Alabama will win the wild, wild SEC West

 

 

This has a chance to be one of the wildest SEC West races in a long, long time. Below is how my five research magazines broke it down followed by my own picks. Give me your projected finish and tell me where I’m wrong.

 

 

SEC WEST

 

Athlon: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State

Lindy’s: LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State

Phil Steele: Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State

Sporting News: Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State

The Kickoff: LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State

 

What we learned: The three-way battle among Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss is going to be “Must-See” football this season. Two of the magazines picked Ole Miss to win the division and make its first-ever appearance in the SEC championship game. Two others picked LSU to bounce back from an 8-5 season and make a run to Atlanta. Alabama, the defending division champion, was picked by only one magazine to repeat. Mark your calendars: Alabama is at Ole Miss on Oct. 10. LSU is at Alabama on Nov. 7. Ole Miss hosts LSU on Nov. 21.

 

TONY’S PICKS

Alabama: A lot of assumptions are being made about Alabama. Because the Crimson Tide must replace veteran quarterback John Parker Wilson and three starters on the offensive line, it logically follows that they cannot repeat as SEC West champs. I respectfully disagree. Alabama will be a different team, especially on offense, but will still find a way to get to Atlanta on Dec. 5. Let’s start with the offense. Last season Alabama could pretty much wear opponents down by steamrolling them with that huge offensive line. This season, behind new QB Greg McElroy, Alabama will have to show a little more finesse on offense. There is plenty of talent on that side of the ball if the offensive line comes together. The reason I like Alabama in this division is that that Tide is not going to need that many points to win. The defense is that good. Nine starters return and, yes, Alabama will miss the exceptional leadership of safety Rashad Johnson. But the linebackers (Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower) are great and NG Terrence Cody is now in shape and ready to play his best football.

 

LSU:  LSU went 8-5 last season for two reasons. No. 1, the Tigers could never settle on a quarterback. It took most of the season for freshman Jordan Jefferson to grow into the job and now it appears LSU is set at the position. No. 2, head coach Les Miles made a major mistake by not hiring a proven defensive coordinator to replace the departed (to Nebraska) Bo Pelini. The Tigers finished ninth in the SEC in total defense (325.5 ypg). Miles has corrected that mistake by hiring veteran DC John Chavis. Over the years Chavis has proven that when he has good athletes, particularly up front, his defense is pretty good. LSU has a bunch of really good athletes in its program. The only thing that kept me from picking the Tigers to win the division was the schedule: They have to go to Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss while getting No. 1 Florida at home (on Oct. 10).

 

OLE MISS: The Rebels are getting a lot of love and they should. They have the second best quarterback (Jevan Snead) in the SEC and a bunch of guys who can make plays. They also have the best schedule among the SEC West contenders as Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU all come to Oxford. Florida rotated off the schedule and Tennessee came on. But there are a couple of issues that keep me from jumping on the Ole Miss bandwagon. One is physical. Ole Miss has to replace a first-round draft choice (tackle Michael Oher) on the offensive line and first-round draft choice (tackle Peria Jerry) on the defensive line. Bobbie Massie, a big-time recruit, could wind up at that offensive tackle position.  If Jerrell Powe, who has been waiting in the wings for a long time, can come through at the defensive tackle spot, the Rebels may be okay. The other concern I have for Ole Miss is psychological. Ever since the Rebels upset Florida (31-30) last year in Gainesville they have been billed as the “next big thing” in this league. Ole Miss is pretty much a consensus Top 10 pick in the preseason. This is a different mindset for the Ole Miss football program. How it handles the hype remains to be seen.

