SEC West predictions for upcoming season
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.
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Since before the start of spring practice back in March, family, friends and football fans have been asking me for my thoughts on the upcoming season.
Will the Gators be contenders in Will Muschamp's first season?
Will the Gamecocks repeat in the East?
Can John Brantley be an All-SEC caliber quarterback under Charlie Weis?
Is LSU the team to beat in the West?
Will Auburn slide back considerably now that Cam Newton is gone?
So many questions.
It seems like our daily football fix would be a good forum to reveal my thoughts on the Gators and the SEC.
Today, I'll make my predictions in the West. I'll follow it up next week with my Eastern Division picks (and share some of my thoughts on the Gators).
1. Alabama: A lot of people are picking LSU to win the West because the Tide will be breaking in a new starting quarterback this season and must replace All-World wide receiver Julio Jones. To me, though, the story with this team is defense. This Alabama defense is going to be dominant and will keep the Tide in every game. I think the offense will be just fine, and will get better as the season goes along. And LSU has to come to Tuscaloosa.
2. Arkansas: This is my surprise pick in the West. I almost pulled the trigger and picked the Hogs to win the division (I mean, I came very close). My theory is that Arkansas will be better on offense without Ryan Mallett, who has a tremendous arm but was not much of a touch passer. Bobby Petrino has done an excellent job upgrading the overall talent level — and it will really show this season.
3. LSU: Well, look at it this way, a fraction of those immense preseason expectations are now off the Tigers. Based on how similar expectations weighed on Florida and Alabama the past two seasons, that's a good thing for LSU. The Tigers are the consensus pick to win the division. Those picking the Tigers point to the improved play of quarterback Jordan Jefferson. I'm still not buying it that Jefferson will be one of the best QBs in the league. I say his erratic tendencies will rear up and bite the Tigers at some point.
4. Auburn: My theory is the Tigers would have been pretty average last season without Newton — maybe a four or five-loss team. That's what I see happening this season, even though the Tigers do have some great young talent and should improve over the course of the year.
5. Mississippi State: Dan Mullen is getting a lot of preseason love for the remarkable job he's done at a school where it's hard to win. I'm still not sold on him as a recruiter. He does seem to get the most out of the talent he has.
6. Ole Miss: After going 9-4 in each of Houston Nutt's first two seasons in Oxford, the Rebels fell to 4-8 last season. More problems lie ahead in 2011. The Rebels have some talent, but quarterback is a major issue heading into the season.
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