Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Preseason College Previewkakke: SEC East Division
You may be asking yourself what order this round of previews is going in. If it were by national relevance, the SEC would obviously be the last conference previewed before the BCS Bowl prediction blowout. The SEC has won (approximately) the last 27 national titles and will, unless the SEC has 14 teams with at least 2 losses this season, send a minimum of one team to the National Championship. But this preview series is going in terms of relevance to our potential readership, and since anyone who cares about Chicago sports probably has a dog in either the Big 12-2 or B1G race, the SEC gets previewed before both of them.
What more can be said about the SEC? They’re dominant. They’ve had the undisputed champions in college football since 2007 and won it as well in 05 and 04 (05 Auburn was 13-0 despite not participating in the title game).
The most recent winners, however, lie in the West. That’s where LSU, Alabama, and Auburn (plus the ever-dangerous Arkansas) reside. The East is a division in transition. Florida was down last year, Tennessee has been down due to the Fulmer curse, Missouri is transitioning from the Big 12 minus 2, Vanderbilt has put together a couple top-25 recruiting classes and solid seasons, Mark Richt is regaining the respect of his fanbase, and Steve Spurrier is finally in contention for those titles his hiring promised.
Can any of these teams be relevant enough to contend for the SEC title (and thus the National Title)? Can any of them go unbeaten? How much credibility do I lose for what I’m about to say Vanderbilt will do? Let’s see! Here they are; 100% accurate predictions for the SEC East:
Team Overall W-L Conference W-L
Georgia 11-1 7-1
Vanderbilt 11-1 7-1
South Carolina 9-3 6-2
Missouri 6-6 2-6
Florida 5-7 2-6
Tennessee 5-7 2-6
Kentucky 3-9 0-8
Georgia: Right up there with Tom Coughlin you will find Mark Richt on the list of coaches with completely undeserved yet permanently hot seats. Richt has failed to reach ten wins only twice since 2002. After a quick 0-2 start last year (to Boise State and South Carolina) the Dawgs won 10 in a row, lawya, and won the SEC East. They have a great young QB coming back with a very talented receiving corps and one of the best defenses in the nation. Isiah Crowell pulling some gun shenanigans and getting removed from the team won’t help, but don’t pretend like UGA doesn’t have one or two RBs sitting behind him that can do just as well. This team is a threat to go unbeaten. Best Possible Inaccuracy: They have the second easiest schedule in the SEC and also one of the best teams in the SEC. I have them losing at South Carolina on October 6. That game will be the difference between one loss and no losses.
Vanderbilt: I see the way you’re looking at me. Let me explain! Remember how I said Georgia had the second easiest schedule in the SEC? Well Vandy has #1. They miss Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State, AND Texas A&M. There may never be another opportunity like this in Vanderbilt history. Right now I would rank Vandy as the 7th best team in the SEC, which is fine, because they play #8-14 (excluding Auburn). The other two games they play are a game at home against South Carolina to open the season, and at Georgia. If they can pull off the upset at home on August 30th the Commodores will only play one team (UGA) better than them the rest of the year. They have an amazing rushing attack, a solid defense, and a good, developing, young QB. The sky is the limit with this schedule. Best Possible Inaccuracy: Well, it’s Vanderbilt. But for me to be wrong they would have to lose… @Mizzou? @Northwestern? @Wake Forest (Who they beat 41-7 last year)? It’s either that or at home to a very bad Florida team or an equally anemic Auburn team. I’ll admit it’s just as likely they lose two games they shouldn’t and end up at a more than respectable 9-3, but I’ll take a flier here. You only live once!
South Carolina: The whole key to this team is RB Marcus Lattimore. The guy is magnificent. He tore his ACL halfway through last season, though, and there are questions as to how effective he can be in his return. The Cocks also get the Stephen Garcia (who, by the way, broke his freaking fingers throwing a peace sign) monkey off their back for good, and Connor Shaw looked pretty good as a replacement last season. This could be a huge season, but the other USC will have a tough road to travel to win this division. They play games at LSU, at Vanderbilt, and at Clemson. They also have home games against Arkansas and Georgia. None of that is pleasant. Best Possible Inaccuracy: The three losses I have for them are the three away games I mentioned. If they can beat Vandy to begin the year they could take the East by beating Georgia. Game #1 and at home vs. Georgia are the two games to watch this year.
