August 30, 2006

SEC Preview Part Uno

For the sake of spreading my sports expertise, I'm previewing the upcoming (as in, TOMORROW!!) SEC season. I'll be starting with the West, then (hopefully) getting the East complete tomorrow night (though if it's Friday morning, know that I'll have written the South Carolina preview BEFORE their game vs. MSU on Thursday).

So, the West. A lot of publications think that the SEC West could have 5 of their 6 teams make the bowl season thanks to scheduling. Me, I'm not so convinced. I think that the East is far superior to them, even though everyone seems to be head-over-heels with Auburn and LSU. This would leave me to believe that the East would be sending more teams to bowls than the West, but we'll see.

The addition of the 12th game to SEC schedules is a huge boost for all conference schools, as it allows them to add another non-conference team. For this year's top six (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, and Arkansas), it's a great opporunity to strengthen the roster, while for the bottom six (Vandy, UK, UT (ha ha!!), Bama (ha ha!!), Ole Miss, and MSU), it's a great chance to add a cream puff and acheive that elusive sixth win for bowl eligibility.

Let's go worst to first shall we?

The Bulldogs!! MSU (4-8, 1-7)

I think MSU could make some good strides this year, but I just don't see them making that breakthrough that half of Mississippi is looking for. We saw this from Vandy a few years back, when the Dores consistently played well, but couldn't pull the wins out in the end. We're going to see the same out of the Bulldogs this year, and could see them as a force in '07.

Will lose: S.Carolina, Auburn, @LSU, W.Virginia, @Georgia, and Arkansas
Should lose: UK, @Bama, and @Ole Miss
Should win: Tulane, @UAB, and Jacksonville St.

I'll guess that they sweep the three they should win, and pick up an upset over Bama, giving them four wins.

The Rebels!! Ole Miss (4-8, 2-6)

They just a QB, Brent Schaeffer, that had once played for UT for a season, and Rebel fans think he's the new Eli. The problem is that Brent was playing BEHIND Rick Clausen and Eric Ainge (and, presumably, Jim Bob Cooter), the QB duo that stunk up the Vols to a 5-6 record. Armed with that knowledge, I can't say that I'm optimistic for their chances on offense, especially with head coach Ed Orgeron's inability to generate yards in the first place. I think their defense will keep them in games, but the Schaeffer/Orgeron combination will just be too poor to get the points on the board or even keep the defense off the field.

Will lose: Georgia, @Arkansas, Auburn, @LSU
Could win: Memphis, @Missouri, @UK, @Bama, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, MSU
Will win: Northwestern St.

Though a tougher non-conference schedule than MSU, I think they'll struggle early under what Orgeron's calling a "scaled-back" offense, losing to Memphis and maybe even Missouri. They'll beat UK, Wake, and MSU, but I think Vandy should pop down there and pull out a road win.

The Crimson Tide!! Alabama (6-6, 2-6)

What?? Alabama fourth in the West? This is my disappointment pick for the SEC, even though I know that Shula's a great coach and there's a lot of tradition there. I just can't help but thinking that there's no way that the offense can match how well the defense is playing (they couldn't score a TD against UT last year, when Vandy went out and put 28 on the Vols). That's going to lead to them getting upset by a couple teams, and the Tide just squaking into a bowl game.

Will lose: @Florida, @LSU
Could win: Vanderbilt, @Arkansas, Ole Miss, @UT, MSU, Auburn
Will win: Hawaii, LA-Monroe, Duke, Fla. International

I'm listing Auburn in "Could win" since the winner of that game isn't necessarily the best team, but I think Auburn will pull that one out. I think they'll be upset at home by MSU, and quite possibly Vanderbilt as well. Losing at Arkansas won't be an upset by the time they get over there, but they should pull out wins over Ole Miss and could upset UT at Neyland this year as well, sneaking them into a bowl.

The Razorbacks!! Arkansas (9-3, 5-3)

Houston Nutt has a great team under him, but they're not starting strong with injuries already to star RB Darren McFadden out after dislocating his toe at a Little Rock night club. Read that last part again -- it's not a typo. This is going to hurt them in the opening few games of the season, but they should finish strong.

Will lose: USC
Could win: Vanderbilt, Alabama, @Auburn, @S.Carolina, UT, LSU
Will win: Utah St., SEMO, Ole Miss, LA-Monroe, @MSU

Ole Miss and MSU happen late enough in the season that McFadden should be fully recovered and should be easy wins. The Auburn game to me is right when they'll be hitting their stride -- that could be a big upset, though as of right now, I don't think they'll win. I'm making the smart choice here instead of my heart by picking Arkansas over VU, but just barely. S.Carolina's headed for a great season and should win, as is the case with LSU, though I think that the Razorbacks should take care of UT.

The Bayou Bengals!! LSU (10-2, 6-2)

Head coach Les Miles has a year under his belt as the LSU head coach, and the Tigers could be in for big, big things this season. Looking to improve from an impressing 11-2 season last year, the Bengals only have Auburn between them and a trip to Atlanta for the championship, but that may be a team that they can't surpass.

Will lose: None
Could win: @Auburn, @Florida, @Arkansas
Will win: LA-Lafayette, Arizona, Tulane, MSU, UK, Fresno St., @UT, Bama, Ole Miss

The three danger games are all on the road, though I think they'll be ok for the Arkansas game, though it might be close. The Auburn game is the third week of the season, and will determine who wins the SEC West. I think that both teams are so close that home-field will indeed prove to be a turning point and Auburn comes out unscathed. Florida is an altogether seperate matter, as I don't think LSU has much of a chance in the Swamp, and should suffer their worst loss of the season in Gainesville.

The Tigers/War Eagle!! Auburn SEC West Champions (10-2, 6-2)

Auburn is favored by most to win the West, the SEC and make it all the way to the BCS Title game in Pasadena. I'm not so optimistic, as they've got to face the top three teams from the SEC East, the only team in the West to have to do so.

Will lose: None
Could win: LSU, @S.Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, @Bama
Will win: Wash. St., @MSU, Buffalo, Tulane, @Ole Miss, Arkansas St.

In the could wins, Bama is listed for aforementioned rivalry reasons, though I think Auburn wins that one. The LSU and Arkansas games have been stated as wins, assuring an SEC West sweep for Auburn. I think Georgia will be tough, but Auburn comes out by around 10 in a fourth quarter surge. Here's where I differ from most everyone's thoughts. Florida is better team than Auburn, and will head back to Gainesville victoriously. In addition, and I'm calling this now, South Carolina will upset Auburn on September 28. By virtue of the tiebreaker, Auburn will represent the West in the SEC title game, but I don't think they'll win.

Who will they play and probably lose to? Tune in tomorrow!!


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