After my lame attempt at predictions yesterday, today will be the day I go with a little more of my knowledge base, the SEC West. Without further adieu…
1. LSU-The Tigers, under Nick Saban and Les Miles, have pretty much forgone the whole “rebuilding” phase and have just decided to reload. The loss of Ryan Perrilloux to Jacksonville State (that’s in Alabama, kids) will hurt, but the Tigers should still be solid enough on both sides of the ball that it won’t matter. Possible danger lurks in trips to Auburn, Gainesville, and Columbia, but everything else should be winnable.
2. Auburn-A young Tiger team with a new offensive mindset will try to get back to Atlanta since the star-crossed 2004 edition. Tony Franklin, who helped implement the offense at powerful Hoover High before taking his show to Troy and setting all kinds of offensive records, is the new offensive coordinator. Look for the Tigers to struggle some early, and trips to Tuscaloosa, Starkville, and Morgantown, West Virginia will be tough, but the Tigers fairly easy home SEC schedule (except, of course, LSU and Georgia) should go a long way.
3. Alabama-After an off-season of turmoil, including the stunning Jimmy Johns situation, the Tide should still be able to make some headway in Nick Saban’s second year. Assuming that guys like Mark Barron, Ivan Matchett, and Julio Jones are within 4 ZIP Codes of the hype, the future will be awfully bright for the Tide. Sure, road trips to Athens, Baton Rouge, Knoxville, and an opener in Atlanta against ACC favorite Clemson will be tough, but the Tide should still progress enough to make 2009 a frightening year for Tide opponents.
4. Mississippi State-The surprise team of 2007, the Bulldogs will not have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone (especially Alabama). Still, Croom’s bunch should still win a few ball games, probably some they have no business winning. Look for senior defensive back Derek Pegues to be a machine, by the way.
5. Ole Miss-Houston Nutt takes over a struggling Rebel program, desperate for something—anything—to keep it going. Unfortunately, although quarterback Jevon Snead (a Texas transfer) should be an upgrade, and Michael Oher of The Blind Side fame, as well as defensive lineman Greg Hardy, should be monsters at their positions, the damage of the Orgeron era will not be finished in one year. However, the bigger problem resides about 200 miles west, where a young team losing its 3 best offensive weapons resides…
6. Arkansas-Much has been said about the departure of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Marcus Monk. Losing Houston Nutt didn’t help, but Bobby Petrino may be an upgrade there. However, his offense probably won’t work with Casey Dick trying to hit Robert Johnson on pass after pass. That leaves it up to a Hog defense that was, to put it mildly, putrid last year. If Petrino lasts the whole season and they can recruit players that fit his offense, the Hogs could make some strides. But don’t look for it in 2008