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SEC Slant: Preview Edition II

Look for a rundown of the East to drop early next week

AUBURN
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Pat Dye, meet Tony Franklin.
That’s right; Running Back U is changing their look by implementing the forward pass, a modish maneuver popularized on the Pacific coastline, intended to spread out the defense and eat away at their resolve with a series of high percentage, well-timed tosses. The addition of Franklin at offensive coordinator certainly bucks tradition but follows the status quo of current college football success. The fact Auburn already has the pieces in place for this offense to thrive is a terrifying prospect for opposing DC’s, who are likely still wondering how Franklin coaxed Dusty Bonner to All-SEC status. Franklin’s odyssey is quite the story in itself–having studied at Princeton…KY’s Caldwell County High School before embarking on a successful high school coaching career, Franklin helped persuade the likes of CM Newton that not only did UK need to ax Bill Curry, but the new hire had to be the utter antithesis of the previous regime. So, in walked Hal Mumme with a playbook on cocktail napkins and a half un-buttoned Hawaiian shirt, and Tony Franklin as the co-mastermind behind this revolutionary brand of ball. A couple of bowl appearances, a #1 NFL Draft pick and a slimy beached whale later, Kentucky was on probation and Franklin was looking at 4th Down and Life to Go. Unfairly impugned for the misdeeds of other grown men, Franklin found himself on the outside of the coaching ranks looking in. So all Franklin did was copyright that there offense and plug it into high school programs the nation over, reportedly pulling in six figures annually in the process. After a brief stint in the Lexington Horseman Front Office, which I believe is located in the Hyatt lobby, Franklin took over the play calling duties at Troy, where the Trojans went from worst to first and Franklin went up the road to and back into the SEC. Kentucky boy done good. Again.

Studs

Offense:
RB’s Ben Tate and Mario Fannin–RB U comes back at ya with this dynamic pair of homerun threats. They make for a nice counterbalance of offense and improv comedy.

Defense:
DT Sen’Derrick Marks–named for his uncle, Senator Derrick Murphy of Mississippi, Marks is the latest mass of sheer terror on the Auburn D-line and purposely lowered his own attributes on Xbox because he plays better with a chip on his shoulder.

X-factor: Receivers. Naturally, in a spread passing attack the ability to catch and run is crucial, as is the need for timing and blocking. The Tigers have some talent here, with Rodgeriqus Smith coming off a solid 2007, but if Franklin can mold a stable of burners, watch out.

Shed-jule: LSU, Tennessee, and Georgia all come to the plains this year, but looming is that Oct. 23rd road trip to Morgantown to take on West sho’ as sh*t Virginia. Cap it all off with an end of season date in Tuscaloosa that will carry the magnitude of Vicksburg, and you’re looking at quite the daunting docket.

Outlook: While the ever-underappreciated Tommy Tubberville is still calling the shots, the Tigers are breaking in two brand new coordinators. But don’t expect much slippage if any at all. Auburn will still be very fast and aggressive on D, while Franklin showed in last year’s bowl game that he need but a week to make this offense tick. Auburn remains a major contender for the SEC crown.

ARKANSAS
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I yield to Barry Manilow, who sang, “some good things never last.” Now, whether or not Manilow was referencing Arkansas Football is debatable, but it certainly applies to the bygone days of Houston Nutt v. Hog Nation. It was like a CMT produced soap opera complete with death threats, lawsuits, lustful affairs, accusations, crimes of passion, crimes of rage, and crimes that violate undisclosed team rules. I always imagined Bill Engvall in the role of Nutt, but you can cast whomever you deem necessary (perhaps the guy who played Warren in There’s Something About Mary). Still, the Hogs managed to keep pace in an unforgiving conference and procured some impressive talent along the way. But with any soap opera the bitter divorce was inevitable, and who else for a damsel in distress to turn to than the swingin’ Bobby Petrino. What they now have is an offensive sage boasting a robust 41-9 record as a college head coach. What they don’t have is Darren McFadden and Felix Jones…and the assurance that their coach will stick around to see this ship through.