ARKANSAS: Despite having the worst defense in the SEC last season (375.2 yards per game),  Arkansas finally started looking like an SEC football team in the second half of 2008. Three of the final four losses in a 5-7 season were by a total of six points to Kentucky (21-20), Ole Miss (23-21) and Mississippi State (31-28). Then the Hogs upset LSU 31-30 to finish the season. There are a couple of reasons I believe Arkansas will make a significant step forward in Bobby Petrino’s second year. The defense will be better because it has to be. Nine starters return and some new talent is coming in to help. The offense will be better because Petrino now has a quarterback (Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett) who knows how to run it. Petrino also went out and got some help for running back Michael Smith, who rushed for 1,072 yards last season but took a considerable pounding to his small frame (5-7, 173 pounds). Arkansas is still waiting to see if Southern Cal transfer Broderick Green (6-1, 242) will be eligible for the fall. The schedule, however, is a bear with trips to Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and LSU.

 

AUBURN:  New coach Gene Chizik insists that the program will be built methodically with no short cuts. That is an admirable goal, but it means that Auburn is probably going to take its lumps in the short term. No question that Chizik is trying to shake things up with the hiring of Gus Malzhan as his offensive coordinator. Malzhan’s offense put up huge numbers at Tulsa but I’m not convinced that any of the quarterbacks he had in camp this spring can run the offense as it is drawn up. Will Auburn get frustrated and turn to a true freshman like Tyrik Rollison? The offensive line looks a little thin to me and I don’t see a whole of big plays from the wide receiver position. It doesn’t help that WR Tim Hawthorne broke his foot and will be out for at least four weeks. The defense is still a work in progress but there are some hopeful signs for new DC Ted Roof. Auburn is going to need to play good, consistent defense while the offense tries to figure out what it is doing. Auburn gets a break in scheduling because first four games (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Ball State) are at home.

 

MISSISSIPPI STATE:  Like Auburn, Mississippi State is trying to install and entirely new offensive system without the proven talent to run it. Dan Mullen, the former OC at Florida, takes over as head coach but there are no Tim Tebows to be found in Starkville. Senior Tyson Lee is the guy until true freshman Tyler Russell arrives in August. Russell was Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi last season and looks like the perfect athlete to run Mullen’s system. But will Mullen entrust the team to a true freshman out of the gate? There also seems to be a dearth of guys who can catch the ball. The defense will be run by veteran Carl Torbush, who will take five returning starters and try to make something of it. Four of Mississippi State’s first five games are against Auburn, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Georgia Tech. It looks like a pretty bumpy first year for Mullen.

 

Programming note: Today I am in Florence, Ala., where Terry Bowden is now the new head coach at Northern Alabama. Later today I’ll be sitting down for a roundtable with all of the Bowden coaches: Terry, Bobby, Tommy, and Jeff. I’ll have a report for you on Wednesday.

Please follow me on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

 

257 comments Add your comment

reebok

July 14th, 2009
12:13 pm

Tech fan here. I think the pundits are jumping on the Ole Miss bandwagon so they can look smart just in case the Rebels pull it off…but both Alabama & LSU are much more talented and better-coached. I thnk ‘Bama may have overachieved last year…and after watching what the Tigers did to my Jackets (live) at the Peach Bowl (yeah, I still call it that), I can tell you that a motivated LSU team is scary good. See you on the Flats in November, Dog fans…

Matt

July 14th, 2009
12:14 pm

You guys seem to forget that LSU still could have beaten UGA and Bama had they gotten better QB play. This year both the Offense and Defense will be better. Watch out for the Tigers.

Paul Slimebaum

July 14th, 2009
12:14 pm

The rest of the west will quake in fear of the Mighty Saban just like Urban Meyer. And don’t tell me he’s not going to ND, I demand a lie detector test! And if that doesn’t confirm it, I demand a blood test!!

ldavis

July 14th, 2009
12:15 pm

my predictions:

LSU (has QB who is going to be a player much like jason campbell, but better)

Bama (defense, tons of talent – they will be the premiere SEC team for years to come prolly)

Ark (we have the best QB in the SEC not named Tebow in my opinion – i think snead is vastly overrated). we have upgraded every position to be very competitive.

Ole Miss – nutt does terrible when he has expectations.

Auburn – has more than most think

Miss state – maybe next year. i actually predict they will upset Ole Miss this year.