Missouri: 8-5 in the Big 12 is a lot like 6-6 in the SEC. Also, Missouri simply fails to inspire. Their run game is okay. Their pass game is okay. Their defense? Yup, it’s okay. But with games against Bama, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Georgia (plus away games at similarly okay teams like Tennessee) okay will end up getting you exactly what okay deserves; mediocrity. Best Possible Inaccuracy: At home versus Vanderbilt. This would be a prime spot for Vandy to lose a game they should not.
Florida: This team was bland and boring (not to mention anemic) on offense last year, and HOLY CRAP they have to replace every skill position player they have. This could be good, it could be bad, but most likely we’ll need at least a season to find out. While Florida works out… everything… they’ll also have to play in the SEC. That will not be pleasant. Best Possible Inaccuracy: In Gainesville, the hope would be that the new guys HAVE to be better than the old, that the defense can carry the offense (yeah, how’d that work out last year?) and that will lead to wins against 3 doormats, at Tennessee, vs. Mizzou, and vs. Kentucky. Hoping for 6-6 might be a best-case scenario this year: The other six games are @TAMU, vs. LSU, @Vandy, vs. South Carolina, vs. Georgia, and @Florida State. Even with a solid defense that returns every starter from last year, they’ll need offensive production to win against any of those six teams. I haven’t seen anything from Florida that suggests they will have that.
Tennessee: These guys just can’t get up off the mat. It seems like Phil Fulmer proved that the only way to get consistent winners in Tennessee is to cheat, and cheat good. Methinks Vol fans just might want the fat man back right about now? Tennessee has potential, but that gets you about as far as a single conference win in the SEC. QB Tyler Bray is young, and maybe he can develop, but he just doesn’t look good. This team is mediocre, and their record will reflect that. Best Possible Inaccuracy: They have 4 winnable games to start the year, followed by 4 games in which they will lose by 30+, followed by two winnable games, followed by two games they better win or Dooley will be fired (@Vandy, vs. Kentucky). If they can manage to beat Florida or NC State at home they might be able to get to .500 for the year.
Kentucky: Long story short, nobody at this university cares about football, and the SEC is just not the conference for teams trying to build a program. Rich Brooks thinks this is bullshit. Best Possible Inaccuracy: Outside of 3 easy non-conference games Kentucky’s best shot at a win is at Tennessee the last game of the year. Someone is getting fired after that game.
CODE RED SPEAKS:
The exact standings will be as follows:
Georgia 11-1, 7-1 Conference. Even with the loss of Crowell, the Dawgs are still the most talented team in this division, with an excellent quarterback, an easy schedule, and blue chippers everywhere. They could very well be national title contenders. Of course, that means anything less than a national title will have their fans calling for Richt's head again.
Florida 9-3, 6-2 Conference. I don't know where Iggins has the idea that Florida has to replace everyone on offense. They lost Brantley, who missed much of last season anyway, and replace him with Jeff Driskel, the number one recruit at his position who got a valuable trial by fire last year. Other than they have 17 starters, including 10 on a defense that allowed less than 300 ypg last year. They'll bounce back quite well in year 2 of the Muschamp Regime.
South Carolina 8-4, 4-4 Conference. It's tough dropping SC this low, but they have just 11 returning starters and a tougher schedule than their biggest competitors. This a good team, but they'll come shy of repeating their great year last year.
Tennesse 8-4, 4-4 Conference. Tennessee has a good quarterback in Tyler Bray, an outstanding receiver in Da'Rick Rogers, and they draw only Bama out of the Bama, LSU, ARK SEC West trio from hell. They have 19 returning starters overall and are poised to have the best year of the Dooley era.
Missouri 6-6, 2-6 Conference. What Iggins! Said, although I balk at saying James Franklin is just “okay.”
Vanderbilt 4-8, 2-6 Conference. Yep. Iggins! Has them at 11-1 and I have them at 4-8. This will go down in history as the dumbest fucking prediction one of us has made. Considering it's Vanderbilt we're talking about, I feel fine. They're not as bad as they used to be, but the returning starters and close losses that Iggins! Is salivating over is peculiar considering his dismissal of Florida's 17 returning starters and Tennessee's 19, as both of those teams suffered a number of close losses last year as well. Regardless, Iggins! Is a fool and he will reap a fool's rewards.
TO SUMMARIZE: This means Vanderbilt will finish the season 8-4 and we will both look stupid, apparently Tennessee bringing back 19 bad players means they will now be good, everybody thinks Missouri is mediocre, and Code Red forgot Kentucky existed, which… well that kind of explains Kentucky, doesn’t it? The West is next!