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2010 SEC Predicted Order of Finish

I still haven’t gotten to my previews of Mississippi, Mississippi St. & Vanderbilt, but I was able to kick out my predicted order of finish for the SEC. I’m still hoping to get up previews for the Big East & Pac 10, but the season starts tomorrow so we’ll have to wait and see how good I can do with those previews.

I went a little bit outside the box and predict that South Carolina & Alabama will meet in the SEC Championship game. Florida is the easy choice, but thought on the matter is that this is sort of a make or break year for the Gamecocks. They have the schedule to get it done and while Florida doesn’t exactly rebuild, this is probably the most vulnerable year they’ve had since Urban Meyer has come on as HC. If South Carolina can’t win the East this year, then I’m not sure they ever will.

RANK TEAM SEC EAST
#1 PROS: There really are no excuses here. This is the best defense & offense Spurrier has ever had in Columbia. The offense has ridiculous skill set players behind an experienced offensive line. The pass defense is outstanding while the front-7 is a lot better than just average. South Carolina could easily have 10-11 guys fighting for All-SEC honors in one form or another. With Florida seemingly reloading & Georgia breaking in a new QB, this is definitely the year for South Carolina to get to the SEC Championship game.

CONS: The schedule. It’s brutal. They draw Auburn, Arkansas & Alabama from the SEC West and also play Florida in Gainesville. On the other hand, they get a bye week before Alabama & play the Tide at home. The schedule is such that they get semi vacations against bad teams before they play the big boys. It’s a lot to overcome, but SC doesn’t make a move this season, then I’m not sure they ever will. The other con is the immaturity issue with QB Stephen Garcia. If he plays like he can, SC rolls.

#2 Pros: It’s a bit odd to see me have Florida ranked #4 in my power poll but finish 2nd in the SEC East. It was simply too easy to have them win the SEC East. Florida reloads so there is a ton to be happy about. Offensively they have to replace Tim Tebow, but the offensive line should be spectacular and the running game comes back intact. There are no shortage of playmakers on the field for Gator Nation. Defensively a big time recruit fills every position, but the secondary should be incredibly strong. I’d say it’s the best unit of the defense & should shut down opposing passing games.

Cons: Look, we all think John Brantley can be “the guy” but he’s never made a collegiate start so how do we know what we are getting? Florida also loses a ton of receivers notably Riley Cooper & Aaron Hernandez. Guys like Deonte Thompson & Carl Moore have never elevated their game to superstar status. Florida’s defensive front-7 could be a little behind as well. New DEs Justin Trattou & William Green need to step up while new LBs Jon Bostic & Jelani Jenkins have to be fast learners. There are some explosive offenses in the SEC. The question will be whether the Gators can handle it.

#3 Pros: The offense could be incredible. Georgia returns 10 starters including what is arguably the best offensive line in the country! Washaun Ealey should be a beast at RB & the receivers are big led by potential All-American AJ Green. The schedule is also pretty benign for the Bulldogs. They miss Alabama & LSU out of the SEC West & get Arkansas at home. Auburn & SC are road games for them, but outside of those two games, Georgia doesn’t really have a tough road game to play. Defensively LB Justin Houston could be incredible. He was amazing at DE so expect even more this season.

Cons: 2 big cons for Georgia. The first is that UGA is breaking in a rFR at QB in Aaron Murray. Murray has an oustanding pedigree, but we really won’t know what we are getting until the guy plays a snap. The situation is similar to Florida & John Brantley but worse. The other con is Georgia going through a defensive transition under new DC Todd Grantham. Grantham is switching Georgia over from a 4-3 to a 3-4. I think it suits their personnel well although Georgia currently lacks the massive NT required of this style of defense. The SEC has some prolific offenses so it’ll be interesting to see how they take to a new defensive scheme.

#4 Pros: Not a ton. Tennessee does bring back their top-3 receivers in Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore & Luke Stocker. Tennessee has 3 good defensive players in DEs Ben Martin & Chris Walker along with FS Janzen Jackson. More than anything is probably the notion that new HC Derek Dooley isn’t using Tennessee as a stepping stone. He’s not as polarizing as Lane Kiffin and “gets” the SEC due to his father being Georgia legend Vince Dooley. Tennessee could very well win their last 4 games putting them at 6-6 & bowl eligible which would end the season on a massive upswing.

