Thursday, July 19, 2012
Preseason Colleg Previewkakke: SEC West Division and Championship
Onto the SEC West, home to the winners of four of the last five National Championships. Remember when Mike Shula coached Alabama? Ah, the good days. Alas, all good things are destined to end, and Nick Saban ended up turning not one, but TWO SEC West universities into juggernauts. First a national title with LSU, then a short dalliance with the Miami Dolphins, then a quick and humorously lie-filled exit (Alabama? What’s that?) which saw him retreat back to the same freaking division as the college team he had left merely two years prior. Now? A damned dynasty wherein the man whose name is eerily similar to a certain fiery demon wins a title every couple years.
Add to this the LSU Tigers, who hired Les Miles after Saban left, which has led to some of the most fantastic endings/games in college football history (And another national title for LSU). Add to that Arkansas, who just fired its bike-riding, daughter’s-age-girl-banging, Atlanta Falcons-leaving head coach… and replaced him with John L. Smith. John L. Smith inspired THIS. That is all.
Outside of those three incredible stories we also have three other coaches in transition. Gene Chizik at Auburn needs to prove he can win without Cam Newton. Dan Mullen needs to take the next step with Mississippi State. And Texas A&M needs to prove they can compete in the SEC when they struggled so mightily to do just that in the Big 12-2.
So what happens in the most storyline-laden division in the NCAA? Glad you asked! Because I happen to have a fresh batch of 100% truthful predictions right after the jump:
Team Overall W-L Conference W-L
LSU 12-0 8-0
Arkansas 10-2 6-2
Alabama 10-2 6-2
Mississippi State 9-3 5-3
Texas A&M 7-5 3-5
Auburn 5-7 2-6
Ole Miss 3-9 0-8
LSU: This team is constructed to dominate everyone in this year’s SEC West, except maybe Arkansas (but more on that shortly). LSU has the nation’s top offensive line, one of the top defensive lines (anchored by Barkevius Mingo, which is a man’s name, and also a string of syllables that I challenge you not to smile at. You will fail.), and perhaps the nation’s top running game. They’ll need to repair the secondary, but LSU rarely, if ever, has a problem with that, and they’ll also need a new QB, but… well, they didn’t exactly have one last season and they made it to the title game. LSU is the best team in the SEC, and I expect them to prove it. Best Possible Inaccuracy: At Arkansas, last game of the season. Arkansas has the best passing attack in the country, and LSU has an unproven secondary. My assumption here is that LSU’s secondary won’t be unproven by game 12 and they will be able to dominate like LSU typically does.
Arkansas: Arkansas may have had a chance to take the West this season if Petrino didn’t crash his motorcycle into an oncoming KARMA TRAIN. Now, however, they employ John L. Smith. He of the choking, and puckering, and H.R. PUFF N STUFF. Arkansas has a great QB, solid running game, and solid defense, but they lose a very good player on each defensive level and almost every wide receiver from last season. Combine those losses with John L. and maybe even ten wins is a bit much. Best Possible Inaccuracy: I have them losing at South Carolina and at home vs. LSU. Sandwiched between those two games is a game at Miss State. It would be very John L. Smithian to lose three straight to end the year.
Alabama: The defending champs will have their work cut out for them this season. As presently constructed they look a lot like LSU. The major difference will be the running game, where LSU seems to have a distinct advantage in terms of experience. Alabama brings back a similarly impressive offensive line and similar questions at QB (Having A.J. McCarron returning is like knowing you’re eating a PB and J for lunch tomorrow), LSU just seems to have a slight edge (and it doesn’t hurt that Bama plays at LSU this year). Best Possible Inaccuracy: I have them taking losses at Arkansas and LSU. Beating Arkansas is a distinct possibility, but I think the game being in Fayetteville and the early-season successes of John L will win that one for the Razorbacks.
Mississippi State: MSU is a team that just can’t seem to get over that 7 win hump. Admittedly, being in the SEC West isn’t a great position to be in for a team trying to improve a program, but Dan Mullen has built together a team that can give the big boys trouble. The question is, can the Bulldogs actually compete for a division title? I have them losing at LSU, at home vs. Arkansas, and at Alabama. After those games they have no more difficult road games, and their home slate sees Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M come to Starkville. MSU has a very good defense and a solid line. They replace their QB and RB, but both positions are being filled by potential talent. At the very least MSU has a chance to clean up every non Bama-LSU-Arkansas team on their schedule. Best Possible Inaccuracy: As I said above, beating John L. Smith at home is possible, and so is losing to Auburn or A&M at home.