Got 12?

July 14th, 2009
12:16 pm

LSU beat VT 48-7 in 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_LSU_Tigers_football_team

I was at a party on the Fourth of July when a VT fan tried to argue that the game was competitive and only decided by 14 points. He was obviously drunk.

Paul Slimebaum

July 14th, 2009
12:17 pm

And if that does’t work, waterboard him!!!

Matt

July 14th, 2009
12:17 pm

Quake in fear of Saban??? Haha!! That’s funny, go back and look at Saban’s past. Notice that he cannot put together back to back solid double digit win seasons. He wont this year either. Saban is a great recruiter and a good coach. Without all the talent on the field, he’d be mediocre.

Pete Nose

July 14th, 2009
12:18 pm

Bama will win the west.FL the east.V-teck the acc champion.whats new? NC game will be USC vs Texas

Nachos - the "disgrace" to all 'Bama fans

July 14th, 2009
12:19 pm

Why wont any of you UGA fans pick Alabama to win the West? Do you really hate Alabama that much?

Otto

July 14th, 2009
12:21 pm

Idavis a Defense is just as import as a QB. Bama illustrated that last JPW was an average QB in terms of his arm but he did not make mistakes and had a very good defense.

I don’t think Arkansas has the defense and the offense will be explosive. But I think the defense combined with a lack of depth to survive that schedule drops Arkansas to 4th or 5th in the west.

Gridiron Gator

July 14th, 2009
12:25 pm

Finebaum is an Alabama Hack.

Otto

July 14th, 2009
12:25 pm

This UGA fan is picking Bama.

coachdawg 2000

July 14th, 2009
12:26 pm

otto- players recruited in 2005 Miles first year would be redshirt seniors, 2006- either redshirt juniors, true seniors. Plus didn’t exactly recruit like tech in 2007, 2008, 2009. So the talent isn’t gone but his upperclassmen were way better than what shula brought in. Just so you know. I just think Alabama isn’t quite there this year alot of balls bounced their way in close games. losing your left tackle and senior quarterback has an impact but you know what i am speculating because I, like you don’t know!

Otto

July 14th, 2009
12:29 pm

Pete, I think the BCS title game will be the winners of:

USC vs Ohio St
Texas vs OU

However I am picking Ohio St vs OU with both running the tables.

UF drops a game to somebody along the way.

Matt

July 14th, 2009
12:29 pm

Otto– There is one huge difference between JPW and any other QB Bama puts on the field. That is senior leadership and a ton of SEC starting experience. You cannot replace that. Look what happened to LSU after Flynn left and Perrilloux was kicked off the team.

Flynn and the defense are the reasons LSU won the NC in 07 and in ‘03 Mauck and the LSU defense were the reasons LSU won their first NC.

ldavis

July 14th, 2009
12:32 pm

otto,

the point is well taken about ark’s defense.

we are pretty thin up front, with a pretty big drop off after the 1’s on our front seven.

the secondary was a huge liability last year, but will actually be our deepest group this year on defense.

the point is, if our offense can run like it’s built to (and yes I know this is the SEC) hopefully we can make up for our shortcomings on defense with a great offense. it remains to be seen.

but the D will be much tougher this year than last.

Tide Rising

July 14th, 2009
12:39 pm

I give Ole Miss a slight edge over Bama for the sec west. Huge schedule advantage for UM and a huge schedule disadvantage for LSU. LSU could very well end up being the best team in the west but not win the division by virtue of having to play both Miss and Bama on the road and also playing Georgia in Athens and playing Florida. Miss and Bama both have the good fortune of avoiding both UGA and UF. That scheduling right there pretty much eliminates LSU from the conversation.

