia did last year, collapse under the weight of overblown expectations.
4. Arkansas - Bobby Petrino had a difficult time in his first year as the coach of the Razorbacks leading his team to a 5-7 record. The Hogs were one of the nation's youngest teams last year, but now that experience should pay dividends this season. The Hogs return 17 starters this year. Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet looks to be a great fit for Bobby Petrino's offense and he will be the starter this season. The Hogs have a great running back in Michael Smith. The Hogs will probably be improved enough to get into a lower tier bowl game this season.
5. Auburn - Last season was a nightmare for the Tigers as they finished a 5-7 season by being routed by Alabama 36-0. First year coach Gene Chizik will have a difficult time turning things around this year, as the Tigers lack a proven quarterback, playmaking recievers, and overall team depth. Chizik may eventually solve all these problems and return the Tigers to championship caliber but not this year. The Tigers likely have another losing season in store this season.
6. Mississippi State - Of the SEC's three new coaches, Dan Mullen has the hardest task in front of him. Mississippi State was the worst team in the conference last season and will probably be the worst again this season. Mullen will probably need several years to even get Mississippi State to a 6-6 season. The Bulldogs need a few good recruiting classes and time to learn Mullen's complex spread offense. Mississippi State just doesn't have the talent to be much of a factor in the SEC West race at this point.