SEC Football: 2012 Complete SEC Conference Preview and Predictions

Ryan Bothmann@tripleCfanSenior Analyst IIAugust 30, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with the trophy after defeating Louisiana State University Tigers in the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The SEC conference has been dominant in recent years, and with the new additions of Missouri and Texas A&M, it appears to be as strong as ever. 

The biggest question on the mind of every college football fan as the 2012 regular season begins this weekend: Can the SEC win a seventh straight National Championship?

Here is a complete breakdown of the SEC conference this year. 


Three Biggest Storylines

1) Lucky Number Seven

Five of the 14 teams are ranked inside the Top 10 in the AP Poll and with the new additions of Missouri, Texas A&M and the apparent resurgence of Florida, the SEC could be a lock at the top of the college football world for years to come. Alabama and LSU appear to be the best chances for the SEC to seven-peat, but strong teams like Arkansas, Georgia or even South Carolina could make title runs. If anyone is to stop the SEC, then it would likely come from USC, Oregon or maybe even Oklahoma.


2) Missouri and Texas A&M

Another big storyline to follow this season will be the success or failure that the Missouri Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies have in their first year as members of the SEC. Both teams are making the transition from a strong Big 12 Conference, but many experts and fans think that the SEC is a totally different ballgame. Either way, it will be interesting to see how both of these teams fare in the powerful SEC Conference.


3) East vs West

The Week 13 BCS Standings last year read: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Arkansas. While the SEC has had many dominant teams over the past few seasons, most of the dominance has come out of the SEC West. LSU and Alabama are a prime example of that, as they met in the National Championship Game this past January. Many believe that the gap between the East and West may be evening out, but for right now, LSU and Alabama still appear to give the West a slight edge.


Three Key Nonconference Games

1) Alabama vs Michigan (Saturday, Sept. 1, 8 p.m. ET, ABC) 

If you want to gauge how much better the SEC is than the rest of college football, then you will want to tune in for this game as the Crimson Tide face a tough test on opening night from No. 8 Michigan. If the Tide roll through this game with ease, it will once again be another example of how dominating the SEC is. If they struggle, or even lose, then chaos could ensue.

2) Washington at LSU (Saturday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

After opening the season with North Texas, LSU receives their first real test against the explosive Washington Huskies. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will have to be at the top of his game for this one, because Keith Price and the Huskies could cause some problems for the LSU defense. The Tigers should be able to win this one at home in Death Valley, but stranger things have happened in college football.


3) South Carolina at Clemson (Saturday, Nov. 24, TBD)

The Gamecocks and Tigers always provide a great rivalry matchup for fans to watch, but with the success that these two programs have displayed over the last few years, the stakes for this game could be extraordinarily high come late November. South Carolina has owned the rivalry recently, winning the last three matchups, but this should be a very good showdown this season. Both teams could even be fighting for a BCS berth when this game rolls around on the calendar.


Three Key Conference Games

1) Alabama at Arkansas (Saturday, Sept. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Just like last year, Arkansas will get an early season chance to show that they belong at the top of the SEC with teams like Alabama and LSU. If they lose to the Tide for their sixth consecutive season in a row though, it will only show that the Tide really are as dominant as their fans think.

2) Georgia at South Carolina (Saturday, Oct. 6, TBD)

Unless Florida or Missouri are better than fans think they are, then this is likely the game that will decide who wins the SEC East title. This is a must-win game for South Carolina, but maybe not so much for Georgia. The Gamecocks play LSU and Arkansas out of the West division, giving them a much tougher conference schedule than the Bulldogs, who will square off with far less menacing opponents out of the West in Auburn and Ole Miss.


3) Alabama at LSU (Saturday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m. ET, CBS)

This year's installment of the game of the year will take place in Death Valley on the campus of LSU. The Tigers got the better of the Crimson Tide last season, but in the BCS National Championship Game, Nick Saban and the Tide thrashed the Tigers 21-0.

Fans from outside the SEC can say whatever they want about this game. Whether they like it or not, these are the two best teams in the country, and the winner will be headed to the National Championship. And you never know, the loser could be headed to the title game as well.


Players to Watch

Offense: Arkansas Quarterback Tyler Wilson

2011 stats: 3,638 passing yards, 24 TD, 6 INT

If Arkansas wants to challenge for the SEC title this season, this will be the man who leads them there. Wilson was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation last season, and will be again this year. Look for another huge season from the senior quarterback, but if he wants to be in Heisman consideration, then he will need to deliver victories against either Alabama or LSU, or maybe even both.

Defense: Georgia Linebacker Jarvis Jones

2011 stats: 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks

Georgia junior linebacker Jarvis Jones is a one-man offensive wrecking crew. Jones tied for second in college football last season with his 13.5 sacks, and with last year's sack leader Whitney Mercilus departing for the NFL, Jones could very well be the sack leader this year. The Georgia defense is filled with NFL talent all over the field, and when you combine them along with Jones you get a potent SEC defense that could compete for an SEC Championship.


Offense: Missouri Wide Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham

2011 stats (high school): 119 catches, 2,233 yards, 24 TD

DGB, as he has become known, was the most sought after high school recruit in America last season. And Mizzou fans everywhere rejoiced when the months of recruiting drama finally ended and Green-Beckham announced he would be staying in the state of Missouri and joining the Tigers.

The numbers DGB put up in high school are mind boggling (6,356 yards and 75 touchdowns). Everyone keeps telling Missouri how they will need to adjust to the SEC defensive style of play, but the Tigers have plans of their own and it starts with DGB.


SEC East

1) Georgia: Conference 7-1; Overall 11-1

2) Missouri: Conference 6-2; Overall 10-2

3) South Carolina: Conference 5-3; Overall 9-3

4) Florida: Conference 4-4; Overall 7-5

5) Tennessee: Conference 3-5; Overall 6-6

6) Vanderbilt: Conference 3-5; Overall 7-5

7) Kentucky: Conference 0-8; Overall 3-9

SEC West

1) Alabama: Conference 7-1; Overall 11-1

2) LSU: Conference 7-1; Overall 10-2

3) Arkansas: Conference 6-2; Overall 10-2

4) Auburn: Conference 4-4; Overall 7-5

5) Texas A&M: Conference 2-6; Overall 6-6

6) Mississippi State: Conference 2-6; Overall 6-6

7) Ole Miss: Conference 0-8; Overall 3-9


SEC Title Game

Alabama and Georgia will square off in the SEC Championship Game on December 1st. With both teams featuring 11-1 records going into the game, the winner of the game will play for the National Championship. Alabama will win the SEC Title and then go on to win their third National Championship in four years.


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