Studs

Offense:
C Jonathan Luigs, LG Mitch Petrus—this duo of All-SEC hog mollies anchor a mountainous offensive line, but they aren’t even the largest members of their respective families.

Defense:
DE Adrian Davis–the Hogs seem to always have speed on the edge, and Davis figures to challenge for the SEC’s sack title as long as he isn’t derailed by an insatiable appetite for Sno-Caps.

X-Factor: QB Casey Dick. The Petrino Scheme is contingent on the ability of the QB to make the perfect throw when the opportunities arise. There’s a reason prep passers want to play for this man–he’ll swiftly pick the brain of the opposing defensive coordinator and serve them their own heart in a well-disguised play-action. The fact he smells of sweet smug is the gravy. Early word out of camp says Dick has sizzled in the new system and should put together some big games now that he’ll be asked to do more than turn-and-hand. God forbid Dick go down with an injury, Hog nation can find solace in knowing they will not be Dick-less*, as kid brother Nate Dick, is the backup.
*obligatory

Shed-jule: Opening the season with a pair of cupcakes, then it’s a trip to Austin to take on the Longhorns followed by your standard SEC who’s who of Bigger, Faster, Stronger. Crucial road games at Kentucky, South Carolina, and Mississippi State will determine the fate of this team.

Outlook: Let’s not kid ourselves–Petrino didn’t come here to lose. He came here because the media throws a hissy when highly paid professionals go to jail before there’s time to sweep it under the proverbial rug. And because college football is so much better, that Bob, we can agree upon. So after years of hush-hush heavy petting with Auburn, Petrino finally gets his shot at the SEC. The Hogs are thin on defense, unproven at QB and already battling local law enforcement for the rights to several players, but don’t be surprised if they pull off an upset or two. Still, without a weak team in the league a few will take some tough losses, the Hogs being one of them.

LSU
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With a national championship in the back pocket and talk of Michigan now silenced, Les Miles has plenty of time to love himself…and his team, because even with a massive NFL defection, the new crop of Bayou Bengals will likely produce just as many pros. Their roster remains deeper than the holler, the defense is stronger than the river, and the offense still has the tools to fly higher than…well, point given.

Studs

Offense: RB’s–as in there are like 4 or 5 capable of leading the team on a given night, led by the Po’ Boys’ Reggie Bush in Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, Richard Murphy and wee Trindon Holliday.
WR Demetrius Byrd–fast, confident, and not as excited about the new season of Entourage as he’d envisioned.

Defense:
DT Ricky Jean-Francois–you can’t replace Glen Dorsey, but you can come pretty damn close with the reining Natl. Championship Game MVP and obvious Louisiana native. If he can stay out the doghouse, he’ll anchor one of the best D-Lines in the country. If he can’t, Miles will pluck the next 270 pounder with 4.7 speed from the depth chart, adjust his “boys”, and keep on movin’.
LB Darry Beckwith–the latest LSU linebacker with running back speed and a growing resentment towards NAFTA.

X-factor: sound QB play. Other than JaMarcus Russell, LSU has been quite content over the years to ride a more-clever-than-cannon type of quarterback. Makes sense. With a barrage of athletes at every position, game management and heady decision making is the gist of the job. So don’t be surprised if the Tigers turn to Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch to get it done.

Shed-jule: Remember Les Miles’ pity party for one last season? The one in which he called out USC for a weak non-con schedule? So it’s somewhat odd to find App. St, Troy, North Texas and Tulane comprising LSU’s non-con this season. Not to say the SEC slate offers any favors, though they do get Jo-ja in Death Valley, the place where innocence goes to die. The West Champion could be decided as soon as Sept. 20, when Auburn comes-a-callin’.

Outlook: there’s a reason Miles spurned his powerhouse alma mater: speed. Ok, speed and a slightly less critical Registrar. This team is fast at every position and although they are breaking in a bevy of first-time starters, most of them saw plenty of field time during last season’s championship run. Luckily for the Tigers they are spared another showdown with Kentucky, which certainly has to be a mental load-off. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end with the same record as last year.

Article written by John Dubya

The Twitter: @Johnawilk