Ahhh, yes. It’s August, meaning that college football is right around the corner. Need to know who to watch this season? Well, we got you covered! Myself, MichaelYoungHistory, and friend of the Thread Mark Rodriguez will break down the entire field by conference and tell you the players, teams, and dark horses to watch for this year. We’ll also let you know who is entirely overrated and won’t be making much noise come December . Today, we’ll break down the SEC. We’ll break down all of the conferences before the season kicks off, so check back with us! And as always, leave us comments to voice your opinion. And with that said…
South Eastern Conference (SEC) (MarkRod)
The SEC looks to continue its unprecedented run of dominance
Some think it’s complete media bias from an all-powerful network with a huge financial stake in a property (and no, I’m not talking about The Longhorn Network). The cult following believe that their brand is the most dominant and can’t be compared with any other. Yes, it seems like too much is always made of the SEC and how that brand of football is far superior to the rest of the country, but you have to give the conference its credit. The SEC wins its fair share of nonconference matchups against the other BCS conferences. Oh, and you can’t forget about five straight BCS championships.
This year looks to be no different with eight teams ranked in the initial AP Top 25 poll. Alabama leads the still-loaded West division while Steve Spurrier looks to finally lead his South Carolina Gamecocks to an SEC title. Will these two teams square off in Atlanta?
Nick Saban doesn’t care what you think about him. He doesn’t care that you think he’s a rat for leaving LSU and the Miami Dolphins for better jobs despite saying before hand he wasn’t going to leave. Saban only cares about winning (and probably money too, considering he keeps doing those stupid ESPN appearances). Not counting his debut season in Tuscaloosa, Saban has only lost five games with Alabama, and all five of those in a three-year stretch. All five of those loses came to ranked teams.
Alabama is set make another run for SEC crown led once again by a dominant defense, led by returning linebacker Dont’a Hightower and ten defensive returners. Trent Richardson finally gets to carry the load by himself on offense, led by four returners on the offensive line. Quarterback is an issue, but Saban led teams have never put too much stock into top notch quarterback play.
(Note: Like the rest of the mainstream media, asides from @SPORTSbyBROOKS, I’m going to ignore this totally shady looking situation involving Richardson and some clothing stores at a Tuscaloosa mall.)
The Wild Card
I was totally committed to running some major love and dark horse national title love toward Arkansas, but all that went at the window when Knile Davis blew out his knee a few weeks ago. Bobby Petrino’s offense came back loaded with the best talent at receiver in the conference and even a new starting quarterback in Tyler Wilson who filled in great an injured Ryan Mallett last season. They even bring back seven starters from last years Sugar Bowl team*. Maybe Ronnie Wingo can step in where Davis was ready to carry the offense. Maybe the schedule was already too difficult with road games at Alabama and at LSU? All I know is losing a top three-conference running back hurts your chances at competing for the conference title.
*How do we count last year’s Sugar Bowl after all this Ohio State hoopla? Are they awarded the win? Does their appearance even count? Let’s just agree they would have been retroactively awarded a win until Ryan Mallett threw a pick to secure the loss.
The Black Sheep
It seems like Stephen Garcia has been at South Carolina for about six years blowing games and getting into Spurrier’s doghouse. Considering all of the talent that Spurrier has brought in over the past five years, you would think he would have brought in a better quarterback than Garcia. With the SEC East being down this year, the Gamecocks are primed to repeat as East champs and return to Atlanta. I don’t trust Garcia to lead them there this year. They sort of lucked into the East title last season due to the dramatic fall of Florida. This year, Garcia blows one too many games costing the Gamecocks a shot to return to Atlanta.
The Dark Horse
This leads me to my surprise team this year in the SEC. I use the term surprise rather loosely since they are a year removed from the doorstep of the national title. Look for Florida to take home the SEC East crown to ultimately get housed in Atlanta. New Coach Will Muschamp, no matter how much certain people hate him, is walking into a great situation. He’ll be able take a stout defense that was ranked third in points and yards per game in the SEC. There is also the Weis factor. Weis made Jimmy Clausen look like decent player and got a Pro Bowl season out of Matt Cassell last season. The biggest problem with Florida’s underachieving offense last season was John Brantley running the Tim Tebow’s offense in the ultimate square-peg-round-hole scenario. Also add in the fact that Urban Meyer constantly rotating quarterbacks and you can see why Florida never got into any offensive rhythm. Look for Florida to squeeze out nine wins, including wins over Georgia and South Carolina.
Player to Watch
LSU is another team on favorite’s list for the national title. Then there was some bar fight this past weekend that actually puts starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson in hot water (and yes I’m going to take the this moment to relive this classic Jefferson moment). This may not be a bad thing however, since Jefferson has never established himself as the starter anyway. Cue Zach Mettenberger, star JUCO commit who was rumored challenge for the starting role this spring. With the weapons LSU has on offense, Mettenberger could step in and have an Aaron Murray type season, leading LSU to the SEC title (granted, Les Miles doesn’t do anything crazy, but that’s a separate issue).
The Georgia Conundrum
I couldn’t post a blog on the SEC without looking into the firestorm about to erupt in Athens. On the one hand, they have possibly the best offensive player in the SEC in Aaron Murray. Murray was quite impressive last season in his debut season with facing off against some nasty defenses all season long. The problem is, Georgia doesn’t have much else to help Murray out. When you’re hopes rely on an incoming running back and unproven talent at receiver, things could lead to a rough season.
A rough season is the last thing that Mark Richt needs. After the strong ending to the 2007 season, where the Bulldogs rattled off a huge winning streak after a loss to Tennessee (which kept them out of the SEC title game) culminating in a thrashing of Hawaii that ended with a number two ranking, a loaded team returning, and lofty expectation heading into next season. Then enter the black jerseys, a shellacking at home by Bama, and a lot of unmet expectations and now Richt is facing his end of days if the team doesn’t come through and big this season. He may be facing an early hole with games against Boise State and South Carolina.
Mississippi State – Enjoy Dan Mullin why you can, because this may be the last season you have him as your head coach, especially if another SEC job opens up.
Ole Miss – Another coach on the hot seat, although I don’t see Mullin jumping across the state for a lesser job. Huston Nutt has pulled off some miracles in the past, but I don’t see that happening this season.
Tennessee – I have never personally understood the mystique Tennessee. Yeah, I know they won a title 1998, but since then, they have been nothing but underachieving losers.
Vanderbilt – From what I saw about SEC Media Day from writers on Twitter, Vandy may have the funniest coach in the conference.
Kentucky – At least the NBA lockout won’t stop Bill Calipari and his boys from playing ball this summer. (What’s that, Coach Cal’s team isn’t officially a pro team?)
In the end, I see Alabama steamrolling their way through the regular season and defeating Florida in the SEC Title game. They will then head down to New Orleans and defeat Florida St. for the national title, giving Saban two titles in three years and three BCS titles overall.
MichaelYoungHistory, The Big Socrates, MarkRod