USA Today 2012 Preseason Poll: The SEC Hits and Misses in the Coaches Poll
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USA Today released its preseason coaches poll on Thursday, and it should come as no surprise that SEC teams litter the top half of the poll.
Reigning SEC champion LSU tops the list with the No. 1 ranking, while reigning BCS National Champion Alabama chimes in at No. 2.
Behind the two juggernauts, Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas all made the Top 10, coming in at Nos. 6, 9 and 10, respectively. Florida is ranked at No. 23, while Auburn rounded out the poll in the No. 25 spot.
So what are some of the hits and misses from the SEC in the coaches poll? Here's my take:
LSU and Alabama at No. 1 and 2
Nothing against USC, but it was painfully clear at the end of last season that LSU and Alabama were the top two teams in the country by a considerable margin.
I'm not for ranking teams high in the preseason just because of where they finished last season, but the Tigers and Crimson Tide were so good last year that this preseason is the exception.
Both teams have some holes to fill but will be filling them with players that are significantly more experienced than your average backup.
Being ranked No. 3 shouldn't agitate USC head coach Lane Kiffin. If USC wins its games, one of the two will have at least one loss. If the Trojans run the table, they will still play for the crystal football.
Five SEC Teams in the Top 10
I have my doubts about how good Georgia really is, but it's safe to say that Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas all deserve to be in the Top 10.
One of my pet peeves in any poll is the split between people who vote based on merit and those who vote based on where they think teams will finish. Georgia being in the No. 6 spot probably indicates that coaches prefer the latter, but the Bulldogs are still a top-10 team. They boast a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Aaron Murray and one of the nation's best—and most underrated—defenses.
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South Carolina made the argument that it could be the top team in the East last season by sweeping the entire division and beating Georgia in Athens. Quarterback Connor Shaw closed out the 2011 campaign on fire and will only benefit from the return of running back Marcus Lattimore.
Arkansas is loaded on offense and added by subtracting by replacing former defensive coordinator Willy Robinson with Paul Haynes. Critics will point to the absence of Bobby Petrino as a knock against the Hogs, but if there's anyone on the planet capable of replicating his play-calling, it's his brother, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.
Arkansas Behind Georgia and South Carolina
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I know everyone is down on the Hogs after Petrino left, but for the life of me I can't figure out why. Head coach John L. Smith provides Arkansas with a leader that accomplishes two of the most important factors that Arkansas was looking for during its coaching search—continuity and experience.
The return of running back Knile Davis should take a ton of pressure off of quarterback Tyler Wilson's back and allow him to find wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, tight end Chris Gragg and the rest of the downfield weapons.
Auburn at 25
The Tigers will probably bounce in and out of the Top 25 in 2012 and will be much improved from last season.
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With that said, ranking the Tigers in the preseason poll seems a bit presumptuous right now.
Kiehl Frazier all but locked down the starting quarterback job this spring, but he has only attempted 12 passes. Behind him, there is a stable of running backs ready to help him out, but none of them have ever been every-down backs.
Plus, first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is still a question mark.
Auburn finished No. 100 out of 120 teams last season in total offense, so improvement shouldn't be an issue. How much improvement, however, is up for debate.
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