Out on a Limb SEC Football Forecast
Georgia. The dogs cash in on several good recruiting years. Best receivers, best offensive line, best linebackers in the conference. Mark Richt has built the SEC's best offensive eleven. With Tennessee and Florida losing loads of talent to graduation and the NFL, this could be Georgia's year. The secondary may struggle against the Vols and Gators. Georgia does not have the depth of those two teams. Still, the absence of Spurrier and Tennessee's loss to LSU in the SEC championship game give reason for hope.
Florida. A solid team at every position, but not yet a great team. QB Grossman was a great one in Spurrier's system, but what about this year. RB Graham will play a key role this year. Look for a couple of upsets. Florida is the most difficult team to rate due to the new coaching staff.
Tennessee. The national media is on the Rocky Top bandwagon. However, do you realize the Vol offense was only 6th in the SEC in yards gained, and has lost Travis Stevens. The great strength of last year's team, the defensive line, must be replaced. The secondary is very good, and the linebackers not far behind the great 1998 group. Tennessee will win big if the offensive line is improved. Munoz, the sophomore tackle who missed last year due to injury, could become a great one.
South Carolina. The gamecocks will not drop as far as some think this year. Graduation losses were heavy. This is yet another SEC team that will run the option a lot. This year is a real test for Holtz. Can he win with young talent in a tough league?
Kentucky. Waiting for basketball. The offensive line is good enough for Kentucky to outscore any unprepared opponents. Still looking to avenge that 1950 lost to Tennessee in a snowstorm. Kentucky was one win away from a national championship. And the coach was--Bear Bryant.
Vanderbilt. Is there any way for teams like Vanderbilt and Duke to compete in 1A? TCU and Tulane won by hiring outstanding coaches on the way up. That's the secret.
Alabama. The tide returns all 5 starters from a good offensive line. Three were redshirt freshmen so expect improvement that will be most noticable in pass protection. The tide will throw deep more often this year. Tyler Watts will start at QB, but watch the development of redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle. Teams for the spring game were chosen by draft. Croyle was the first selection. Both Croyle and another redshirt freshman, Pennington, have a nice touch on the long passes. The defensive backfield is better and deeper. The running game could reach "Nebraska-like" levels this year.
LSU. The loss of Rohan Davy and Josh Reed will be sorely felt. The defense may be better. However, the Tigers were 10th in yards allowed in the SEC. How much can a defense improve in one year? Expect teams to stack their defenses against the LSU runners. And if Mike Mauck misses any time due to injury it will be a long year at LSU.
Auburn. The War Eagle-Tigers may be overated this year. They lost all-conference Kendall Simmons and two other starters from an offensive line that played every down on offense in several games. On the other hand, they have three very good tight ends and will often run from a two tight ends set. Auburn had serious problems at QB last year. Expect true freshman Brandon Cox to become the starter by mid-season. He is a remarkably accurate passer, 70.8%, a state of Alabama record. It all depends on how well the line can block for great runner Carnell Williams. The defense will be awesome. The Tigers will do not do well against teams with strong defensive lines.
Arkansas. Arkansas will be a dangerous team all year. The offensive and defensive lines are rebuilt. Secondary and linebackers are good. QB Jones will lead a strong rush attack. Jones avearaged 8.4 yards per carry breaking a record that had lasted since 1935. Don't forget that the Razorbacks almost beat LSU last year. If Jones can develop a more accurate arm, Arkansas will roll.
Mississippi. Mississippi's strength is Eli Manning and a good offensive line. However, the small defensive line doesn't stand a chance against the option plays that Alabama, LSU and Arkansas will unleash. Consider the west division quarterbacks. Ole Miss has a great one. The QB situation for each of the other west teams is only "average" at best. Could this be the year for Ole Miss in the SEC championship game?
Miss. State. Kevin Fant may have a good year throwing to a good group of receivers. However, State is a year away from recovering from a run of bad luck with Junior college recruits.
Best by Position on a scale of 1 to 5
5.0 Florida, Mississippi
3.5 Alabama, Kentucky
3.0 LSU, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
2.5 Auburn, Arkansas, Miss. State
4.0 Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee
3.5 Georgia, South Carolina, Miss. State
4.0 Florida, Arkansas, Miss. State, Mississippi
3.5 Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama
3.0 South Carolina, Vanderbilt
4.0 Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi
3.5 LSU, South Carolina, Kentucky
2.5 Auburn, Miss. State, Vanderbilt
4.0 Alabama, Florida, LSU, South Carolina
3.0 Tennessee, Arkansas, Miss State
2.5 Kentucky, Vanderbilt
4.5 Tennessee, Auburn
3.5 Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi, Miss State
3.0 South Carolina, Kentucky
4.5 Tennessee, Arkansas
4.0 Florida, Auburn, Miss State
3.0 Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi
9. South Carolina
10. Miss State
8. Miss State
9. South Carolina
Total of Position Ratings as a %
1. Georgia 82.8
2. Florida 80.6
3. Tennessee 80.0
4. Alabama 76.1
5. LSU 73.3
6. Auburn 71.7
7. Arkansas 70.0
8. Mississippi 68.3
9. S. Carolina 66.1
10. Miss St 65.6
11. Kentucky 57.8
12. Vanderbilt 54.5