DKW 86 6,371 Posted July 20, 2006 Share Posted July 20, 2006 http://www.sportsnetwork.com/default.asp?c.../AFN4030319.htm College Football Preview: Southeastern Conference By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Southeastern Conference had three teams in the top 10 (L-S-U, Alabama and Georgia) in the final 2005 rankings. However, look for two different squads to meet in the Conference Championship game this year at the Georgia Dome. Here are my pre-season prognostications with Ã¢â‚¬â„¢07 odds to win the BCS Championship courtesy of www.WSEX.com: SEC West 1) AUBURN: (20-1): The Tigers are 16-1 in SEC play the past two years with their only loss coming in overtime at L-S-U last season. Star RB Kenny Irons (1,293 yards, 13 TDs) returns along with second-year starting QB Brandon Cox (58% completion rate and 15 TDs). Despite only six returning defensive starters, five of the Tigers top seven tacklers return. The schedule is very kind, as their four toughest games (L-S-U, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia) are all at home. ANALYSIS: The Tigers failed to get the Orange Bowl bid in 2004 after an undefeated season, but this year will be different as they win the whole enchilada. Take the generous 20-1 odds and go in with both fists! 2) ARKANSAS: (100-1): In the Razorbacks first six games last season, they allowed 4.8 yards per carry. However, in their last five contests, the Hogs held opponents to 1.9 ypc. Their pass defense also improved, allowing 179 yards per game in their last five, as opposed to 235 their first six. Nineteen starters return, which makes the Hogs one scary club in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢06. On the negative side, Head Coach Houston Nutt is installing a new offensive scheme after hiring Gus Malzahn as his new Offensive Coordinator. Malzahn coached top recruit, QB Mitch Mustain for four years in High School, so it might take the Razorbacks a couple of weeks to get the kinks out. ANALYSIS: Arkansas has the horses to go from 4-7 in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢05 to 9-3 this season. If it can get by U-S-C and Auburn, 100-1 seems too enticing to pass up. 3) L-S-U: (12-1): The Tigers lost leading rusher Joseph Addai, but regain the services of Alley Broussard, who returns from an ACL injury that forced him to miss the entire Ã¢â‚¬â„¢05 season. QB JaMarcus Russell hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t shown his tremendous potential the last two seasons, so donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be shocked to see Matt Flynn get more playing time. The big question mark for L-S-U is its defensive front seven. Only two starters return, which will put immense pressure on one of the top defensive backfields in the nation. Mark it down: this will be the first year since Ã¢â‚¬â„¢02 that the Tigers will allow over three yards per carry. ANALYSIS: The schedule is brutal. L-S-UÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s four toughest match-ups (Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas) are all on the road. A 9-3 season is possible, but unlikely, after winning four games last year by four points or less. 4) ALABAMA: (60-1): I called for the Tide to have one of the biggest turnarounds in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢05 and they did just that going from 6-6 to 10-2. Nonetheless, this season will not be as kind to the Crimson faithful. The defense, which carried the team last year, lost seven starters, six of which were three-year starters. AlabamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s road schedule (Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and L-S-U) is extremely difficult. Plus, the Tide havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t beaten their biggest rival Auburn since 2001. ANALYSIS: With a revamped defense and a new QB in John Parker Wilson, Alabama is looking at a 7-5 season. 5) OLE MISS: (500-1 or higher): A couple of transfers, former Tennessee QB Brent Schaeffer and Indiana RB BenJarvis Green-Ellis, will help the lowest ranked offensive team in the SEC. Second-year Head Coach Ed Orgeron has had two terrific recruiting classes in a row, so the Rebels are headed in the right direction. ANALYSIS: Ole Miss is the youngest team in the conference and at least a year away from challenging the big boys. Four to five wins seem realistic. 