Ole Miss is as good as anyone if you’re just looking at the top 22. The depth is questionable, especially on the O-line. Bobby Massie must step up as a true freshman at left tackle. Nutt has always given Bama and LSU problems and will do so again. People forget that this team was just destroying opponents down the stretch last year and that they are the only team to beat UF and they did it in the swamp. That’s saying something. If ever Ole Miss will win the division this is the year. The schedule is set up perfectly, they’re hungry, and they’re really tired of losing to Bama. Obviously I want my guys to win but I wouldn’t be that annoyed if Miss was able to put it all together and finally win the division. Normally I pull for the underdog and if we don’t win it I hope Ole Miss does and represents well in the seccg.

Now a look at us. D is going to be fearsome with 9 returning starters and practically the whole 2 deep. The D was 3rd in the country last year so when the poster above said we did not have a great D I have to wonder where this guy was last year. Nobody is talking about special teams. We have all our top special teams performers returning.

On offense McElroy is a 4th yr junior who we actually expect to be much better than Wilson. The guy just came back from an elite qb camp where he placed 2nd and outperformed the likes of Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, etc. In high school he was the Texas 5A (highest classification) player of the year and set the state record for tds in a season with 56 and rushed for just under 1,000 yards in leading his team to the title.

We return 2 of our top 3 rbs and add superfreshman rb Trent Richardson who was the no. 1 or 2 rated tailback coming out of high school. Tight ends will be equal or better than last year. Wide receivers will certainly be upgraded and Julio will be complemented. He also only played one position last year due to being a freshman and the learning curve. This year he will line up in the slot some and basically will be able to line up all over the field. Scary aint it.

O-line is actually the one glaring question mark. We got exposed in the Utah game when we lost 2 O-lineman Smith and our all sec guard Johnson in the 1st qtr. But the depth and talent is absolutely there and there is a modicum of experience as the new starters will all be juniors and all have in fact played in games. Its just the game experience that we will be lacking and that will come as the season progresses. Saban built the depth quickly and we will have 2 former 5 star off tackle recruits who won’t even be starters. They will be backups.

Otto

July 14th, 2009
12:43 pm

Coach, Shula’s talent was not bad, he just did not have enough scholarships. Remember Shula did go 10-2 in his 2nd to last year with a reduced amount of available scholarships. Shula was actually a good recruiter, Prothro Coffee etc. Saban has filled those additional scholarships with more top recruits.

Les’s team lost alot of the DL talent and leadership last year. The defense also has more new leadership on the coaching side in a completely new system.

Saban built a great deal of leadership over the past 2 years and is keeping the same system on both sides of the ball.

Bama fans that hate Paul Finebaum

July 14th, 2009
12:45 pm

Finebaum is an idiot and Bama fans everywhere despise the man. I don’t know why anyone would think he’s pro bama. He’s just someone who rabble rouses folks with inflammatory comments. This past week he did it with Urban Meyer but its usually Saban or Auburn that are the targets of his BS.

L-O

July 14th, 2009
12:47 pm

m is a fool and should move behind Z because he will loose every time.Last place for you idiot.You make tech proud.

tolivr

July 14th, 2009
12:48 pm

Tony’s on the money. Yes, Alabama starts a new quarterback–the one who broke Chase Daniel’s single season high school records and who also has been studying the Tide offense for two years. Saban has recruited linemen heavily, and the linemen he recruited were heavily recruited. You’ll see an Alabama running game that, by midseason, will be as dominant as last year’s. If the Tide gets by Va Tech and Arkansas, the offense will be settled by then and the rest of the season will be over for the SEC West.

Face the music. Saban is building a monster in Tuscaloosa: a physical, dominating team with stellar defense. If LSU or Ole Miss hope to beat the Tide, they’d better find a way this year because, with each succeeding year, it’s only going to get worse for the West with the recruits Alabama’s stockpiling.

As for Chizik and Kiffin–both gone in three years.