Cons: A lot. Tennessee lost their very best players on offense & defense last year. Gone is Montario Hardesty, Jonathan Crompton, Dan Williams, Eric Berry & Rico McCoy. Those players aren’t easily replaced. While Tennessee could potentially win 6 games, they are going to have to weather the storm as they are most likely going to lose their first 5 SEC games and start the year off 2-6. It’s a big rebuilding project that isn’t going to be easy due to SEC membership.

#5 Pros: Right now Kentucky is healthy and looks to have some stabilitiy at the QB situation. Last year Kentucky dealt win injuries at QB, RB, WR, & OL. That could derail any team, but UK fought its way to 7-5 before losing the bowl game to Clemson. Kentucky should also have some exciting players. RB Derrick Locke & WR Randall Cobb are home run threats every time they touch the ball. I’m also intrigued with DEs DeQuin Evans & Taylor Wyndham as pass rushers. Kentucky could easily wind up 4th ahead of Tennessee, but I’m giving the Vols the edge as UK travels to Neyland Stadium.

Cons: There is a lot NOT to like about Kentucky. QB Morgan Newton does provide stability right now, but the guy is a true sophomore QB playing in front of a horrific offensive line. UK took big losses from an O-Line with terrific experience, talent & continuity. It won’t be easy for the big uglies up front. Kentucky is also incredibly weak in their front-7. Losing DT Corey Peters & LB Micah Johnson is a massive blow to the Wildcats. They are very young & inexperienced in their front-7 which could be a severe handicap in the explosive SEC. The schedule didn’t do them any favors putting winnable games such as Mississippi, Mississippi St. & Tennessee on the road.

#6 Pros: Vanderbilt has quite a bit returning on offense. Larry Smith is back at QB while Warren Norman returns to RB after being the freshman of the year in the SEC a year ago. Vandy also returns their top-3 receivers led by TE Brandon Barden. The defense returns MLB Chris Marve who had an outstanding season last year & will be the focal point of the defense in 2010. The biggest positive might be that Vandy is healthy…….so far.

Cons: There’s a ton of them. This is by far the worst team in the SEC. They have 5 new starters on the offensive line. I suppose you could count Kyle Fischer as a starter, but he doesn’t meet my requisite 7 start minimum to be considered as such. It’s an inexperienced, untalented, smallish O-Line that will do well not to get Smith killed. Defensively the Commodores are screwed. Outside of Marve they aren’t very good & they aren’t very talented. The schedule is downright nasty as their non-conference slate includes Northwestern, UConn & Wake Forest! They should beat Eastern Michigan, but going 1-11 wouldn’t surprise me.

Now onto the SEC West!

RANK TEAM SEC WEST
#1 PROS: Probably the biggest “pro” of them all is that Nick Saban is the head coach. Right now I think there is no doubt that’s the best HC in college football & that carries a lot of weight. Offensively they bring back the motherload including Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Trent Richardson, Greg McElroy, Julio Jones, & Marquis Maze make the offense absolutely ridiculous. Despite the losses on defense they bring back some serious thunder in Marcel Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, Nico Johnson & Mark Barron. They all could be All-Ameicans. They get Penn St., Florida & Auburn at home.

CONS: They lost an awful lot on defense. With only 2 returning starters, it looks like the defense will take a step back, but I wouldn’t count on that happening with Saban around. The schedule really isn’t that easy & Alabama does play in the SEC West which almost means it’s a near certainty they’ll lose a game They get Arkansas, South Carolina & LSU on the road. They also play quite a few teams who have bye weeks before playing the Tide.

#2 Pros: The best “pro” Auburn has is OC Gus Malzahn. Auburn averaged 17.3ppg in ’08 before Malzahn got there. Last season in his first year as OC, Auburn averaged 33.3ppg! Now the team is in their 2nd year & should be even better. Auburn did lose RB Ben Tate & QB Chris Todd, but everyone else is back. Defensively Auburn returns their top-5 tacklers & should be better. The schedule is a dream. They get SC, Clemson, LSU, Arkansas & Georgia at home. The only tough road game they have is Alabama at the end of the year. If they take care of business, Auburn should be 11-0 heading into Tuscaloosa.

Cons: Not many. On the offensive side of the ball it’ll be interesting to see how new QB Cameron Newton handles the offense. Chris Todd wasn’t anything fantastic before Malzahn got there so I’m guessing the QB is simply running an exceptional system, BUT he still has to run it. Defensively Auburn allowed almost 28ppg last year. It should be better this year with 8 returning starters, but I don’t think Auburn wants to get into too many shootouts where the defense gives up 30. It should shape up as a spectacular season for Auburn.

