College football season is still months away, but it's never too soon to think about it. So, here's our early Pre-Season SEC Football Forecast. We predict how we think the twelve Southeastern Conference teams will end up at the end of the season; ranking them from #1 to #12.
1. Alabama: Delivered last year as promised: Nick Saban’s turnaround of the Crimson Tide. Fresh off a national title, Alabama will look to maintain its high level of play over next season and challenge the Florida Gators for clear-cut control of the SEC. At this point, it looks like that might be a strong possibility. Though the Tide also lost talent in the draft-defensive leader and LB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Javier Arenas, NT Terrence Cody, and G Mike Johnson were all selected-Alabama lost players at more replaceable positions than the Gators and also maintained the core of their team in QB Greg McElroy and RB Mark Ingram. Moreover, though not quite as star-studded as Florida’s, Alabama did pull in the nation’s third ranked recruiting class, which included standouts QB Phil Sims, OL Chad Lindsay, DE Adrian Hubbard, and CB’s DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton. As a result, I would expect the Tide to win the SEC outright next season and repeat as national champions. Going with the favorite might be boring…but I just can’t justify crowning anyone else.
2. Florida: The outlook for next year’s Gators is mixed. Urban Meyer’s squad lost a record amount of talent as eight starters were selected in the draft: QB Tim Tebow, CB Joe Haden, C Maurkice Pouncey, DE Carlos Dunlap, ILB Brandon Spikes, FS Major Wright, TE Aaron Hernandez, and WR Riley Cooper. For any other team-top squads included-such a massive loss of talent would result in a major regression next season. However, Florida has a number of talented underclassmen and also pulled in the top recruiting class with nineteen four or five star commitments. These included standouts S Jonathan Dowling, CB’s Josh Shaw and Jaylen Watkins in the secondary and Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Leon Orr, and Ronald Powell in the defensive front seven. That said, despite the massive influx of new talent, Florida’s loss of team leader Tim Tebow and four other first round talents will be tough to replace. Overall, I would expect a minor regression next season but, looking beyond next year, the Gators look poised to rule the SEC (along with Alabama) over the long term.
3. LSU: Unlike Florida and Alabama, LSU lost very little frontline talent in this year’s draft as S Chad Jones was the top talent taken….in the fifth round. This has continued the trend during Les Miles’ tenure of top recruiting classes-including number one overall last year-and weak draft results; a trend that seems unlikely to end in the near future considering that Miles closed on a top ten recruiting class including standouts WR Kadron Boone, DT J.R. Ferguson, CB Eric Reid, DE Justin Macklin, TE Travis Dickson, OT Evan Washington, and QB Zach Lee. However, although LSU will likely improve their performance on the field next season, they lack the talent (and, many argue, the coaching) to beat out either Florida or Alabama for the SEC Championship. If one of the two leaders drops out of the race for some reason then LSU will be right there to pick up the slack, but otherwise LSU remains third banana in the SEC.
4. Arkansas: Though the Razorbacks have an electrifying offense, they remain defensively challenged and unable to close out games. Little has been done to change the defense, but Ryan Mallett could be the best QB in the league. Arkansas was better last year than their record indicated because they had a very tough schedule (on road vs Bama, LSU, Florida and Ole Miss); nearly beating FL and LSU; and they got a big win over South Carolina, then a lucky win in the Liberty Bowl. Look for the Razorbacks to be in nearly every game; win more than they lose and make it to a nice bowl game. If their defense can step it up, then, well, the sky is the limit!
5. Georgia: The Bulldogs lost very little talent in the 2010 draft and added a nice top fifteen recruiting class as standouts Kolston Houston and Brent Benedict should bolster the offensive line while DB Alec Ogeltree and OLB T.J. Stripling should plug holes in the defense. Nonetheless, this team still lacks the difference makers lost when QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowson Moreno were drafted. Georgia should be a good team next year….but nothing outstanding. In the SEC, that’s a fourth place finish.