Joe

July 14th, 2009
12:48 pm

Thanks for the response Tony. As much as I disagree with alot of what you write and I do think you are a fairweather with UGA- when were on top- great when we are not- were bashed- I respect the fact that you answer postings and are interactive with us explaining you views etc. Thnaks!!

jumbeauxtiger

July 14th, 2009
12:52 pm

I’m just not sold on Ole Miss making it to the SECCG. I’m sure this will get the natives restless and that’s ok as I always look forward to going to Oxford :) Seriously they had a solid season last year and I was glad to see them manhandle TT.

I give Bama the edge only because of the schedule. I think the Tide wins the West at 7-1 with LSU and Ole Miss 6-2.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

Nachos - the "disgrace" to all 'Bama fans

July 14th, 2009
12:54 pm

It’s a 3 horse race and I give the edge to ‘Bama because of their defense.

Allbarn will be lucky to win 3 games.

Joe

July 14th, 2009
12:54 pm

You ask why UGA fans dont pick Blama to win the west???? Because we dont like you? whaaaaaaa..Dont flatter yourselves Blama boys….UF,UT,GT,AU,CU and others come before you on that list. Maybe the reason is…..hmmmmm…….could it be a loss to Utah to end the season….and Ole Miss is better???? hmmmmmmm you think???? Where is Blama in the polls? Where is Ole Miss??? seems it’s not just UGA that thinks that….

m

July 14th, 2009
12:56 pm

I apologize to UGA,GA.TECH and the alphabet.

Jeff

July 14th, 2009
12:57 pm

Hey Bama fans…..1-4 vs UGA ….

Otto

July 14th, 2009
12:57 pm

Joe, are you in high school? The post reads like a facebook post.

Nachos - the "disgrace" to all 'Bama fans

July 14th, 2009
12:59 pm

Joe why so bitter? Its not our fault you were blessed with a 3 inch “joystick”. Go drink a PBR or 30, buy a new wardrobe at the local Wal-Mart then get a new tattoo and you will feel better. Good luck in your job search BTW.

41-30

Joe

July 14th, 2009
12:59 pm

Otto….actually enrolled at UF

Joe

July 14th, 2009
1:02 pm

Thanks nachos…think I would rather watch reruns of the Sugar Bowl. Its one thing to lose to a quality SEC team…it is quite another to embarrass the conference on National TV

Joe

July 14th, 2009
1:06 pm

Nachos….41-30…yes……how about the 4 before that? Do you remember those?? let me give you a hint….one and done….

Disappointed

July 14th, 2009
1:07 pm

Nachos – the “real disgrace” to all ‘Bama fans period!, I did work on rockets, which kept your ungrateful arse safe in 1990! Now, if you don’t like ones opinon you can cry to management while you bring the right order. That’s fries and not nachos, you TWit! Nothing worse than an inbreed. Alabama Porch Monkey!

LSUFanatic

July 14th, 2009
1:08 pm

Mark it down: LSU wins the west and beats Florida for the SEC title and goes to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Tebow will get shut down in the Ga Dome!

Dawgmania

July 14th, 2009
1:08 pm

Just got off the Rivals and Scout web sites…..Looks like the Dawgs got another commitment from a stud DE that both Alabama and Florida had offered…..listen…can you hear it? Thats the Dawg train loading up for the future and headn down the tracks….who says CMR can’t recruit and coach…the SEC is about to see how good a coach he really is. Things look great for the future of the Georgia program. Its great to be a Dawg!

Frozen_Gator

July 14th, 2009
1:08 pm

1) Bama, the overall recruiting should begin to show up, players we have forgotten about will come to the front. 2)Just as talented but schedule does them in 3)Ole Miss, first time teams on the big stage usually don,t their predicted glory, have a lot of talent but may have holes and lack depth 4) Arky will beat spoil somebody’s plans 5) Auburn, no talent at QB or wideout 6)Sorry Coach Mullen you should have waited for a better gig

m

July 14th, 2009
1:12 pm

m @ 12:56 is another evil imposter out to damage my popularity. Ba$tard!

