Monday, July 11, 2011

Conference Blast: The SEC West blitz...grr
 1. Alabama - Last season, the Tide only returned two defensive starters. That depleted unit led the SEC and finished second in the nation overall. This season, Bama returns an ungodly ten starters from the 2010 unit. With that D, I'm taking the Tide all the way. They also get seven back on offense, but Richardson may as well count as a starter (he's high on my Heisman list) and whoever takes over the QB slot will most certainly be a Saban-worthy game manager. I just don't see a weakness on this team and I'm picking them for the division, conference, and BCS titles.

2. LSU - Like the Tide, the Tigers will be packing a top-notch defense. Unlike Bama, LSU lacks the stability and support to turn that into a title run. Jordan Jefferson is sketchy at best and even if Miles pull out enough grass-eating tricks to win every game but Bama, it won't be enough.

3. Mississippi State - Dan Mullen should know how to run a successful program given his tutelage under Urban Meyer and 2010 is an indicator that things are headed in the right direction. Defensively, things should e solid in Starkville as they return seven to a top-20 defense. The offense has been suspect, but could start turning around now; Relf should be more comfortable under Center and has the top-rusher and reciever back from last year. Competition is tough in the SEC, so I'm not looking for State to compete for a spot in ATL; look for them to lead the middle of the pack in the division, though.

4. Arkansas - I think 2010 was the best season Petrino will have at Arkansas.* A 6-2 record in the SEC is always impressive, but not easily repeatable, especially when you live in a division with programs like 'Bama, LSU, and Auburn. There's enough talent back on offense to lead the league, even without Mallet, but strictly offensive teams don't win the SEC. I'd be surprised if they top a 4-4 record in 2011.

5. Auburn - I think Malzahn will be the key to the Tigers having a decent year in 2011. There's only 3 starters back on offense, so hopefully he's good enough to have them in a groove by mid-season. Worse news, the Tigers only get three back on defense, too, leaving Roof a lot of work to do. AU could realistically start out 0-5 in SEC play and the Tigers will need to at least split Georgia/Alabama to make it to a bowl.

6. Ole Miss - Maybe it's the lingering effects of a 4-8 season or the loss to a FCS team, but I don't have much faith in Ole Miss. It might not be fair since Nutt has proven himself as a decent coach with the right talent and the Rebels return nine starters, but right now, this is where I see them. They do draw Kentucky and Vandy from the East which should pad their conference league, but I think they'll lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Auburn and finish in the cellar.

 * Except maybe next time they'll be able to win the Sugar Bowl.

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