The greatest regular season in sports has one of the longest offseasons of any sport. During that time, us fans have adequate time to predict, project and look forward to the season still to come.
In the upcoming article, I'll make some bold predictions about the winner of the SEC, whether or not the national title streak will continue, and more. Read on.
Even though the SEC West has won the last three national titles, the gap between the two divisions is rapidly closing.
South Carolina and Georgia are both rising powers in the SEC, while Alabama has to replace too much talent. Auburn will never be as good as they were in their national title season.
The Gamecocks have won 20 games in the past two seasons and return heralded tailback Marcus Lattimore. The biggest different from Georgia is their defensive front, led by massive interior lineman Jonathon Jenkins.
The winner between South Carolina and Georgia next season will decide the SEC East, and ultimately the SEC crown.
The schedule sets up perfectly for Georgia in 2012.
In the SEC West Georgia play Auburn and Mississippi. The Bulldogs out-of-conference schedule has three cupcakes and Georgia Southern (sorry Tech fans).
Georgia returns almost the entire team other than Brandon Boykin and the offensive line. There have been a few suspensions in the secondary, but as long as Georgia can survive a trip to Columbia, they'll be fine.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham turned around the Bulldog defense in his second year operating the 3-4 defense and made Georgia a top-five defense last year.
In Grantham's third year, he and Georgia will take the next step by winning the SEC.
It's been a nice run, SEC, but the streak of six consecutive national championships will come to a close in the following season.
There is not a legitimate national title contender in the league next season.
Alabama loses running back Trent Richardson, and I don't think Eddie Lacy will be able to fill Richardson's shoes. In addition, Alabama loses a ton of defensive starters to the NFL.
In the previous slide I said Georgia would win the SEC, but not necessarily do it undefeated. This will be a season where Mark Richt and Georgia would have benefited from a four-team playoff, but that won't begin until 2014.
Vanderbilt has had only one winning record since 1982, and that was a 7-6 season in 2008.
The Commodores were oh so close to taking that next step in the 2011 season, but lost five games by a touchdown or less.
Behind rising senior running back Zac Stacy, who rushed for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, Vanderbilt is a changed program.
Head coach James Franklin has raised the bar at Vanderbilt, once the whipping boys of the SEC, and in 2012 I predict they'll finish with a winning record.
The Razorbacks will overcome their offseason scandal due to the play of quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Despite losing coach Bobby Petrino, an offensive guru, and an elite duo of receivers to the NFL, Arkansas still has a plethora of offensive talent.
Wilson threw for 3,638 yards with 24 touchdowns and only six interceptions last year. Running back Knile Davis returns from a season-long ankle injury. Davis ran for 1,322 yards and 13 scores in 2010.
Arkansas has won at least 10 consecutive games in the past two seasons, and they're not going away just because their coach is.
One other thing working for Arkansas is the fact that they play both LSU and Alabama at home this season.