Texas A&M: A&M was practically an SEC team before they got accepted into the conference. They’ll be built around a strong running game, weaker passing attack (since Tannehill left to flounder with the Dolphins), and a defense much better at defending the run than the pass. They should fit right in. They might have had a chance to compete for the division crown were it not for one of the most brutal schedule stretches this season: vs. Arkansas, @Ole Miss, vs. LSU, @Auburn, @Miss. State, @Alabama. If A&M can get out of there with 3 wins, they should feel fantastic about themselves. Best Possible Inaccuracy: I have them losing @Auburn and @Miss. State. If they can win one of those, 8-4 is possible.
Auburn: In a division so loaded with teams that have established parts of their game, it will be difficult for a team like Auburn (looking for a QB, RB, and receivers) to find victories. They have no proven playmakers left on the roster. On defense they have a solid core returning, but they will still be young, and against the other SEC defenses you can be the tenth best defense in the country but the 7th best in your own conference. Their schedule works out favorably, with only four road games (Miss. State, Vandy, Ole Miss, and Alabama). They get Georgia, LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M at home (and Clemson on a netral field). If Auburn can find their identity and capitalize on their talent pool they have a chance to do some great things this year. I just don’t bet on teams in transition in the SEC. Best Possible Inaccuracy: Their schedule is very favorable. If they can pull upsets against just half their schedule they can finish win 8 or 9 wins. I just wouldn’t bet on it.
Ole Miss: If being in transition in the SEC is bad, try just being bad. I don’t foresee a winnable SEC game here. Best Possible Inaccuracy: None. They aren’t winning an SEC game.
Code Red Responds:
The exact standings will be as follows:
LSU: 11-1, 7-1. Frankly, I don't disagree much with Iggins! He's pretty adequately summed up LSU. Mettenberger should actually be a vast improvement over the Jefferson/Lee combo (and this is the first time I just recognized the irony that the SEC champion team last year was led by two guys named Lee and Jefferson). I have them losing to Arkansas in the last game, as risky as it is, because I have a hard time believing anyone is escaping this year's SEC West completely unscathed.
Arkansas: 10-2, 6-2 Conference. I was going to pull the trigger on Arkansas before the Petrino incident. I still think John L Smith, who was a very good coach (and the guy who actually mentored Petrino back then) at Louisville can probably get this team to ten wins before Arkansas decides he's earned the permanent head coaching job and they repeat the Michigan State version of John L. Smith in coming years. For the record, I have their two conference losses as South Carolina and Mississippi State, because Starkville is a terrifying place to play on the road and Spurrier could easily outfox John L. Smith.
Alabama: 9-3, 6-2 Conference. It's terrifying to pick Bama to lose 3 games, but at least they did that in their last season defending the title? In my biggest gamble yet I think Denard Robinson will defeat an inexperienced Bama defense in their opener, and Arkansas and LSU will be too much for them as well. Saban will destroy whoever trifles with him in the bowl, and Bama will of course be your 2013-2014 national champs.
Mississippi State: 9-3, 5-3 Conference. Is Dan Mullen having trouble getting over the 7 win hump? What was I smoking when he won 9 games in 2010? Iggins! terrible memory aside, this is a good team that should be in contention late in the year, but they're just not elite enough to win the toughest division in college football. (Iggins! note: not sure why I put 7-win hump instead of hump. MSU only beat one ranked team in 2010. I will leave my embarrassing mistake for all to see!)
Auburn: 6-6, 3-5 Conference: Gene Chizik is one lucky motherf*&ker. Thanks to one season of an imported demi-God he won't have to face the fact that he's not a good coach and can't compete consistently with Bama and LSU for a few more years.
Texas A&M: 5-7, 2-6 Conference. I love the pick of Kevin Sumlin as head coach and can't wait to see how the evolved version of the Air Raid offense does in its return to the conference where Hal Mumme and Mike Leach first shocked the world in the 90s. They'll score some points, but their defense wasn't very good last year and won't be able to hang with the heavyweights they'll have to face this year. I like their future, however.
Ole Miss: 3-9, 0-8 Conference. Yep. That's not going to end well.
SEC Championship Game:
Iggins!: I’ll take LSU over Georgia, 24-14. LSU is just too good. I’ll be cheering for Georgia here, though.
Code Red: Georgia 28, LSU 17: Because I feel like people will spend all year assuming Georgia's just loading up for an ass kicking in the SEC Title Game and they'll shock us by winning one.
Iggins!: The first prediction I wrote down was almost exactly that, but I balked.
TO SUMMARIZE: We agree almost entirely on everything in this division (give or take a few wins and losses), Mississippi State only beat a single ranked team in 2010 to get to 9 wins, dick, (still not sure why I put 7-win hump instead of just plain hump, though…), and SEC football is so goddamned boring. The Big 12 minus 2 is up next, and boy is that place crammed with good teams. That might take a bit longer as there are no divisions and ten teams. ANTICIPATE IT.