Ah, the pleasures of SEC football. Freak athletes, filthy rich coaches, unrivaled tailgates, and Philip Fulmer’s imminent demise. Gone is JeffersonPilot, Brodie Croyle, Jay Cutler, and Rich Bro…I mean, what? But a plethora of world-class talent still remains, as does Golden Flake and Purnell’s Old Folks Country Sausage and that grandson who never ages. “It’s gooood.” Yeah, well it would be “great” if you would put out a new commercial. SEC football is the most competitive conference in any sport, and it’s both a joy and a damned shame that Kentucky plays in it.
1. Florida–Urban Meyer’s spread option attack reminds me of that friend we all had as kids: the one who had the greatest toys, but none of them worked. I think it’s a fine idea, and those crafty Mormons ran it to perfection. However, in the SEC, the place where defensive ends can run with the halfbacks, not so much. There’s definitely a battery missing from this offense, but the Gators’ supreme athleticism is still paramount. 10-2.
2. Georgia–Sure they’re QB’s last name is Tereshinski, but don’t let that fool you. Mark Richt happens to be the top coach in the SEC, and even with the lack of a proven play caller, still has plenty of bullets in his chamber. The running attack is scary: Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin, and Danny Ware could all rush for 1,000+ yards. 10-2.
3. Tennessee– I’m still not sold that Eric Ainge is legit. After a disappointing Soph. campaign and a lousy summer, I don’t know if he’ll start the whole season. But the Vols still have plenty of depth to be in every game, and could very well win the East if they get some consistent play under center. Two of their first three games are against top 10 teams in Cal and Florida…an early make or break for Fulmer and Co. 8-4.
4. South Carolina– I see what you’re selling Steve Spurrier, but I’m not buying it just yet. QB Blake Mitchell proved last season that he’s capable of running the “fun-n-gun” but I just don’t know how you can relax when you play for a guy who bites his bottom lip off whenever he’s forced to punt. WR Sidney Rice may be one of the brightest talent’s in the conference, and there are plenty of added cupcakes on the schedule, but this team isn’t quite ready to make the leap to an elite SEC team. 7-5.
5. Kentucky– It’s a shame: as vastly improved as UK will surely be this season, the rest of the league is still that much better. The ‘Cats will be much more competitive in every game (and will likely show us new ways to blow a big win), but again, your record is only as good as your schedule is easy, and that it ain’t. But thanks to the extra cupcake, UK should be right at par: hopefully getting them into at least the Sullivan Learning Center Bowl.
6. Vanderbilt– They have a good receiver named Earl Bennett who reneged on a UK commitment to go to a school actually worse than UK. That’s all I know or care to say about that. 2-10.
1. LSU–It’s nearly impossible to distinguish LSU from Auburn…so I flipped a coin. Not just any Marcus, but JaMarcus, is as good as any QB in the league. RB’s Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard have Heisman-like talent, and I doubt that any of their defensive starters are slower than 4.6 speed. It’s sickening how much depth this team has. 11-1.
2. Auburn–Kenny Irons isn’t getting much Heisman buzz–he may not even be the best RB in the SEC–but he will have a monster year. He’ll get 20-30 touches a game. QB Brandon Cox created hype last season with solid but not spectacular play, and I think it will be more of the same this season. That’s all he has to do…nobody will score more than two touchdowns on this defense. 10-2.
3. Alabama–Brodie Croyle is gone, as is his magnificent southern-shag. But Kenneth Darby remains, and so do the Tides hopes of winning the West. The defense took a hit with departing players, but there is plenty of speed and talent left to stick with most competition. I think new QB, So. John Parker Wilson, will be a Tide legend before his time is up. 8-4.
4. Arkansas–The Hogs will again open with USC, so there’s 0-1 right there. Again, this may be the most unlikely and bizarre series in college football. This team is loaded at RB with super Soph. Darren McFadden leading the charge. They also have a guy who was coaching high school football just a year ago as the OC…it’s not that easy of a gig. All-World freshman Mitch Mustain will be taking snaps by the end of September. 8-4.
5. Ole Miss–HC Ed Orgeron is a dynamite recruiter, but still might end up as the SEC’s version of Mike Tice. Big ex-jock in a lose/lose situation. Ole Miss has always been an anomaly: no other team has such hallowed tradition and lost as perennially as the Rebels. It’s too bad Archie’s tadpoles no longer swim with fervor, as it would take a Manning to guide this team to a bowl. UT expatriate Brent Shaffer will be college football’s Atwain Barbour: a JUCO stud but an SEC dud. 3-9.
6. Mississippi St.–If I’m Sylvester Croom, I’m stumped. Trying to sell a kid on Starkville is like trying to play Charades with Stevie Wonder; not easy. “We have a Waffle House, cows, and Rick Stansbury’s eyes, you in?” The only reason State was ever good had something to do with the sharply dressed Jackie Sherril and his fondness for cheating. A non-conference showdown with West Virginia won’t help matters. 2-10.
P.O.Y.–Kenny Irons, RB Auburn
R.O.Y.–Percy Harvin, WR Florida
SEC Champ. Game–LSU over Florida.
Best day of games: Sept. 16– LSU @ Auburn, Florida @ Tennessee, Ole Miss @ Kentucky