SEC divisions of power

Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks at SEC Media Day in Hoover, Ala. on Wednesday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 11:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 11:52 p.m.



TV information

Wednesday: ESPNU from 2-6:30 p.m.
Thursday: ESPNU from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Friday: ESPNU from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Favorite: Alabama

The Tide have to replace nine starters on defense, but that shouldn't be that big of a problem, given the way Nick Saban has recruited — and the way he coaches defense. Offensively, Alabama has a chance to be special, led by Mark Ingram and all-he-does-is-win quarterback Greg McElroy.

Top contender: LSU

Because the offense (and QB Jordan Jefferson) was so inconsistent a year ago, many seem to be discounting the Tigers' chances. But this is a team that is loaded with talent and can compete with any team in the nation. If Jefferson rights his game, the Tigers will be tough.

Darkhorse: Arkansas

The Razorbacks basically return everybody on offense, led by stud QB Ryan Mallett, one of the top offensive players in the SEC (and potentially the nation). Defense was the problem a year ago. If the Hogs are better in that area, Arkansas has a chance to make a serious run.

Best story: Mark Ingram

The Alabama running back has a chance to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies, which would be huge, especially at a school that did not have a Heisman winner until Ingram won it last season. With Trent Richardson getting a bunch of carries, Ingram should be fresh throughout the season — bad news for opposing defenses.

Predicted order of finish

1. Alabama: Expectations are a burden, but Tide has talent to cope.

2. LSU: Improved ground game may take pressure off QB Jordan Jefferson.

3. Arkansas: If Ryan Mallett has a big year, the Hogs will contend.

4. Auburn: The Tigers won't surprise people like they did in '09.

5. Ole Miss: Replacing Jevan Snead is not a problem. Replacing Dexter McCluster is.

6. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen still in the early stages of building his program.

— Robbie Andreu


Favorite: Florida

The Gators have Urban Meyer, stacked recruiting classes and have won 26 of their last 28 games. Despite missing the stars of the last two seasons, Meyer and his staff have plenty of talent on hand and a system that obviously has worked in the last five seasons. There's also this — who else do you like in the East?

Top contender: Georgia

While the Bulldogs are going at it with a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator (not to mention a turbulent summer), here's why I'm picking them to contend. The schedule sets up nicely for the Bulldogs. And they have A.J. Green, who is a difference maker. If Georgia starts strong, the game in Jacksonville could be for the East.

Darkhorse: Kentucky

Joker Phillips inherits a decent football team that knows how to win, albeit at a different level from the big boys. What we don't know is if Phillips can handle the job, especially in his first season. Any team that has Randall Cobb has a chance, but this season will come down to the Wildcats' defense.

Best story: John Brantley

Let's face it, no player in the history of the game has had bigger shoes to fill. And yet, the Gator Nation feels awfully good about the guy behind center. Quarterbacks get too much praise and too much blame and Brantley can expect to be the face of Florida football this year. Let's see if he's ready for it.

Predicted order of finish

1. Florida: Plenty of good football players in Gainesville.

2. Georgia: Fall has to be better than the summer was, eh?

3. South Carolina: Stephen Garcia, you are on the clock.

4. Kentucky: Early season games will let you know more.

5. Tennessee: Will Vols be able to field a team by Sept. 4?

6. Vanderbilt: It was going to be a tough season before the coach retired.

— Pat Dooley

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