The Real “m”

CharlotteGator

July 14th, 2009
1:12 pm

Tide Rising,

You’ve mentioned that the OL replacements are juniors but are they anywhere near the size, strength, and skill of what was lost? Obviously they won’t be equivalent since you lost prime NFL type talent, but how big is the gap? I think that’s the main ? with Bama.

As far as who will win it, this is the first time in a while I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another. It really is a toss-up. LSU is breaking in a new QB (I don’t count beating Tech’s one trick pony with one month to prepare) and has a monster schedule. Bama has to shore up the line which is the key to their season w/ all the talent they have coming back. Ole Miss can be a great team, but as has been posted, they’re not deep. Can they go 2 years in a row not being bit by the injury bug? I know Hardy missed time last year and you get him back, but losing Oher and Jerry is pretty big.

It’s probably going to come down to the wire with some lucky bounces going one way or another. As a Gator, IF we make it to ATL in Dec., all 3 teams would be a great matchup and all 3 would provide us problems. I’d love to get another crack at Ole Miss after last year’s debacle, it’s always fun to meet Bama in the Dome, meaning I’d probably like to avoid playing LSU just in case we beat them in the regular season. Tough to beat the same team twice.

m

July 14th, 2009
1:12 pm

Please note that the post at 12:56 was not me. Just another typical SEC gomer-homer

m

July 14th, 2009
1:18 pm

No it’s not.

CharlotteGator

July 14th, 2009
1:18 pm

Dawgmania,

First, what does UGA recruiting have to do with anything in today’s post?

Second, why all the talk about the future? There’s a season starting soon you might want to check out. You’re team isn’t bad.

Third, what’s the statute of limitations on “the SEC is about to see how good a coach he really is”? Seems like Miles, Saban, Meyer, etc. have shown the SEC what’s what fairly soon in their tenures. What happened to just “hunkering down” and getting it done? Quit talking about proving something like you have an inferiority complex. Get to work and expect nothing but the best like everyone else.

The sound you hear is actually all the other SEC teams leaving UGA at the station making excuses about who knows what….

Otto

July 14th, 2009
1:19 pm

LSUfanatic. How does LSU shut down Tebow? The only win LSU or CJC has over Tebow is a narrow 4 pt win.

superDawg

July 14th, 2009
1:21 pm

I like LSU,OLE MISS.,ALA.,ARK.,MISS.ST.,AUB.. in that order.Who ever it is I hope they will be playing UGA.

Bernie

July 14th, 2009
1:25 pm

As a GATOR… looking at the SEC West,I agree with Tony. The Tide has too many weapons.They restock every position like we do at Florida.You got to Roll with the Tide.Best of luck West !!!

steve

July 14th, 2009
1:25 pm

Two words: ROLL TIDE

Atlanta_Tiger_Fan

July 14th, 2009
1:29 pm

LSU should win West…Jordan will have great season, plus Russell Shepard and other 5* freshman will have big impact in 2009.

Dawgmania

July 14th, 2009
1:41 pm

Charlotte Gator…Chill Out! Nobody cut down your team..or said the Gators or Meyer suck…Are you mad because the Dawgs passed Florida in the recruiting rankings…is that it? You need to go get some. I think you are way to tense. I hope you and your team have a good year, not a great one. I don’t care how many NC’s your team has. I wouldn’t trade Mark Richt for your coach for all the money in the world….By the way ..is your name Charlotte or do you live there? Its Great to be a Dawg!

ldavis

July 14th, 2009
1:42 pm

OBVIOUSLY ARKANSAS WILL WIN THE NAT’L CHAMPIONSHIP.

WHEN YOU ALL SEE MALLETT LIFTING THE SEARS TROPHY YOU’LL UNDERSTAND.

YES CRY! CRY SEC! YOUR TEARS GIVE ME SUSTENANCE!!!

ldavis

July 14th, 2009
1:43 pm

I’s jus trollin u fools.

Nachos - the "disgrace" to all 'Bama fans

July 14th, 2009
1:45 pm

Joe why you gotta pull out the race card man? My feelings are hurt.

41-30