#3 Pros: Bobby Petrino can flat out call an offense. Last year Arkansas averaged 36ppg & they return 10 starters including potential #1 overall NFL Draft pick QB Ryan Mallett! TE DJ Williams is going to be huge! Another pro is the ability of Petrino to get the defense in order. In his first season Arkansas gave up 31ppg. Last year that dropped to 25ppg. Another 6pt drop and all of a sudden Arkansas has the ability to score 40ppg while giving up only 19ppg! That’s going to equal a ton of wins. The schedule was kind in giving them LSU & Alabama at home. In reality, if Arkansas went 12-0/11-1 I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Cons: The only real con is the defense. I think it has the chance to be a lot better & the defense as a whole has really good size to it. I think now that it’s in year 3 of Petrino’s system, things will start falling into place, but you still have to see it first. Arkansas has some tough road games too. They play Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina & Mississippi St. away from home. They also have a non-conference game against Texas A&M in Arlington TX. Arkansas has the ability to win all their games, but those road games are brutal & it’s simply too difficult to dodge each one of those bullets.

#4 Pros: At the end of the day this is a very talented team capable of beating anyone on any given day. They bring back a ton of skill position players despite losing quite a bit at RB. QB Jordan Jefferson should be better & Russell Shepard should be a big part of the offense. CB Patrick Peterson is the best shutdown corner in the nation. Alabama & West Virginia have to come to the bayou.

Cons: More than you would ordinarily think. I don’t think Les Miles is a great coach and you almost have to be to be successful in the SEC. Jordan Jefferson held onto the ball way too long at times last season & didn’t get the ball into his playmakers hands nearly often enough. Will that be solved? LSU lost a ton of players on defense including 5 of their top-6 tacklers & 7 of their top-10! Drake Nevis, Patrick Peterson & Kelvin Sheppard are high quality players, but will it be enough? This is simply too tough of a division & conference for a team to have this many question marks. Even a team like LSU.

#5 Pros: HC Dan Mullen is going to be a really good one and Mississippi St. is lucky to have him. Remember that he was the OC under Urban Meyer for quite a few years. In ’08 MSU averaged 15ppg but in Mullen’s first year that number went up to 26ppg! The offense will probably be a bit better even though they lose their star RB Anthony Dixon. Defensively, MSU was a bit rough last year allowing 27ppg, but they bring back 7 starters & 16 of their top-19 tacklers! Nobody thought MSU would beat Kentucky & Mississippi last season, but they did and fell one win shy of bowl eligibility. That 5-7 was close to 7-5.

Cons: Losing Dixon is a big deal. He accounted for over 1,500 total yards & 12TD. JUCO transfer Vic Ballard will try to replace him, but that might be asking too much. MSU also has a new starting QB in Chris Reif. From a talent perspective, MSU still isn’t at the quality of other elite SEC teams, but I think Mullen can get them there. Playing in the SEC West makes the learning curve exceptionally steep, but I like where MSU is going. The schedule is NASTY as the Bulldogs have road games against LSU, Houston, Florida & Alabama while also drawing Auburn, Georgia, & Kentucky at home! If they get bowl eligible, Mullen will have done an outstanding job.

#6 Pros: The schedule for Ole’ Miss is wonderful. They draw the weakest SEC East teams in Kentucky, Vanderbilt & Tennessee! They also get Mississippi St. at home making 4 SEC wins very likely if they can get by in-state rival MSU. Ole’ Miss’s defense should be plenty nasty. Jerrell Powe & Kentrell Lockett are going to be BEASTS on the D-Line. The Rebels should start 9 upperclassmen on the defensive side of the ball which should really be great this season. The offense has some serious playmakers back too in Brandon Bolden, Markeith Summers & Pat Patterson.

Cons: Mississippi lost at truckload on offense. Gone are QB Jevan Snead, RB Dexter McCluster & WR Shay Hodge. The Rebels also return only 1 starter from the offensive line. There are playmakers here and QBs Nathan Stanley & Randall Mackey could be solid, but right now former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli has been ruled ineligible so there isn’t much experience under center with a very raw offensive line. I think the defense will miss DE Greg Hardy & WLB Patrick Trahan although it won’t be too bad. Mississippi also breaks in a couple of new starting CBs. Ole’ Miss simply lost a ton on offense and the SEC has some high powered teams. They aren’t going to outscore anyone.

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September 1, 2010 - Posted by | Previews, SEC

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