6. Auburn: Props to second year Auburn coach Gene Chizik. After his selection was widely derided as an example of Southern racism and disregard for black candidates when he was originally hired last year, Chizik led Auburn to a 5-0 record to begin last season. Though the Tigers fizzled to an 8-5 overall record, Chizik then managed to secure the number four overall recruiting class in the nation. The class was headlined by RB Michael Dyer, the team’s future leader, and also included standouts DE Corey Lemonier, DE LaDarius Owens, G Eric Mack, and LB Jawara White. While these players are unlikely to make their full impact next season, Auburn is likely to improve at least some degree and looks set to contend for a major bowl this year and a return to national prominence seems two years away. Could the War Eagle pull an upset of Alabama this year?
7. Mississippi: Ranked in the top ten early last season and considered a dark horse title contender, Ole Miss seemed to experience a steep fall off a cliff over the course of last year. However, the reality is that the Rebels went a respectable 9-4 and have yet to feel the full impact of last year’s outstanding draft class. The Rebels did add a few difference making talents-including DE Delvin Jones, S Clarence Jackson, and CB Tony Grimes-but much of the impact will come from the development of last year’s freshmen. Overall, had the talented but inconsistent Jevan Snead opted to return for another year (which would have been the right decision because he shockingly went undrafted) then the Rebels might actually have challenged the Gators and the Crimson Tide. As it is, expect a winning season overall (Rebs have a favorable schedule) and another bowl bid.
8. South Carolina: Although drastic improvement is always possible under the talented and enigmatic Steve Spurrier, there is little reason to expect that from South Carolina next season. Still, they do return most of the team and the Gamecocks looked good at times last year. Particularly if Tennessee struggles as expected, South Carolina will move up to #3 in the SEC East and get a nice bowl game.
9. Tennessee: The Volunteers added an outstanding recruiting class - headlined by four star WR DaRick Rogers and OT James Stone. However, with a new coach (controversial coach Lane Kiffin gone to USC) comes a new system to learn. The Vols also lost lots of talent (one of the reasons Kiffin jumped at the chance to "jump ship". Odds are the Vols will struggle to reach .500. A bowl seems unlikely this year.
10. Kentucky: Though the Wildcats lost very little talent, they also made few improvements on either side of the ball. As such, they are likely to remain a .500 team for the foreseeable future.
11. Mississippi State: Terrible, but not the Golden Raspberry of the division. That honor belongs to the conferences’ academic talent: Vanderbilt.
12. Vanderbilt: Everything has been downhill (and by downhill I mean further underground than the Presidential bunker) since that big 2008 ESPN piece on the recovering Vanderbilt football program and the “genius” of its athletic directors. Maybe Vanderbilt should join the Ivy League since anyone can win there.
Looking for SEC football players to pick? Check out our: 2010 SEC Football Fantasy Football Picks.
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Why won't Kentucky go to a bowl game?
Kentucky went to a bowl last year and you say they didn't lose much. Therefore, why do you believe they won't go to a bowl this year (which you must because …
2010 SEC Football Preview is Off The Mark
Your first 3 picks are fine, but while I agree that Mississippi will likely be better than most people expect, I have serious reservations over placing …
Really? Not rated yet
You actually have Kentucky and Tennessee above Mississippi State? LSU #3? Either you are a high school kid or this is an extremely old post.
dog fan Not rated yet
Ms state was three plays away from a 7-5 season last year. With Relf under center, and a solid defense, your pre-season poll may be rocked a little.
Mississippi State Will Finish 7th or 8th in the SEC Not rated yet
Call me crazy but I think you all have missed Mississippi State I think they will finish 7th or 8th in the conference!!
Ole Miss Alumnus? Not rated yet
Yes, that's what I'm thinking. That's the only explanation for someone that would suggest that Ole Miss is the 4th best team in the conference in spite …
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