6) MISSISSIPPI STATE: (500-1 or higher): Head Coach Sylvester Croom inherited a team which was outgained by 183 yards in SEC play back in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢03. In two short years, he trimmed that total down to 99.4. Miss St. also improved its defense from 39 ppg to 24 in those two seasons. ANALYSIS: While the defense has improved, the offense remains in the Dark Ages, failing to score 20 points or more the last five years. Expect another three-win season in Starkville. SEC East 1) FLORIDA: (12-1): The Gators offense scored 34 and 31 respectively against Florida State and Iowa in their final two games. Now, imagine what will happen in Head Coach Urban MeyerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second season. The Gators have only one starting offensive lineman from last year, but three others do have starting experience. Defensively, Florida held its opponents to under 20 ppg for the first time since 2001 and under 100 yards rushing per game for the first time since 1999. ANALYSIS: The Gators are by far the most talented team in the East and if they win two of three in October (L-S-U, at Auburn and vs. Georgia), they will finish 7-1 in the conference and meet Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. As for the National Championship, 12-1 is a bit low to take with games at Auburn and Florida State. 2) GEORGIA: (60-1): The Bulldogs havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t averaged under 25 ppg since 1998, but this could be the year the offense slides. D.J. Shockley guided the team to a 10-3 record after four-year starter David Greene graduated, but there is no clear-cut replacement waiting this time around. Combine that with the departure of three top receivers and an unproven line, and Georgia will not start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2001. Look for South Carolina to upset the Dawgs in week two. ANALYSIS: GeorgiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s front seven, which allowed 3.8 ypc last season, will be one of the most improved in the country, but it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be enough to win the East. Expect a four-loss season for the time since Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ01. 3) SOUTH CAROLINA: (100-1): The Gamecocks are my sleeper pick in the SEC East. QB Blake Mitchell burst on the scene last year winning seven of his first nine starts as a sophomore. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be helped more in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢06, as RB Cory Boyd (ineligible) returns after sitting out last season. South Carolina loses its top seven tacklers, but two years ago the Gamecocks lost nine of their top 13 and only allowed two more points per game. ANALYSIS: South Carolina gets Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas all at home, so an eight-win season in Steve SpurrierÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second year is very possible. One thought: with only six senior starters, next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s squad could vie for the National Championship. ? 4) TENNESSEE: (60-1): The Volunteers ended the season under .500 at 5-6 for the first time since 1988. Tennessee finished 3-5 in the SEC, but managed to outgain its conference opponents by 29 yards per game. Two years ago, the Vols outpaced their rivals by only 14.5 ypg and that Ã¢â‚¬â„¢04 club was 7-1 in conference play! This is obviously not the same Tennessee team we are used to seeing. Seven of its top 11 tacklers have moved on and QB Erik Ainge will be under all sorts of pressure without Rick Clausen around to bail him out. ANALYSIS: Tennessee will be lucky to finish over .500 and chants of "Fire Fullmer" will reign down from the 100,000 plus fans at Neyland Stadium. 5) KENTUCKY: (500-1 or higher): Injuries ravaged the Kentucky program last season. QB Andre Woodson had to leave three games due to various ailments. WR Keenan Burton, who led the receiving corps with 24 catches, was able to start only one game. It got to the point where four non-wide receivers had to play the position. With all five starting linemen returning, the Wildcats offense should be vastly improved. The defense wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t immune to injuries as well, as four members of their front seven all went down at one point or another. ANALYSIS: With less injuries this season, look for the Ã¢â‚¬ËœCats to win two or three SEC contests. Kentucky has a chance to go 6-6, as its out-of-conference schedule (Texas State, Central Mich, UL-Monroe) is a joke. 6) VANDERBILT: (500-1 or higher): If Jay Cutler was still a Commodore, the club would have a shot at its first winning season since 1982. Regrettably for Vandy, Cutler is gone and so goes another losing year in Nashville. ANALYSIS: The Commodores open the slate at Michigan and Alabama and then host Arkansas, who is looking at revenge after losing to Vandy last season. With a much tougher conference schedule, Vanderbilt will be hard-pressed to win an SEC game. One bright spot: Temple comes to Nashville on September 30th. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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